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Goya + Rosario Weiss: All in the Family

The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, attributed to Francisco Goya

The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, attributed to Francisco Goya

Born in Aragon, Spain in 1746, Francisco Jose de Goya de Lucientes is known as one of the last European classical painting and print masters and one of the first of the modern era.  Daring in his subject matter and bold with his brush strokes, his pieces have long provoked thought and controversy. It is no wonder that Madrid’s Museo de Prado devotes an entire hall to the works of the national treasure, ranging from his earliest light-handed washes to canvases conveying his descent into the depravity of his “Black Years,” and those displaying a surprising amount of delicacy and activity during his final years as a recluse in Bordeaux, France.
Among his French-era pieces at the Prado sits The Milkmaid of Bordeaux (c. 1825-1827), a painting subject to speculation of authorship, couched in a semi-sordid tale involving adultery, death and art.  In 2001, the Prado formally questioned whether the painting, said to be a portrait of Maria del Rosario Weiss, the illegitimate daughter of Goya’s housekeeper Dona Leocadia Zorilla, was created by Goya or by Rosario Weiss herself.  Questions also still remain about whether the then-widowed Goya was Rosario Weiss’s biological father.  Regardless of the answer, Goya treated her, and requested that his colleagues treat her, as if she was.
Following the death of Goya’s wife in 1812, and a subsequent divorce brought against Leocadia Zorilla by her husband under charges of “adultery, illegal actions and bad behavior,” Goya began tutoring then-7-year-old Rosario Weiss in painting and drawing in his romantic-realist style.
During his self-imposed exile in Bordeaux, where he eventually died in 1828, Goya left his “daughter” under the charge of his architect friend Tiburcio Perez, with whom Rosario Weiss perfected her work in lighting and shading techniques, or chiaroscuro.  Goya then requested that she join him in France where they continued the mentorship, after which she completed her formal training at the Bordeaux Academie des Beaux-Arts.  It was during her Bordeaux-era that experts believe Rosario Weiss made the Milkmaid, or posed for it for Goya, depending on which side critics fall.   Rosario Weiss eventually returned to Madrid, executing and selling copies of other artists’ compositions, training for which she received during her years with Goya.
By the 1840s, Rosario Weiss was an allegorical painter and drawing master in her own right, most impressively during a time and in a country when this type of recognition was generally reserved for men (and when female artists seemed confined to floral and portrait painting).  She eventually became the Court-appointed art professor to Queen Elizabeth II of Spain and her sister the Infanta Luisa Fernanda before her death in 1843, at the age of 29.
After the controversy regarding the “Milkmaid”‘s authenticity, the Prado changed the painting’s authorship from “by Goya” to “attributed to Goya.”  The painting, along with 149 of Goya’s other works, remains at:
El Museo Nacional del Prado
Calle Ruiz de Alarcon 23, Madrid, Spain

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Works by Maria del Rosario Weiss can be found at:
Jose de la Mano Gallery
Calle de Claudio Coello 6, Madrid, Spain

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