Lot 81
  • 81

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
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  • Francisco de Goya
  • Portrait of Prince Alois Wenzel von Kaunitz-Rietberg (1774-1848)
  • oil on canvas


Metternich collection;
Thence by inheritance in the family to the Károlyi collection;
Count Ludwig Károlyi;
His sale (and others), Bern, Stuker, March 9, 1951, lot 2108 as attributed to Goya, circa 1815, and described as "Portrait of a gentleman, possibly Clemens von Metternich";
Jürg Stuker;
His sale, Bern, Auktionhaus Stuker, 1989, lot 119, as attributed to Goya (alte Auschreibung);
With Eric Turquin, Paris;
Acquired by the present owner in 1990.


Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Goya en tiempos de Guerra, April 15-July 13, 2008, exhibition catalogue, pp. 464-466, cat. no. 170.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has been quite recently restored and could be hung in its current condition. The canvas has been fairly recently lined using glue as an adhesive. The texture of the paint is still quite prominent, for instance in the collar of his coat, and throughout the picture there is a good fresh texture to the paint layer. Running from right to left through the neck there is what appears to be an old stretcher mark or a slight pentiment, which leaves two lines that are slightly visible yet not disturbing. Another scrape in the gesso through the upper forehead of the sitter is also visible but this may also be an original mark. The same should be said for a few horizontal marks in the face and ear. The paint layer has been cleaned, varnished and retouched. The retouches seem to be clearly visible under ultraviolet light in the background and hair most likely addressing small areas of thinness for the most part and some cracking focused in slightly larger quantities in the center left, where there are two or three slightly larger restorations. In the face itself there are barely any restorations except for a few spots beneath the mouth. There are some restorations in the black cloak addressing some thinness and some retouches running across the bottom edge addressing flaking. The conservation is effective and the picture presents quite well. This is not a picture that one wants to clean again and the conservation so far is excellent. However, it is work considering a few more retouches in the face to strengthen a few of the darker areas. Nevertheless, the picture is fresh and well preserved and certainly could be hung as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

The years immediately following the expulsion of the French armies from Spain in 1813 were a tumultuous time in the art and career of Francisco de Goya. Although he had been able to continue to work during the war and under the French occupation—and indeed produced some of his most innovative and best work—this period had been extremely trying for the artist and his family. His finances had been seriously compromised, and in 1812 his wife, Josefa, daughter of the artist Francisco Bayeu, had died. Upon the return of the Bourbon monarchy, he had been questioned as to possible pro-French sympathies. Goya's erstwhile position as Pintor de Cámara was eventually restored in April 1814, and only then was he able to pick up much where he had left off, painting a number of portraits of the new King Ferdinand VII, as well as a few of the other members of the royal circle.1   Despite this, Goya failed to find the royal favor that he had previously enjoyed, and although he portrayed the new monarch, none of these were royal commissions.  Rather, the portraitist Vicente López had the king's favor, and in what seems, with the lucidity of hindsight, an egregious insult to the great painter, the younger artist was installed as court painter together with Goya, on equal footing.  It is in light of these events that the present, impressive Portrait of Prince Alois Wenzel von Kaunitz-Rietberg was painted, circa 1816-17. The Prince, then Austrian ambassador to Spain, is posed elegantly and simply against a plain background, his regard conveying an air of privilege and entitlement. His black ministerial uniform is decorated at the collar with gold embroidery, richly rendered in thick impasto, along with the more summarily painted sky-blue, moiré silk sash and Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog. The paint is handled in the artist's signature manner, with deft modeling of form enlivened by flickering brushstrokes of pigment creating a scintillating, proto-impressionistic effect. This is most evident in Goya's depiction of the sitter's face, where the artist has combined an unashamed spontaneity with a delicate sensibility, as in the modeling with bluish shadow – wet into wet – of the temples and the complex facial contours around the mouth. The impression of carefully coiffed, feathery blond curls is achieved by spontaneous squiggles of the brush, much as in Goya's contemporaneous Portrait of the Duque de San Carlos (see fig. 3) or his self-portraits of 1815. Not afraid to let the accidents of creation show, as in the pentimento in the shirt collar just under the sitter's ear, Goya's under-drawing on the pinkish beige ground is still visible in places through the thin veils of flesh tone. The very first marks on the canvas, however, were made not with a drawing implement at all, but rather with the butt of the artist's brush. Just as he did in the Marquesa de Santa Cruz, of 1805 (Museo del Prado), the Portrait of José de Vargas Ponce, also of 1805 (Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid), and many other works, Goya roughly indicated with brisk, horizontal strokes incised into the soft ground of the blank canvas, where the top of the forehead, the level of the eyes, the end of the nose, and the ear would be. These marks are still faintly visible as surface irregularities underneath the paint film (see detail, page 221). The overall lushness and vitality of the image is further enhanced by the spare background, where a cold, steely gray pigment has been freely scumbled with a vibrant, energetic stroke. The result is a modern image, a subtle pictorial stage on which Goya could deploy his keen psychological insight into his sitter's personality.

