Francisco Goya’s painting, known as “The Black Duchess” or “Mourning Portrait of the Duchess of Alba,” depicts María Cayetana de Silva, the 13th Duchess of Alba at 35 years old. This artwork is a detail of her face, one of many paintings Goya made during his visits to her palaces. The Duchess of Alba was a notable figure during the late 18th century and was one of the most striking figures at court.
The painting is a somber representation of the duchess, who is depicted with a black veil and dress, suggesting that she is in mourning. Goya’s use of brush strokes enhances the realism of the painting; the color contrast between the duchess’s pale skin and the black clothing emphasizes the gravity of the situation.
María Cayetana de Silva, born in 1762, became widowed in 1796, and died in 1802 under mysterious circumstances. Goya’s painting of the duchess provides a glimpse into the life of the aristocracy during the era of Enlightenment in Spain. His meticulous attention to detail and ability to capture the essence of his subjects make this painting a standout representation of the 18th century art movement.