Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Immortal Companion: Doña María Ana de Pontejos

One of the most noticeable aspects of this paintings is that the sitter's pug was painted with more care than the sitter. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about either the sitter or her pug, which doesn't stay entirely true to this series I created, but I can tell you that Francisco Goya was another artist obsessed with his dogs. Therefore, the pug probably kept his interest longer than the Marquesa de Pontejos.

María Ana was painted here in 1786 to mark her marriage to Spain's ambassador to Portugal, who also just happened to be the prime minister's brother. Very political. As was typical with a bridal portrait, she holds a pink carnation as a symbol of love. Her beloved pug steps before her in an act of protection, cementing his employment in the painting as a symbol of loyalty.

But, this is also, and very importantly, a painting of fashion!

By 1786, Marie Antoinette's Triannon fashion had finally trickled down to Spain, who seemed to be always be a fashionably late country in the 18th century. Although the marquesa attempts to mimic the free-flowing Triannon style, her gown is still extremely Spanish. After all, that tight corset was what Marie Antoinette strove to get away from with her Gualle gowns. However she does capture the essence of those gowns with the flower details and the thin white muslin fabric. Her 'doo and straw hat are also tres tres Antoinette. Of course, as a fashionable lady, María Ana's pug has an outfit that matches his mistress'. His pink ribbon with bells (so he can't get lost in the garden) is from the same ream of ribbon as the one tied around her waste. As James St James wisely states, fashionable companions should match; "Be sure that your partner doesn't clash with your look. Plan ahead and execute together."


  1. Oh very lovely--the pug dog is adorable! They do seem to have been quite popular at the time, in fact, I'm now curious as to whether anyone ever commissioned a portrait of a pug all by itself?

    A couple of other nice pug-featuring portraits from Spain are:

    Princess Maria Barbara, later wife of Ferdinand VI of Spain

    Farinelli, the great singer, during his stay in Spain

  2. Oh I love those, thank you for posting!