Despite its evident quality and its characteristic handling, this Portrait of Prince Kaunitz was unknown in the literature of the artist until its recent inclusion in the exhibition Goya en tiempos de Guerra at the Museo del Prado and its study in the catalogue by Manuela Mena Marqués and Gudrun Maurer. It represents an important addition to the artist's oeuvre which is easily understood in the light of documentation on the sitter and his contact with the painter. Taken out of Spain almost immediately after it was painted, the portrait appears to have remained in the family of the sitter in Central Europe, most likely passing to his daughter Leopoldine, to whom he was closest and who retained most of the other family portraits that are known today.2 She married Antal Károly, Prince Pálffy (1793-1879). The painting only reappeared in the Swiss sale of the Stuker collection, in 1989, where its old attribution to Goya was noted, as well as its provenance from the Károly and Metternich collections. The identity of the sitter, however, had by that point been lost. It was rediscovered by Manuela Mena on the basis of comparison with a number of other portraits of Kaunitz, including a rather flamboyant canvas by Giovanni Battista Lampi, as well as a small miniature by Johann Christian Schoeller dated 1815, just a year or so earlier than Goya's portrait (see fig. 2). In addition, the Goya portrait served as the point of departure for a print made in Vienna by Christoph Franck in 1818 to celebrate the sitter's appointment as Austria's ambassador to the Holy See (see fig. 1). That image, printed in reverse, is not a faithful copy of the portrait, because the costume is more elaborated and the oval format and suggestions of a cloudy sky are antithetical to Goya's aesthetic, but the head and collar are unmistakably the same. In addition, the Prince is shown wearing a second badge, of the Order of Saint Stephen, which he had been awarded in 1817 upon his return from Spain. Still, the inscription on the print leaves no room for doubt as to the identity of the sitter in the present portrait.

The portrait's extraordinarily fresh, unlabored execution suggests that Goya probably painted it in little more than a single sitting. Indeed, because of the sketchy execution of the sash and badge of Dannebrog on the sitter's chest, Manuela Mena tentatively suggests that it could be unfinished,3 and in a private communication, she has conjectured that it may have been executed in preparation for a more elaborate official portrait. The picture can be dated with a fair amount of precision, given the sitter's short stay in Madrid – from sometime in late 1815 to January of 1817, when he returned to Vienna. Stylistically it fits comfortably with other examples of Goya's production during these years, especially the two great full-length portraits of the period: the Duque de San Carlos (see fig. 3, 1815, Canal Imperial de Aragón, Saragossa) and the 10th Duque de Osuna (see fig. 5, 1816, Musée Bonat, Bayonne). The former, in which the painting of San Carlos's face, as well as the gold embroidery of his costume and the gray, scumbled background offer close parallels to the present lot, was preceded by an oil sketch of the head and shoulders (see fig. 4, private collection) in which only the head is highly finished, while the costume is quite summarily sketched. (It is perhaps relevant to note that at least four inches have been cut off of the bottom of the present lot, which can be deduced by the location of the original center stretcher bar, which has left a faint impression on the canvas. This could well have been done in the course of reframing to excise an unfinished portion of the composition).4 The Osuna portrait, which ranks as one of Goya's most Romantic likenesses, as well as his last portrait of one of Spain's grandees, offers close parallels with the present lot in the deftness of modeling in the face and hair. The rather steep slope of the shoulders in the Kaunitz portrait is not unusual in Goya's late oeuvre, as can be seen in the contemporaneous portraits of Fray Miguel Fernández Flores (1815, Worcester Art Museum) and Don José Luis Munárriz (1815, Real Academia de San Fernando, Madrid). Mena cites similarities with the portrait of Don Manuel Romero, of circa 1810 (Art Institute, Chicago), where the treatment of the embroidery is comparable, as well as a more contemporaneous full-length Portrait of the Duque de San Carlos, already mentioned. An equally compelling comparison for the embroidery of the collar can be found in the portrait of the architect José Antonio Cuervo, of 1819 (see detail, fig. 6, Cleveland Museum of Art). The latter painting, however, is a much-worked, highly finished portrait, which only serves to emphasize the spontaneity and possibly preparatory nature of the present work. The prince's unexpectedly early departure from Spain would have halted any plans for a more developed likeness.

