Bartolomé Sureda y Miserol (c.1803-1804)

Goya, Francisco de (1746-1828)

Bartolomé Sureda y Miserol
Oil on canvas, 119.7 x 79.3 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

Shown from the knees up, a cleanshaven, young man with pale, peachy skin leans on his right elbow, to our left, against a ledge and holds a black top hat in that hand in this vertical portrait painting. His body faces us and he looks slightly off to our left, as if just over our left shoulder, with dark eyes. He has a wide nose, his pale pink lips are closed, and he has the hint of a five o’clock shadow on his square jaw and cleft chin. Sideburns come down past his ears, and straight brown hair falls in long bangs over his forehead and around his eyes and ears. White cloth wraps around his neck and is tied in a knot at the base of his throat. His white vest is striped faintly with light blue. Over that, his gray jacket has a black collar at the back and wide, gray lapels that reach his shoulders. The jacket is fitted to his waist, where it is buttoned, and then flares out into the shadows at his knees. Silver buttons gleam in the light from our left, down that side of the jacket. His left fist, on our right, rests against his hip as he leans on his other elbow, presumably on a ledge or high table. He holds the black top hat in that hand so we see the crimson-red lining within. The dark background behind him is subtly streaked with brick and coffee brown. Leaning on a ledge, left hand on his hip, Bartolomé Sureda meets us with a doffed hat and relaxed gaze. He was Goya’s friend, which is why his pose looks informal and he seems approachable. Sureda was also a talented artist who taught Goya aquatint, a new method of printmaking that emphasized variations in tone rather than etched lines. Goya used this technique to create the subtle light and dark effects in his celebrated series of prints Los Caprichos (The Caprices). We can see a similar tonal change here: note the way light bathes Sureda’s upper half and casts his lower half in shadow. Goya’s companion portrait of Sureda’s wife, Thérèse Louise de Sureda, is also in our collection. This is one of Goya’s liveliest male portraits. The sitter’s relaxed stance reflects the painter’s intimate response to a friend, a young liberal whose disheveled hair and garb in the mode of revolutionary France speaks not only of his affinity for contemporary French fashion, but also of his sympathy for current French politics. Goya’s life spanned a period of political upheaval and military turmoil. In the early years of the nineteenth century, before he witnessed the horror of the Peninsular wars, Goya welcomed the idea of a Napoleonic invasion, believing the ideals of the French revolution to be the only antidote to the abuses of the Spanish monarchy. Bartolomé Sureda was one of a group of like-minded liberal intellectuals. A clever young industrialist, Sureda studied cotton spinning in England in order to introduce the technique into Spain. Later he went to France to learn the secrets of Sèvres porcelain manufacture and in 1802 became director of the Spanish royal porcelain factory at Buen Retiro. During the French invasion of Spain, Napoleon considered him so important to Spanish industry that he detained him in France. Since this portrait predates many of the sitter’s illustrious achievements, Goya presented him, not as a brilliant industrialist, but simply as an urbane young man. (NGA)

See also:

• Sureda y Miserol, Bartolomé (1769-1850)