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Francisco de Goya: 'Doña Isabel de Porcel'

The painting is almost certainly identifiable with a portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel by Goya exhibited at the Real Academia de San Fernando in Madrid in 1805. The following year, Goya exhibited at the same institution a portrait of her husband, Don Antonio Porcel, apparently signed and dated 1806, which later formed part of the collection of the Jockey Club in Buenos Aires but was destroyed by fire in 1953.

Doña Isabel is dressed as a 'maja', in an elaborate lace shawl and headdress known as a ‘mantilla’, as Spanish ladies of fashion often did in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. X-ray photographs reveal that she was painted directly over another portrait, of a man wearing a waistcoat and striped jacket. The dark curve of the man’s eyebrow can be made out on Doña Isabel’s chin and the stripes of his jacket are visible through her right sleeve.

Despite being painted with great flair and long considered one of Goya’s most dazzling portraits, some scholars have recently cast doubts over the painting’s authorship.