Portrait of Inés de Zúñiga, condesa de Monterrey

c. 1660-1670
Oil on canvas
199 x 155 cm
Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid


In 17th-century Spanish painting there are very few portraits of other than royal personages, and still fewer of women, whether noble or plebeian, since women had to show modest circumspection in their comportment and dress. As Francisco Calvo Serraller notes, ‘The break with this authentic cul-de-sac of the Spanish court portrait needed the irruption of the young Velázquez in the court in Madrid and, in no small measure, the understanding of his painting by the even younger monarch, Philip IV, who was capable of appreciating the freshness brought to the genre by the then naturalistic painter from Seville, whose indisputable sense of verismo was not at odds with the elegant and sober distinction required for persons of such importance.’ (Francisco Calvo Serraller, ‘Ladies’, in Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso. Time, Truth and History [exh. cat.]. New York, Guggenheim Museum, 2007, p. 163).

The first to follow Velázquez’s path in the field of portraiture were Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo and Juan Carreño de Miranda, the latter achieving a more personal style, because, never having been in the master’s studio, he scrutinized and studied his works with greater freedom and independence.

The debt to Velázquez in this portrait is apparent both in the refined range of colours and in the composition. Doña Inés poses in an attitude similar to that of the portrait of Queen Mariana, framed by an expanse of drapery in shades of red and, like the queen, holds a large lace handkerchief in her perfectly defined left hand. Regal attributes such as the chair and the clock in the portrait of the queen have been replaced by more frivolous accoutrements as a poodle and the detail of a gilded pistol hanging from a pink ribbon round her waist.

In this painting we also see the evolution of fashion and mores at the Hapsburg court in Madrid. The lady’s dress portrayed clearly reflects the trends of the decade from 1660 to 1670: the large farthingale, full sleeves, uncovered shoulders and loose hair all contrast with the demure necklines and complicated wigs of the ladies at the court of Philip IV.

Juan Carreño de Miranda

Avilés, 1614 – Madrid, 1685

A painter of the Madrid Baroque school, in his first phase he focused on religious painting. In 1671 he was appointed royal chamber painter and specialized in the genre of portraiture. Influenced by Velázquez and Van Dyck, his works are characterised by their serenity and elegance.