José Moñino y Redondo, I conde de Floridablanca [José Moñino y Redondo, I Count of Floridablanca]

José Moñino y Redondo, I conde de Floridablanca [José Moñino y Redondo, I Count of Floridablanca]

  • 1783
  • Oil on canvas
  • 260 x 166 cm
  • Cat. P_324
  • Acquired in 1986
Manuela Mena

The portrait of José Moñino y Redondo (Murcia, 1728 - Seville, 1808) has been dated to 1783, one year after the founding of Banco de San Carlos, and was painted for a different and as yet unknown destination. Its provenance places it among the heirs to the family of the count’s brother, as he himself had no direct heirs. It may have been a private commission for the count’s own home, which could explain Goya’s request for secrecy in a letter he sent to his friend in Zaragoza, Martín Zapater, on 22 January 1783. There he mentions the request for confidentiality he had received from the count, who must have had some reason for not wanting it known that he had commissioned a portrait:

Although the Count of Floridablanca has charged me to say nothing, my wife knows, and I want you alone to know, that I am making his portrait, which could be of considerable value to me. I owe this lord so much that this afternoon I was with him for two hours after he had eaten, for he had come to Madrid for lunch./ You should not think it even occurred to me to request this. When the time comes, I will tell you what the situation is. Say nothing about it […].

Moñino became a nobleman in 1773 when he was named Count of Floridablanca by Charles III. In 1776 he became first secretary of state, and he was decisive for Goya’s social standing and success during the artist’s early years at court. As minister, he had favoured Goya in 1781 with a commission for one of the large altar paintings for the monarch’s planned church of San Francisco el Grande in Madrid, and a year earlier, in 1780, he had already sent Goya’s Christ on the Cross (Museo del Prado, Madrid) to the same church. This was the work that Goya had presented at the Royal Academy of San Fernando, and it had led to his appointment as a permanent member of that institution. This was not the only example of the count’s support for the artist; in 1783 he may have presented him to the monarch’s brother, Luis of Bourbon, to paint likenesses of the entire family. In 1784, or possibly earlier, Goya painted the portrait that relates Floridablanca to Banco de San Carlos (Museo del Prado, Madrid). There, he holds the Memorial for the Creation of the National Bank of San Carlos, written by Cabarrús in 1782.

The large depiction of Floridablanca was Goya’s first state portrait, and he masterfully employed all of that genre’s allegorical elements. The minister appears at the centre of this composition, over which an oval portrait of Charles III presides from the background, suggestively reflecting the long-standing European tradition of a painting within a painting. The monarch’s armour alludes to the still-troubled period of support for the independence of the United States and the war against England, the recovery of Florida in 1782 and the taking of Minorca in 1783. He wears the Order of the Saint-Esprit, his own Order of the Immaculate Conception, and the Golden Fleece. Thus, everything occurring in the scene is sanctioned by the monarch’s power and will, even though some explanations of this painting maintain an idea propagated by early twentieth-century art historians, who repeatedly and erroneously cast Goya as a critic of the powers of the monarch and his ministers. Moreover, the scene conveys a sense of balance and grandeur that actually enhances the minister’s image. Dressed in red, Floridablanca wears the sash and insignia of the Order of Charles III—he did not receive the Golden Fleece until 1791—and his serenity, brilliance and fortitude make him the perfect axis for this scene. Placing him like the fulcrum of a set of scales, Goya alludes, on the right, to public works such as the Imperial Canal of Aragon, which constitute the most technically advanced examples of the minister’s policies and the most beneficial results of his work; and on the left, to his essential support for the arts, embodied by the figure of Goya seeking his approval of a canvas whose small dimensions suggest it is a sketch for a new decorative project. The Imperial Canal is represented by the map at Floridablanca’s feet, which leans against a work table bearing what may be plans for other projects, such as the mountain passes opened to facilitate travel through Despeñaperros, Sierra Morena, Guadarrama, Navacerrada and Somosierra. His project supervisor appears, compass in hand, ready to measure distances on these plans. While this figure’s identity has been assigned at one time or another to every one of the court’s architects, namely Sabatini, Ventura Rodríguez and Villanueva, the most coherent proposal is Julián Sánchez Bort, a Murcian hydraulic engineer who began work at Pignatelli’s recommendation in 1775 on the design and construction of the Imperial Canal. Goya’s justification as an artist takes the form of Antonio Acisclo Palomino’s famous theoretical text on painting, which Floridablanca planned to republish. It lies on the rich red carpet, alongside the map of the Canal and a print, all at the minister’s feet, not simply thrown on the floor as some have stated. Following the practice of classic painting, these features establish a firm visual basis for what is happening above as elements on which the minister’s ideas and actions rest. The large gilded clock marks exactly ten-thirty in the morning. Charles III began work at eight each morning with general audiences, then, at eleven, he began to receive his ministers. At ten-thirty, with his morning affairs in hand, Floridabanca was therefore undoubtedly preparing to meet with the king. This is also suggested by the envelope at his feet, which would be one of the numerous memos and requests he received at his daily audiences. This one has already been opened and read. Moreover, the clock on the table, which reflects orderly work habits and incessant activity, is decorated with a beautiful seated figure of Old Man Time with an hourglass in his right hand that joins the historical past with the modern present of the Enlightenment. Lastly, the spectacles that the minister holds in his right hand signify his high standing and intellectual interests as well as his keen insight, the latter also reflected in the clear, penetrating gaze of his grey eyes.