It is not surprising that Kaunitz sought Goya out. The elderly painter was the most famous artist in Madrid, and a number of foreign dignitaries had sat to him during the war and its aftermath. Kaunitz had a sure and cultivated taste, honed by the masterpieces in his own inherited collection of over 2,000 pictures. Indeed, in addition to ordering his own portrait from Goya, he also purchased several paintings that the artist had painted during the years of the Peninsular War, including the beautiful pair of the Water Bearer and the Knife Grinder (see figs. 7 and 8, both now Szépművészeti Műzeum, Budapest).5

Prince Alois Wenzel von Kauntiz-Rietberg

Born into one of the most illustrious families of the Austrian Empire, Kaunitz's life and career can best be described as something of a morality tale.  His grandfather was the most important Austrian statesman of the 18th Century, Prince Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg (1711-1794), who held important government posts under Empress Maria Theresa, and her sons and successors Joseph II and Leopold II. His most important and influential office was that of Staatskanzler, a position which he held from 1753 to 1792 and which allowed him to shape Austrian, and thus European, events.  His service to Maria Theresa brought him and his family an elevation to the rank to Reichsfürst (or Prince of the Holy Roman Empire).

Alois Wenzel von Kaunitz was born in 1774 in Vienna, the son of Prince Wenzel Anton's second son, Dominick Andreas, and his wife Bernardine von Plettenberg-Wittem, a member of an aristocratic Westphalian family in the service of the Imperial crown.  Raised in the rarefied and cultured Austrian capital, the young Alois Wenzel was groomed to fulfill the high offices to which his family name had entitled him and made friends amongst the children of other distinguished families. The most important of these for his later life was the young Clemens Wenzel von Metternich (1773-1859), the son of a diplomat in the service of the Viennese court, of well-born if not exalted rank, who would later become one of the greatest and most powerful European statesmen of his day.  Kaunitz's friendship (and later family connection) with Metternich, who advantageously married his first cousin in 1795, would serve Alois Wenzel well in later life, helping to procure for him important diplomatic posts, as well as to shield him from the harshest critics of what can only be called his louche personal lifestyle.

In 1798, Kaunitz married Franziska Xavera, Gräfin Ungnad von Weissenwolf (1773-1859), with whom he had three daughters who survived into adulthood: Caroline, Leopoldine and Ferdinandine, born in 1801, 1803 and 1805, respectively (see fig. 9). He soon after embarked upon his expected diplomatic career, being posted as ambassador both to the Saxon and Danish courts (where he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Dannebrog, shown in the present portrait). With the death of his father in 1812, he inherited the title of prince and the entailed estates and incomes, as well as the considerable art collection that his grandfather had formed.  This is not to say that he did not have problems of financial liquidity; upon inheriting his title, Kaunitz sold the family palace in Mariahilf, adjacent to Vienna.6

Soon afterwards, Kaunitz received the appointment that was to bring him to Madrid and eventually to Goya's studio. In May of 1815, Camilo Gutiérrez de los Ríos, the Spanish ambassador in Vienna, sent word to Madrid that Prince Metternich, now Foreign Minister, had named Prince Kaunitz Austria's next ambassador to Spain, a post which had been left vacant during the recent conflict.7 Kaunitz's father and uncle had both held the post in the reign of Carlos III, and it seemed to the Spanish like a prestigious appointment. The prince had also acquitted himself well in his previous diplomatic posts in Dresden and Copenhagen and, as Gutiérrez de los Ríos fulsomely noted, "en todas partes se ha granjeado la consideracion de todos y el afecto de los mismos Soberanos cerca de los quales ha tenido la honra de residir".8  After a stopover in Paris, Kaunitz arrived in Madrid in the late summer of 1815. But problems seem to have arisen rather quickly about his conduct at the Spanish court. Not quite a year after his arrival, the Duque de San Carlos, who had just been appointed the Spanish counterpart to Kaunitz in Vienna, wrote of his disapprobation of the new ambassador, without specifying his reasons. Whatever the Duque's objections, they were severe enough to cause his replacement, and he returned to Vienna in early 1817.

