Francisco de Cabarrús y Lalanne

Francisco de Cabarrús y Lalanne

  • c. 1788
  • Oil on canvas
  • 210 x 127 cm
  • Cat. P_136
  • Commissioned from the artist by the Banco Nacional de San Carlos in 1786
Manuela Mena

The portrait of Francisco de Cabarrús (Bayonne, France, 1752 - Seville, 1810) as honorary director of Banco de San Carlos—a position he held from the time it was founded in 1784—was the last Goya painted for that institution. It hung in the General Assembly Hall, and Cabarrús’s role as guiding light and founder of Banco de San Carlos may well have ensured it the place of honour there. The artist was paid 4,500 reales de vellón for this work on 21 April 1788. In 1790, the new king, Charles IV, awarded this clearheaded Frenchborn merchant, who had taken Spanish nationality in 1781, the title of Count of Cabarrús, culminating his social ascent. Soon after, he became the object of accusations and persecution from which he would never fully recover.

Following modest beginnings in Valencia—where he had been sent by his father, a merchant in Bayonne—he demonstrated considerable skill both at business and at building up relations among the most influential members of Spain’s Bourbon court. In 1799, this led the finance secretary Miguel Cayetano Soler to entrust him with the provisioning of the French and Spanish troops allied against England in favour of the independence of the United States. The creation of Banco de San Carlos in 1784—Cabarrús had written his Memoria para la formación de un Banco Nacional (Memorial for the Formation of a National Bank) in 1871and the launching of the Compañía de Filipinas in 1785 brought him even closer to the spheres of power.

In this portrait, the great financier and merchant is shown standing. As in real life, he appears to be the master of his surroundings, which here include a disquietingly dark background after the fashion of Velázquez. Perhaps Goya sought to express the envy and enmity surrounding the brilliant financier. The artist masterfully emphasises Cabarrús’s impressive figure through his extraordinary clothing, a luminous green silk suit with golden highlights that hugs his voluminous body. This colour, which has always symbolised money and wealth, undoubtedly alludes to the future count’s ability to increase his personal fortune and expand the Crown’s economy through a modern approach based on progressive French ideas that earned him more than one powerful enemy. Goya also used this portrait of Cabarrús to renew the concept of images of the powerful, which until then had been limited almost exclusively to members of the aristocracy, especially in Spain. A new social class, the bourgeoisie, was emerging on all fronts with a drive, knowledge and decisiveness unmatched by members of the ancien régime. For them, Goya’s licence in this work must have been surprising in its novelty.

A technical study of this painting shows that Cabarrús’s right hand originally rested on the bank directors’ staff, their only old-fashioned symbol of power. Either Goya or his model decided to discard it, stripping the figure of decorations and symbols in a manner that directly recalls Velázquez’s composition for Pablo de Valladolid. In that depiction of a court buffoon and actor, the protagonist gestures offstage with his right hand in a manner typical of the seventeenthcentury theatre. Goya repeats the gesture here to underline his sitter’s mettle, and he places the figure’s left hand inside his frock coat, reflecting a period convention for portraits that associated this position with intellect. Cabarrús had already written numerous reports, memorials and lauds, as well as an abundant correspondence that clearly expressed his ideas. He did not come from illustrious forebears, and here he appears to emerge from obscurity, the darkness of history. Unaided, he stands strong and weighty, projecting a decisive shadow that Goya also uses to suggest he is advancing. His frock coat is in motion and one leg is already advanced, as if he were being driven forward into a new project by centrifugal force.

As always, Goya manages to suggest the bearing and size of the powerful anatomy that lies beneath Cabarrús’s apparel, and he also conveys the structure of his model’s head and even the weight of his bones. Those bones suffered a dishonourable fate after his death in Seville in 1810. He was first buried at the chapel of La Concepción in that city’s cathedral, in a mausoleum close to that of the Count of Floridablanca. After the war ended in 1814, however, the Central Junta’s decree of 1809, which declared him guilty of high treason for having accepted the post of finance minister under King Joseph I, came into effect, and his bones were exhumed and transferred to the communal grave in the Court of the Oranges, alongside the remains of those sentenced to death.

Manuela Mena

Manuela Mena
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
Fuendetodos (Zaragoza) 1746 - Bordeaux (France) 1828

The name appearing on his baptismal documents is Francisco Joseph Goya, but in 1783 he added the word “de” to his surname, and that is how he signed his self-portrait in the Caprichos when they were published in 1799: “Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Pintor.” At 53, he was at the height of his career and social standing, and in October he was appointed First Court Painter by the monarchs. From a young age Goya had wanted to find the documents certifying his nobility in the Zaragoza archives, but he never did. Success as an artist was slow in coming, despite the fact that he had begun studying painting at the age of 13. This was in José Luzán’s studio, although in 1762 he was already attempting to obtain a grant that the Royal Academy of San Fernando awarded to young men from the provinces so they could study in Madrid. The following year he attempted to obtain the firstclass Painting Prize, but neither of these efforts was successful. A few years later, in 1769 — probably after living between Zaragoza and Madrid, where he may have studied at Bayeu’s studio — he decided to pay his own way to Italy. And in 1771, he was equally unsuccessful in his attempts to obtain the prize of the Academy of Parma. From Italy, he returned to Zaragoza, where he must have had some kind of support, because that year he painted a fresco in the choir at the Basilica of El Pilar. In 1773, he married Francisco Bayeu’s sister, and this was decisive in his move to Madrid in 1775, where his brother-in-law had invited him to collaborate on a project to paint cartoons for tapestries to be hung in the royal palaces. This marked the beginning of his slow rise in courtly circles over the following years.