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
José Moñino y Redondo (Murcia 1728 - Seville 1808)

At the age of eight he entered the seminary of San Fulgencio in Murcia. He later went on to study at the University of Orihuela, where he graduated in Law in 1744. Back in Murcia, he held the Chair of Civil Law at the San Fulgencio seminary and joined the practice of lawyer Pedro Marín Alfocea as a clerk. In 1748 he moved to Madrid, where he joined the Royal Council as a lawyer. He practised law for eighteen years and also undertook a number of commissions from the Royal Council of Castile.

His character and his talent as a lawyer earned him the support and protection of powerful families from the nobility, including the Duke of Osuna and the Marquis of Perales. Charles III made him a Judge of the Royal House and Court in 1763. This distinction and his support for the book Tratado de Regalía de Amortización, published in 1765 by Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes, public prosecutor at the Council of Castile, helped him rise through the professional and political ranks.

Following the Esquilache riots in 1766 he was appointed criminal prosecutor at the Royal Council of Castile. In 1769 a third public prosecutor's district was created and he took over the district of New Castile, which covered the Chancellry of Granada and the Provincial Courts of Seville and the Canary Isles, while Campomanes, as the senior prosecutor, reserved Old Castile for himself. His years as a public prosecutor in the shadow of Campomanes gave him a sound reputation as a regalist; he was a prudent man who weighed things up carefully but was essentially firm, as shown in his responses and arguments on taxation.

In 1772 Charles III made him interim minister plenipotentiary to the Holy See. This post needed to be filled by a regalist, but one who was also convinced that the Jesuits should be disbanded. He had shown his support for this policy in a ruling on the need to abolish the order which he had drawn up jointly with Campomanes in 1767. Both prosecutors had accused the Jesuits of defending doctrines counter to temporal and royal power, and even preaching disobedience of the civil authorities, because of their absolute dependency on the Pope. In Rome he gradually chipped away at the resistance of Pope Clement XIV until a papal order abolishing the Company of Jesus was eventually signed on 21 July 1773. This order did not condemn the doctrine, customs or discipline of the order but simply suppressed it as a religious body. In 1774 he intervened in the choosing of the new Pope, Pius VI, to ensure that the candidate chosen was sympathetic to the Bourbon courts and an enemy of the Jesuits. In recognition for his services in Rome, Charles III granted him the title of Count of Floridablanca in 1773, along with other royal favours.

He remained in Rome until 7 November 1776, when he was recalled to replace Grimaldi, who had resigned as Secretary of State and Dispatch of Government. His appointment to this post was confirmed by a Royal Provision in 1777. In his new post, he gained the trust and affection of Charles III for his energy and skill in doing business. On the death of Manuel Roda y Arrieta, he took over as interim Secretary of State for Grace and Justice until 1790, when he was replaced by Antonio Porlier y Sopranis.

As Secretary of State and Dispatch, he personally directed foreign policy from 1777 to 1792. From the outset, he had to deal with serious matters: a border dispute with Portugal on the River Plate (in which he negotiated a favourable treaty); the issue of the independence of the British colonies in North America; and the renovation of the third Family Pact via the Convention of Aranjuez in 1779, whch brought Spain to the brink of war with Britain. Floridablanca was unable to maintain his neutrality or his desired role as an international arbitrator, and at the request of France (and with the support of Charles III) he had to sign the Convention of Aranjuez, which led to a declaration of war against Britain. The matter was concluded with the Treaty of Versailles on 2 September 1783, signed by Aranda, under which Spain regained Menorca and Florida. This success brought to light differences between Aranda and Floridablanca, which eventually led to the latter being ousted from power.

