Painted circa 1874.
Mercedes de Heeren (1869-1934) was the daughter of Conde Christian Arturo Juan Antonio de Heeren (1844-1920), a wealthy industrialist born in Hamburg. Her mother, Virginia González de Candamo e Iriarte (1849-1929), came from an important and affluent Chilean family.
Both of Mercedes' parents collected paintings by Mariano Fortuny and his friends, amongst them, Raimundo de Madrazo, his brother-in-law. The most important teacher of his generation, Fortuny's influence is clearly visible in the present work in the delicacey of the sitters face and hands, the wealth of detail and mastery of colour and texture in the flowers to either side of Mercedes and the richness of the drape on which she sits.
Raimundo was the third generation of Madrazo portrait painters, following in the footsteps of his father Federico and his grandfather José. The most commercially successful of the three he was also became one of the most distinguished figures in the 'Spanish School' in Paris. Settling in the French capital in 1862 he specialised in female portraiture, surrounding his sitters with typically exquisite surroundings.
The present portrait may have been exhibited in the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878. There, Madrazo exhibited a rich group of paintings (as did his friends Fortuny – posthumously - and Martín Rico), amongst them, three portraits titled in the catalogue as 'Mlle X'.
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