After a few decades of collecting art with my late wife, Nancy, I can honestly say that we never bought anything as a financial investment. We bought from artists for mostly personal reasons and some of the most cherished works were gifts from artists who were our friends. Sometimes, something just came home because it was…interesting. All good art pieces eventually teach us something and hopefully make a connection to another person on some level.
The painting above followed me home from a Dunedin Fine Art Center “Trashy Treasures” gently used art sale somewhere around 2003; purely out of curiosity. I found it fascinating from a historic point of view and I was secretly smitten with the young lady who was the subject of the work, but there was (and is) a lot of art in the house. After looking at it for a couple of weeks, it got wrapped and joined a large gathering of paintings and other ephemera leaning against a wall in the spare bedroom. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I researched the painting. It is a reasonably faithful copy of Jean Ranc’s Infanta Maria Ana Victoria de Borbón, 1725 (after), which hangs at the Prado in Madrid (original painting shown above left).
It was obviously very old, I thought. Its condition was perhaps in keeping with a 280+ year-old painting, with some surface crazing and bad revarnishing.. The canvas stretcher size was 35” high x 28” wide. It is common to see copies of famous paintings but my hope was that this might have had some direct connection to Jean Ranc or his studio. Differences in background, and especially foreground, appeared intentional given the otherwise faithful rendering of the original. I had my doubts about any connection to Ranc, however. It was marked on the back “copia” in a hand that suggested a late 19th or early 20th century style.
Jean Ranc (the Younger) was, like his father, an established portraitist to the Parisian bourgeoisie. Spanish royalty was disillusioned with the lack of French calibre in their portraiture artists and Ranc arrived in Madrid in 1724 to position himself as their new talent. Ranc's style was very close to that of his elder friend and mentor Rigaud, However, Ranc's art was mainly one of pageantry and color, and differed from Rigaud’s style in Ranc’s treatment of sharp hands, brittle folds of fabric and comparatively static portrayal of faces. In my opinion, our mystery painter captured these characteristics well.
What of the subject? Mariana Victoria was the eldest daughter of Philip V of Spain; as such she was an Infanta of Spain by birth. She later became the Queen of Portugal as the wife of King Joseph I. After suffering a series of strokes, King Joseph allowed his wife to become the head of government, the Regent of Portugal, in 1776.
Mariana Victoria was the godmother of Marie Antoinette. Her great grandson Pedro became the first emperor of Brazil in 1822. She has descendants ranging from the present King of Spain, King of Belgium, Grand Duke of Luxembourg pretending Duke of Parma and the French Count of Paris.
Now, back to the ‘copia’. I sent detailed photos to a prestigious auction house in New York City and one in St. Petersburg, FL. They both believed that it was painted in the middle to late 19th century and had little value. Aside from my fanciful attraction to the young lady in the painting, there was no reason for it to be in my house. I only exhibited it once, at a Greenville Collects exhibition when I was the Executive Director of the Greenville Museum of Art in NC. So, in 2013 I bid farewell to that beautiful young lady and off it went to the St. Pete auction. I hope she found a good home.