The Immaculate c.1788

Size: 167,5x115cm

Place: Zaragoza

Year: 1788

Technique: Oil on canvas

Surface: Canvas




In January 2018, Julián Vidal published a study on the commission to the painter Goya of several works for the Canal Imperial of Zaragoza. Julián Vidal, an art historian and expert on Goya, attributes this painting of Goya’s Immaculate.
In this study, the most relevant are the tests carried out on the portrait of Joaquina of Candado that is conserved in the Museo of Bellas Artes in Valencia and was made by Goya reusing a previous canvas in which he had represented an Immaculate Conception.

According to a study carried out by E. Parre Crespo, this work can be dated to the second half of the 18th century and the pigments, layout and speed of execution can be assimilated to Goya’s usual technique in those years. Several radiological experts and Julián Vidal agree in the identification of a series of underlying radiological traces that coincide with other Goya’s prints, as is the case of the portrait of Vicente Osorio, Count of Trastámara, for whom he was doing tests at the same time as he was painting Joaquina de Candado’s portrait y this Inmaculada.

But it is the study of the radiography of this Immaculate made in the IPCE that gives us the most data that, when compared with the radiography of the portrait of Joaquina Candado, roots incontrovertible conclusions about its authorship and the date in which it was painted. The amplitude of the grey scale and the high radiological contrast allow us to clearly appreciate the different densities of the pictorial layer, where lead white and cadmium blue stand out. 

Radiological absorption is adequate for the period, since the drawing and the different densities of the figures are appreciable, caused by the use of pigments with a high atomic weight that ceased to be used from the 19th century because they were prone to certain intoxications. Goya even stopped using them in many of his works after his illness in 1793.

By comparing the two x-rays of these works, several areas can be identified that can be independent under the portrait of Joaquina Candado in the x-ray of this work. The compositional groups that can become independent leave no doubt about Goya’s way of working on these two canvases, rehearsing a first version of the Immaculate on the canvas that he later used to make Joaquina Candado’s portrait.

By superimposing the definitive figure of the Immaculate on the x-ray of Joaquina Candado’s portrait, one can identify the identical dimensions of the Virgin’s head, the position of the eye sockets, the nose and the mouth. Also clearly identified above the right shoulder, the position of the neck until its fusion with the lower mandible, the folds of dress of the Virgin under the chin and the position of the forehead with the removal of the scalp.

On the left side of the x-ray of Joaquina Candado’s portrait, we can identify the contour of the sleeve of the tunic on the right elbow of the Virgin and the hands joined by the fingertips in a praying position. Also to the left side in the x-ray of the portrait of Joaquina Candado and in a position similar to that occupied by those figures in the Inmaculada, the head of the cherub that carries the bouquet of lilies can be separated.

Above the head, in Joaquina Candado‘s x-ray, we can identify a halo of light emanating from the Holy Spirit and the brushstrokes to form the beak and wings.
Goya was not convinced by this first composition and thus made several changes in a new canvas of identical characteristics. In this canvas, he modified some of the elements he had made in the canvas of Joaquina Candado‘s portrait

He lowered the position of the head to open spaces above it and place the Holy Spirit and the beam of light that illuminates the aura of the head of the Virgin. He separated the hands, carrying the right towards the lap above the left and, by separating the right elbow from the body, he carried out an elevation of the right elbow that gives agility and lightness to the figure, as well as stabilising the whole and providing space around the virgin’s body.

He also moved the black cherub that he had chosen as the bearer of the bouquet of lilies to the upper left corner of the new painting (in the x-ray of Joaquina Candado‘s portrait it appears in the lower part of the painting).
With the elevation of the right elbow, he obtained sufficient space to adopt the bouquet of lilies of greater proportions and a space in that zone that pushes towards the centre of the painting of the figure of the virgin.
The reuse of already painted canvas was a frequent resource in Goya’s work methodology, through which he tried out the compositions and, on the other hand, took advantage of the layers of dry paint as a basis for creating new works of fast wood.

In order to date with certainty the Immaculate Conception and the  Joaquina Candado’s portrait, another appreciable image is taken into account in the radiography of Joaquina’s portrait. It is the head of the portrait of His Excellency Don Vicente Osorio Conde de Trastámara, Ten Years Old, which has been adopted by reference to his age, but as has recently been pointed out, it must be considered approximate (it could have been painted almost at the same time as the portrait of his mother and sister).

The relation of these three works through these two radiographic confirms what is usual in Goya’s practice, painting several canvases at the same time, apart from an unavoidable attribution of all of them to Goya, and also allows us to affirm the date of 1788 for their realization, since that is the date of the letters to Martín Zapater in which the Conversations with Joseph Yoldi on the commissioning of several works from the Imperial Canal are identified.
In this study Julian Vidal also talks about the political and cultural circumstances surrounding Pignatelli, Goycoechea, Zapater and Goya, which led to the commissioning of several works to decorate the chapels in the layout of the Imperial Canal, thus ratifying his exhibition. He also speaks of the difficulties that arose in cataloguing many of Goya’s works based on evidence, but lacking the technical precision required to apply existing scientific methods.
The Immaculate is currently in the hands of a private collector.


Goya y el Canal Imperial de Aragón