In 1780, at the age of 32, Goya was elected Academician of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, for which he presented Christ on the Cross (Museo del Prado, Madrid). At the same time, the chapter of the Basilica of El Pilar commissioned him to paint a fresco on the dome of the Regina Martyrum. The Count of Floridablanca’s support was also decisive for his career in the early 1780s. After painting his portrait in 1783, Goya was commissioned to make one of the paintings for the church of San Francisco el Grande. It seems very likely that Floridablanca also recommended his services to the Infante Don Luis and his family in 1783 and 1784, as well as to Banco de San Carlos for the portraits of its directors. In 1785, Goya was assistant director of painting at the Academy of San Fernando, and in 1786 he was finally appointed the King’s Painter. The following year, he obtained the patronage of the Duke and Duchess of Osuna and soon thereafter, that of the Count and Countess of Altamira. Goya was 43 years old when Charles IV came to the throne in 1789, and he was soon appointed court painter by the new monarch. By then, only one of his six children was still alive. Goya was still painting tapestry cartoons for the king at that time, but over the following ten years, his life and his approach to art were to change radically. This transformation may have begun with the grave illness that left him deaf in 1793. That is when be began to make independent works, such as the “diversiones nacionales” (“National Pastimes”) that he presented at the Academy in 1794, or the series of drawings and subsequent prints known as Los Caprichos. He also continued to respond to commissions for religious works, but the results were filled with such unprecedented innovations that they are considered even more revolutionary than his work in other genres. His canvases for La Santa Cueva in Cádiz (1796) and The Arrest of Christ, which Cardinal Lorenzana commissioned for the sacristy at Toledo Cathedral (1798), are fine examples. Goya’s fame is also due to his portraits of the Spanish elite from the monarchs to the leading aristocrats, including the Duke and Duchess of Alba, as well as outstanding cultural, military and political figures from that period, such as Jovellanos, Urrutia, Moratín and Godoy. This work culminated in 1800 with his portrait of the Countess of Chinchón and The Family of Charles IV (Museo del Prado, Madrid), as well as others that paved the way to modernity, such as his version of Venus as a nude model in the Majas (Museo del Prado, Madrid).

With the arrival of the new century, Goya and all his compatriots were affected by the war against Napoleon. His testimony is some of the most impressive of all — a deeply critical view marked by his reflections on violence in such works as Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War) or, in 1814, his Second and Third of May, 1808 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). His portraits offer a view of the new society, including its aristocratic patrons, such as the Marchioness of Santa Cruz, the Marchioness of Villafranca Painting her Husband and, from 1816, the Tenth Duke of Osuna (Musée Bonnat, Bayonne), as well as the new bourgeoisie, with likenesses of Teresa Sureda (National Gallery, Washington), his own son and daughterin- law, Javier Goya and Gumersinda Goicoechea (Noailles collection, France), and the actress Antonia Zárate. Before and after the war, Goya continued with his series of drawings and prints, including Tauromaquia and his Disparates, which dates from the years when the Constitution of 1812 was abolished. These culminate in the Black Paintings on the walls of his own house.

Goya’s portrait of Ferdinand VII is one of those that most clearly convey its model’s character, and this king’s repression was almost certainly the reason why the artist left for France in 1824, following the arrival of the Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis in Madrid that May. After a stay in Paris in July and August, where he visited that year’s Salon, he settled definitively in Bordeaux. His work from the final years of his life contained many innovations, including the use of lithography for a new series of four prints called Bulls of Bordeaux, and the miniatures he painted on ivory, with subjects that also appear in his drawings from those years. There, he offers a broad view of contemporary society, mixed with his memories and experiences, all marked by his permanent desire to fully explore human nature.

Manuela Mena

Paloma Gómez Pastor
Francisco Cabarrús y Lalanne (Bayonne 1752 - Seville 1810)

Cabarrús was a noted dignitary in the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV. He was a specialist who wrote on matters of economic policy as part of the second generation of the Enlightenment in Spain. He also designed financial projects, and as such created the bonds known as vales reales in 1780, during the war with Britain, and founded the Banco Nacional de San Carlos, the first bank authorised to issue bank-notes in Spain. In 1790 he fell out of political and social favour. He was later rehabilitated by prime minister Godoy after several years of serious problems which were never fully clarified, but which included trial and imprisonment.

He was born in Bayonne in 1752, to a family of traders and seafarers that hailed originally from Navarre. In 1771 he travelled to Valencia to learn about trade in Spain at the firm of Antonio Galavert. Shortly afterwards he secretly married Galavert's fourteen-year-old daughter Maria Antonia, a match opposed by both their families. They had a daughter named Teresa and two sons.

In 1772 he moved to Carabanchel de Arriba, a village near Madrid, where Pierre Galavert, a relative of his wife's, owned a soap factory. Records of bills of trade and permits for the export of silver coins show that in 1775 he was doing business with the firm of Viuda de Lalanne e Hijos. He went into partnership with Jean Aguirre, a trader in wool and treasurer of the Canal Imperial de Aragón. The transactions that they did together included the exporting of wool to France and Britain. He also worked with Le Couteulx, one of the biggest firms engaged in trade between Cadiz, Rouen and París.

His growing prosperity as a trader and banker brought him into contact with the followers of the Enlightenment and thus into the main circles of power. He joined the Economic Society of Madrid in 1776. At its informal meetings, held at the home of Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, he met Jovellanos, with whom he struck up a friendship that lasted until the time of the Peninsular War. Cabarrús was much more highly educated than was usual among the traders and bankers of the time. He strove to rise above the world of commerce and join ideological and political elite.

In 1779 Spain and France went to war with Britain over the American War of Independence. The government soon found itself in need of funds to pay for the war, as a British naval blockade had reduced remittances from the Indies and the amount of cash in circulation in Spain had fallen sharply. Cabarrús came up with the idea of vales reales: a hybrid between government bonds and paper money. He convinced the Count of Gausa, who was Treasury Minister at the time, to issue these bonds for three purposes: to bring in revenue for the treasury, to serve as a means of payment for the public (in large-scale operations at least) and to provide their owners with interest at an attractive rate of 4% per annum. There were three issues during the reign of Charles III: in 1780, 1781 and 1782. With his initiative and powers of conviction, Cabarrús managed to persuade some major players to involve themselves in the operation: mostly French trading houses operating in Madrid and Cadiz.

Uncertainty concerning the outcome of the war led to a drop in the traded value of vales reales towards the end of 1782. The Banco Nacional de San Carlos was founded in June that same year. It was the result of the personal efforts of Cabarrús to set up an official lender in the form of a joint-stock company. Its functions included the issuing of bank-notes, the prepayment of funds to the state (mainly concerned with the administration of provisions for the army), the provision of credit to cover the expenses of the monarchy abroad and the discounting and negotiating of bills with private individuals. A further objective was the funding of public works projects, but the main purpose was to pay for vales reales in silver. In 1784 the Banco de San de Carlos was granted a monopoly on silver mining, which brought substantial profits. In 1785 it obtained the contract to create the Compañía de Filipinas, in which it made a major investment. Both these projects went against the policy of economic liberalism that Cabarrús advocated. Between 1780 and 1790 Cabarrús became one of the most socially and economically influential individuals in Madrid outside the circles of Spain's grandees, but he also began to become unpopular. Various factors came together to undermine his success.

Following the death of Charles III in 1789, treasury minister Lerena, a personal enemy of Cabarrús, urged the bank's shareholders to convene an extraordinary general meeting to examine the latter’s record in managing its affairs. Cabarrús and the other directors of the bank were dismissed and shortly afterwards he was jailed for a cash smuggling offence allegedly committed back in the days of his youth.

With the accession of Charles IV to the throne and the upsets caused by the French Revolution, the political circumstances had changed. Opponents of the enlightenment-based policies in place saw this as an opportunity. Cabarrús lost support at court and his prosecution under civil jurisdiction went ahead. He spent five years in prison without ever coming to trial. In 1795 he was released and reinstated as a director by right of the Banco Nacional de San Carlos, when senior judges found procedural defects in the case against him and new treasury minister Diego de Gardoqui withdrew the charges. At the same time the war with the French National Convention came to an end and Prime Minister Godoy introduced a more pro-enlightenment domestic policy.

Godoy fell temoporarily out of favour, but when he recovered power (with the support of Spain's most reactionary party) he dismissed and jailed pro-enlightenment minsters, and Cabarrús was sent into internal exile in Burgos. From 1801 to 1807 he lived in Barcelona, where he undertook a number of industrial projects. On the outbreak of the popular uprising against the French in 1808 he met with Jovellanos in Zaragoza. Cabarrús declared his support for the 'legitimist' cause, but a few days later he was attacked by a group of insurrectionists because of his French birth and his known anti-traditionalist sympathies. This seems to have led him to change his position and join the cause of Joseph Bonaparte, who appointed him treasury minister in July that year. He still held that post when he died in Seville in 1810.

Extract from: P. Tedde de Lorca: Diccionario biográfico español, Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 2009-2013.

Paloma Gómez Pastor

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