It’s hard to put Rembrant’s portraits in the shade, but I’m afraid Goya more than gives him a run for his money. In fact I’d go so far as to say he totally eclipses him.
In the usual packed blockbuster at the National Portrait Gallery, I stood behind a group of, shall we say, mature friends, discussing the particular position of Maria Teresa de Vallabriga y Rojas on her horse. The more forthright (Lady F) of them commented “But if she’s really riding side saddle – which she would be – her legs are twisted in far too exaggerated a fashion!”
I looked at the portrait and tried to figure it out. Meanwhile the debate raged on. I couldn’t help it, I had to interject. I explained to the trio that I felt Goya had done it deliberately. That his main focus was on getting her face in profile, therefore he had to have her twist her legs around far more prominently so that we got the full picture so to speak. “After all, he’s an artist” I said, “He’s entitled to be economical with the truth.”
Her friends moved on as Lady F answered me. “Let me tell you, I ride side saddle and it doesn’t look remotely like that.”