The family of Charles IV

The King appointed Goya as his court painter, a position he held during the reign of Charles IV and Ferdinand VII, working for both of them as a portrait painter. Unhappy with the atmosphere at the court of Ferdinand VII, however, Goya moved to Bordeaux, where he died in 1828.

In this work, the painter has placed the characters in a straight line, facing the viewer. He has paid tribute to Las Meninas by placing himself in the background, behind his canvas, but in a less prominent position than Velazquez.

Goya made a preliminary portrait of the face of each of the people in the picture, in order to work without having them sit so long for him. In the centre of the picture, as in life at court, is Queen Maria Louisa. He has portrayed her in a fairly unflattering way, revealing the lack of sympathy between the painter and the queen. She wears a tight smile, due to her dental problems, as she was missing a number of teeth. The women wear Empire style outfits, in the Parisian fashion of Napoleonic times. The jewellery and dresses are painted with loose, almost Impressionist brushstrokes.

The king is wearing the order of the Golden Fleece that we saw in the portrait of Charles V at Mühlberg. Behind him stands his brother Antonio, who was renowned for his inefficiency during the Peninsular War against France. On the extreme right of the picture are the King and Queen of Etruria with their son and, on the left, Crown Prince Ferdinand VII. In a curious detail on the right, you can see a lady who must have been his fiancée; but as it was not known at the time who this was to be, the painter placed her with her face turned away. Behind Prince Ferdinand, the artist has painted his brother Carlos, who would initiate a series of civil wars for the crown, known as the Carlist Wars. Beside the Queen stand Princess Isabel and Prince Francisco de Paula.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns