Fitzwilliam is the first UK museum to acquire a Lopez work

A portrait of Maria Isabel de Borbón has been bought by the museum with help from the Art Fund.

icente López y Portaňa, Maria Isabel de Borbón, Queen of the Two Sicilies, 1829-1830 © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

The Fitzwilliam Museum has acquired a royal portrait of Maria Isabel de Borbón, Queen of the Two Sicilies by Spanish court painter Vicente López y Portaňa. It is the first painting by the artist to enter a public collection in the UK.

López is not well known outside of Spain, but deserves to be – he is one of the most technically accomplished of all portrait painters of the period. Already a highly respected artist and teacher, López was appointed as an official court painter of Ferdinand VII of Spain 1814, and remained so to his death in 1850. He specialised in detailed, flamboyant, yet psychologically insightful portraits of the royal family and high society. From politicians to prelates, almost every notable person in Spain of the day sat for López.

The sitter, Maria Isabel de Borbón was a Spanish princess and the second wife of Francis, Duke of Calabria, later Francis I of the Two Sicilies. Generous, good natured, pliable and increasingly overweight, she was said to be ‘null in every respect, knowledge, ideas, curiosity’, but stoically, even cheerfully, weathered the turbulent events of the time – including the French invasion of the Kingdom of Naples in 1806 and their exile to Palermo under British protection until 1820.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: ‘We are so pleased to support the acquisition of this remarkable portrait by a rare artist. It is a striking addition to the Fitzwilliam’s collection of European paintings, and will enrich their Spanish and early nineteenth century holdings. We wish the Fitzwilliam all the best for their bicentenary in 2016 and are delighted to be part of the celebration through making this grant.’

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Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridgeshire CB2 1RB

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Free to all

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