But during the final years of the reign of Charles III Floridablanca continued to consolidate his position of political predominance. The king entrusted the management of foreign policy to him, making him de facto prime minister, so that he supervised and coordinated the tasks of his colleagues. This dominant ministerial and political role resulted in the setting up in 1787 of a Supreme Council of State.

In domestic politics, he supported and promoted numerous wide-ranging reforms such as improvements in the postal service, the opening up of several ports in mainland Spain to free trade with the Americas and the creation of trading companies with special privileges such as the Real Compañía de Filipinas. He also helped develop the associations known as ‘economic societies of friends of the country’, worked for the social rehabilitation of ‘undesirables’; and helped found the Banco Nacional de San de Carlos via a Royal Decree of 2 June 1782 to handle the discounting of royal bonds. He ordered the construction of irrigation channels and ship canals, onshore ports and roads. He applied reforms in taxation such as the taxing of the revenues known as 'civil fruits' in 1785. He promoted agriculture, the organisation of the country by provinces, institutional education and culture reforms such as the plan to set up an Academy of Science and Letters and other, associated scientific bodies such as the Astronomy Office, the Royal Office of Machinery, the Office of Natural History and the Botanical Gardens, among others.

Floridablanca's political power was at its peak from 1787 to 1792, following the creation of the Supreme Council of State as an ordinary, permanent body for the joint passing of resolutions on matters that might be classed as general rules, for settling disputes on areas of authority between different secretariats of state, councils and higher courts, and for deciding on job proposals that could affect different departments. The Royal Decree establishing the Council was accompanied by confidential instructions that set out a comprehensive  government programme for the Spanish monarchy over the second half of the 18th century

Floridablanca's foreign policy goals involved maintaining close links with France and Naples and a distrust of Britain. He sought to maintain the traditional doctrine of balance in Europe that had prevailed since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. But he did not want to see Britain's power entirely overthrown, as that would have left France free to impose its will on Spain. Floridablanca's reluctance to make Spanish diplomacy entirely independent of that of France was turned on its head following the French Revolution in 1789.

The changes in the diplomatic and political map of Europe that followed in the wake of the French Revolution brought a loss of prestige and power for Floridablanca. Changes in the direction of Spanish diplomacy following 1789, the economic crisis that arose that same year, poor cereal crops and food shortages, his policy of establishing a 'cordon sanitaire' for fear that the revolution might be 'contagious' and the campaign to discredit him mounted by the Count of Aranda eventually led him to write a document known as the Memorial in 1788, in which he tendered his resignation, though Charles II refused to accept it. But the king died just a few months later. Charles IV kept him on as Secretary of State and Dispatch of Government, but his situation grew increasingly precarious.

Floridablanca's dismissal in 1792 was followed by institutional reforms that did away with the Supreme Council of State and reinstated the Council of State in its previous form. The Count of Aranda was appointed as Dean of the Council of State and interim Secretary for Dispatch in Floridablanca's place. The latter was banished. He moved to the house of his brother Francisco in Hellín, but he was later arrested there and imprisoned in the Citadel in Navarre. He was accused of abuse of authority and embezzelement of public funds in the financing of the Aragon Canal, and put on trial on overall counts of political responsibility. Aranda’s fall from grace and imprisonment in the Alhambra in Granada in 1792 worked in his favour, as Godoy then took over the reins of power. With the signing of the Peace of Basel in 1795 Floridablanca was absolved of all political responsibility and the attachment placed on his assets was lifted, though he was not set free until 1808, following the abdication of Charles IV.

News of Napoleon's invasion reached him in Murcia. The French Revolution had ousted him from power, but now Napoleon appointed him as the representative of the Provincial Council of Murcia, and in October that year he was elected Chairman of the Supreme Central and Governing Board of the Kingdom, the body in which civil authority was vested until Ferdinand VII, then held captive in France, was reinstated as King of Spain. The Board moved its operations to Seville. In spite of his advanced age he was much more than just a figurehead in his short time in the post until his death. He drew up to Manifiesto de la Nación Española ['Manifesto of the Spanish Nation'] in October 1808, inspired the wording of the Reglamento para el régimen de las Juntas provinciales ['Regulations for the Operation of Provincial Councils'] published in 1809 and was certainly the spirit behind, if not the actual author of, the regulations for internal government of September 1808.

He died in Seville on 30 December 1810 and was buried in the cathedral there with all the honours due to a Prince of Castile. Among other distinctions, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III on 28 March 1783 and the title of Knight of the Order of the Toisón d Oro ['Golden Fleece'] on 28 February 1791.

Extract from: J. M. Vallejo García-Hevia: Diccionario biográfico español, Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 2009-2013.

Paloma Gómez Pastor

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