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Queen María Isabel of Braganza | Founder of the Museum del Prado

María Isabel of Braganza was born in Lisbon on 19 May 1797, daughter of John VI of Portugal and Carlota Joaquina of Spain.
She became queen of Spain when she married her uncle, Ferdinand VII, on 28 September 1816 and became his second wife.
She died during childbirth in Aranjuez on 26 December 1818.
It must be noted that this is a posthumous portrait.
The artist was the son of Vicente López and his most faithful disciple.

Bernardo López Piquer (1801-1874) | Maria Isabel of Portugal in front of the Prado in 1829 | Museo del Prado

As a model for this painting, he used the oval bust portrait that his father had painted of her around 1816, of which there are several replicas.
The queen has her hair arranged in an imperial style and wears a gold-embroidered red velvet dress with floral motifs.
She bears the badge and sash of the Portuguese Order of Christ, the sash of the Spanish Order of Maria Luisa, as well as the oval badge of the feminine Austrian Order of the Starry Cross.

On the right, the coat of arms of the two royal families are depicted, with a crown and a Golden Fleece.
Moreover, the queen’s initials, IB, are embroidered on the backrest of the chair.
The iconography of the portrait merits special attention: the queen is represented as the founder of the Real Museo de Pintura y Escultura, now known as the Museo del Prado.

The building can be perceived through the window from a north-westerly perspective, with the same appearance it had when it was inaugurated in 1819.
Isabel of Braganza loved the fine arts: she was a painter and an outstanding academic member of and counsellor for the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando.
She also maintained great interest in converting the Juan de Villanueva building (originally intended to house the Natural History Cabinet) into an art museum.
In the paintings catalogue of the Real Museo from 1854, Pedro de Madrazo goes so far as to say that it was the queen who ‘suggested the idea [to the King], due to the excitement of some people fond of the noble arts, and the King welcomed it with true enthusiasm’.

Francisco Aznar y García | The Grand Salon, the Prado, 1911

With her left hand, she points to some plans spread out on the nightstand decorated with winged lions.
Before painting it in oil, Bernardo López performed a sketch (of which an autograph repetition in watercolour signed and dated by the painter in 1828 was exhibited at the Galería Guillermo de Osma, Madrid, in 1997) that presents some interesting differences with regard to the final painting.

The plans on the table depict various floors of the buildings: room elevations are represented alongside the placement of the paintings.
This detail is undoubtedly evidence of a much more than superficial interest from the queen in the Prado’s museology.
Unfortunately, she was not able to witness the opening ceremony of the Museum because it took place almost a year after her premature death.

This splendid neoclassical formal portrait, which retains its original carved and gilt frame, appears to have drawn inspiration from French models by Robert Lefèvre (1755-1830) and Baron Gérard (1770-1837).
Given the sensitive interpretation of her character and her special cultural role as well as the care taken to organise the composition and to represent objects and textures, Bernardo has left us an emblematic image of the history of our Museo del Prado. | Source: © Museo del Prado

Francisco Goya | Portrait of Queen María Isabel de Braganza y Borbón, 1816-1818 | Meadows Museum

Maria Isabella di Braganza (Queluz, 19 maggio 1797 - Madrid, 26 dicembre 1818) è stata una principessa portoghese, era la seconda moglie di Ferdinando VII di Spagna.
La regina si distinse per la sua cultura ed il suo amore per l'arte.
Incoraggiò l'Accademia di San Fernando ad insegnare anche alle donne ed appoggiò l'iniziativa (pagata dal marito) di raccogliere le opere d'arte di cui i monarchi spagnoli avevano fatto tesoro e creare un Museo Reale, ora chiamato Museo del Prado.

Si è più volte affermato che fu lei a proporre la creazione di questo museo, ma in realtà il progetto per una pinacoteca a Madrid era stato pubblicamente annunciato anni prima, durante il regno di Giuseppe Bonaparte (Museo Josefino); ed anche alla fine del secolo precedente, durante i regni di Carlo III e Carlo IV, vari esperti come il pittore Mengs aveva alluso alla comodità di creare un museo.
Comunque sia, l'attuale Prado sarebbe stato inaugurato il 19 novembre 1819, un anno dopo la morte della regina, e diverse testimonianze (tra cui un necrologio pubblicato a Roma) la elogiano come la sua principale promotrice.

Peter Paul Rubens | Frans Snyders - Ceres with two Nymphs, 1624 | Museo del Prado