The Huntington Library just acquired a historic portrait by a Spanish master

SAN MARINO — The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens has acquired a historic portrait by Spanish master Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, better known simply as Goya.

The Portrait of José Antonio Caballero, Second Marqués de Caballero, Secretary of Grace and Justice will be on display starting next Wednesday, Nov. 29, in the Huntington Art Gallery, museum officials announced Monday.

Painted in 1807, the artwork was created at a time when Goya was renowned for his portraits of the Spanish nobility, just before the Napoleonic invasion of Spain profoundly altered the nature of his later work, according to the museum.

While The Huntington holds a number of Goya’s etchings and aquatints, the Portrait of José Antonio Caballero is the first Spanish oil painting to join The Huntington’s art collection and museum officials said it will complement its extensive library of materials on Spanish imperial history.

The masterpiece was acquired through a gift from The Ahmanson Foundation.

“Once again, The Ahmanson Foundation has proven to be an invaluable strategic partner, helping us reach our goals of broadening our collections with significant works and inviting new, interdisciplinary connections,” Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence said. “We couldn’t be more grateful to them for making possible the acquisition of such a superb and historically significant masterpiece.”

Goya is celebrated for his ability to capture each subject’s unique personality as well as their grandeur and political power — albeit with an occasional layer of satire, museum officials said. He is also acclaimed for his flickering, impressionistic brushwork and, in his later years, revolutionary subject matter.

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“Portrait of José Antonio Caballero is historically fascinating and a prime example of Goya’s genius as a portraitist,” said Christina Nielsen, the Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum at The Huntington.

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The sitter in the Goya painting, José Antonio Caballero, was of minor nobility in Spain, according to the museum. He studied law and held four secretary positions with the royal court. Goya painted the portrait when Caballero was the secretary of state and had just inherited the title of Marquis de Caballero from his uncle.

In the portrait, the man is depicted in a decorative uniform and seated in a red armchair. He looks directly at the viewer, with his right hand at his waist and his left hand holding papers.

The portrait will be installed in The Huntington Art Gallery, the former residence of founders Henry E. and Arabella Huntington, in a paneled room that was once Henry Huntington’s private office.

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