MENGS, Anton Raphael
(b. 1728, Aussig, d. 1779, Roma)
Oil on canvas, 106 x 75 cm
Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence
Praised as one of the most important exponents of international Neoclassicism, Mengs here brings together two children of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine: Archduke Ferdinand and Archduchess Maria Anna.
As First Chamber Painter of the King of Spain Charles III of Bourbon, Mengs had the opportunity to immortalize the two children when he was allowed to come back to Italy to take care of his health on condition that he went to Florence to portray the Grand Duke's family. During his Florentine sojourn (from June 1770 to January 1771), before leaving for Rome, Mengs succeeded in realizing all of the five commissioned portraits. However, maybe for a lack of time, the painter chose to depict Ferdinand and Maria Anna together in a double portrait.
Here the Habsburg-Lorraine archduchess is portrayed in a pose which is objectively impossible for a 10-month baby, realistically incapable of standing on her own feet by herself. Also to correct this incongruity Mengs left this first version unfinished, and replaced it with the Prado's final version. Yet, though unfinished, the painting is noteworthy for its extraordinary modern composition, its descriptive unaffectedness, the natural poses of the sitters and its beautiful explosive palette; all qualities which are no longer distinguishable in the Madrid final version curbed by the rules of court ceremony and the formal dress codes the Infants had to respect.