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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate” by Francisco Goya (National Gallery of Ireland)

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - Portrait of Antonia Zárate - WGA10053

“Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate” by Francisco Goya

“The Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate” by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya is a portrait of the actress Antonia Zárate. It was produced in Goya’s studio and it shows her wearing a fashionable black silk dress in the Empire style. Her arms are covered by fingerless white gloves, her hands holding a closed fan and a mantilla on her head and shoulders.

Antonia Zárate was the daughter of an actor and director of a performing company. She continued in the family tradition as an actress and singer with success throughout Spain, but mainly acted in the Spanish capital where she became a friend of Francisco Goya.

This portrait was painted in 1805 and a second portrait was also painted in 1810-11, the face and hair are very similar, however, the background and dress are very different. This second painting is now in the Hermitage Museum.

Francisco-Goya - Portrait-of-the-Actress-Antonia-Zarate

This “Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate” is an 1810-1811 painting, now in the Hermitage Museum

This first Goya masterpiece, painted in 1805, was stolen twice, in the 1970s and then again in 1980s from a private collector twice. After the recovery in 1993, it was donated to the National Gallery of Ireland.

Francisco Goya

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746 – 1828) was a Spanish painter and printmaker. He was the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Goya was famously successful in his lifetime, the last of the Old Masters and the first of the moderns.

He was born to a modest family in Aragon, Spain and started the studied of painting from the age of 14. He married at the age of 27 and after a series of pregnancies and miscarriages, only one child, a son, survived into adulthood. Goya became the court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786, and this early part of his career is marked by portraits of the Spanish aristocracy and royalty and Rococo style tapestry cartoons designed for the royal palace.

Goya suffered a severe illness in 1793 which left him deaf. Sick and disillusioned, his work became progressively darker and pessimistic. His later paintings, prints and drawings seem to reflect a bleaker outlook. In 1807 Napoleon led the French army into war against Spain. Goya remained in Madrid during the war which seems to have affected him deeply. Other works from this mid-period of his life and work include a variety of paintings concerned with insanity, mental asylums, witches, fantastical creatures and religious and political corruption, all of which suggest that he feared for both his country’s fate and his own psychological and physical health.

In Goya’s late period he was disillusioned by the political and social developments in Spain, and he lived in near isolation. Goya eventually abandoned Spain in 1824 to retire to the French city of Bordeaux, accompanied by his younger maid and his companion. Following a stroke which left him paralysed on his right side, and suffering failing eyesight, he died and was buried in 1828 aged 82. His body was later re-interred in Madrid. Famously, however, Goya’s skull went missing, a detail the Spanish consul in France immediately communicated to his superiors in Madrid. The Spanish authorities wired back, “Send Goya, with or without head.”

Explore Goya

Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate

  • Title:                 Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate
  • Spanish:           Retrato de Doña Antonia Zárate
  • Artist:               Francisco de Goya
  • Created:           1805
  • Medium:         oil on canvas
  • Periods:           Baroque
  • Dimensions:   H: 103.5 cm (40.7 in). W: 82 cm (32.3 in).
  • Museum:         National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

Francisco Goya

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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” 
– Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit 1) Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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