What must certainly have been the cause of the recall was what would later become open knowledge: the prince's compulsive and extraordinary philandering. In a personal letter written just a few years later, his old friend Metternich revealed the scope of the problem: that since his adolescence not a day had passed that Kaunitz had not attempted to seduce "three, four, five, even six women."9 This naturally had led to a breakdown of his marriage (Fürstin Kaunitz had discreetly separated from him). His behavior was even extreme enough in an age that took a rather relaxed approach to aristocratic indiscretion to be viewed as an illness, at least by one contemporary observer.10 The Prince's activities continued unabated, yet he continued also to receive honors and diplomatic appointments for a while longer. In June 1817, he was appointed ambassador to the Holy See in Rome, a post which he occupied long enough to coordinate a state visit by the emperor and Prince Metternich in 1819. During his stay in Rome, the artistically canny Kaunitz surrounded himself, as he always had done, with talented artists, commissioning, for example, from Ingres the beautiful and ambitious group portrait drawing of his three daughters who had accompanied him there (see fig. 9).11 Portraits were painted in Rome as well of his wife and his daughter the Countess (future Princess) Pálffy, but not of Kaunitz himself, by the fashionable neo-Classical painter Vincenzo Camuccini.12  And as an Austrian steeped in the musical culture of Haydn and Beethoven, the prince also served as something of a tastemaker in the provincial musical scene of Rome, where, in 1819, he held a recital in his home by the then little-known violin virtuoso and composer Niccolò Paganini.

Back in Vienna, Kaunitz's past caught up with him in 1822, when he was charged with misconduct against the young ladies of the Corps de Ballet of the Theater an der Wien, many of whom were underage, a fact that appears to have given much force to the charges against him.  In the end, he was banished from the capital and forced to take up residence in Brno, where his family had estates. He lived there, strangely still accorded honors by the court, including that of being allowed by the emperor to style himself "Serene Highness" and for members of the Kaunitz family to marry into the imperial family. This second privilege appears in retrospect a hollow one, given that the prince was the last of his line. Two of his daughters, however, including Leopoldine, the Princess Pálffy, who probably owned this portrait, became ladies in waiting to the empress. Kaunitz eventually moved to Paris, where he died in relative obscurity in 1848.

1.   The Duque de San Carlos had been given the task by the newly returned Ferdinand VII of vetting members of the royal household, to eliminate those who may have been considered complicit with the French regime. This would have included Goya as a salaried painter of the king. The process took the better part of a year (this despite such suggestive evidence as Goya's being summoned in 1808 to Saragossa by the hero Palafox to record the brave resistance of its citizens against the French). In April of 1815, Goya was enrolled in the first rank of "purified" servants of the crown, and thus reinstated to his former position and salary.  
2.  Neither this portrait nor any of the known family portraits appeared in either of the two celebrated auctions of Kaunitz's collection of Old Master paintings, the first held on March 13, 1820, and the second on April 13, 1829, although other paintings by Goya did (see footnote 5).
3.   Madrid 2008, p. 466.
4.  The dimensions of the oil sketch in the Villagonzalo collection are 77 x 60 cm, the difference in the height from the present lot being roughly equivalent to the unfinished portion of the composition.
5.   As noted in the inventory of his possessions made at his wife's death in 1812, these two pictures were made over to Goya's son Javier, who presumably was the one who sold them directly to Kaunitz (see Juliet Wilson-Bareau in her essay for the exhibition catalogue Goya en tiempos de Guerra, p 46).  These two pictures were later sold in Kaunitz's auction in 1820, lot 69 (see footnote 3 above).  Javier noted in a letter also published by Wilson-Bareau that Kaunitz tried to buy a least one other picture from Goya, an unidentified Mass, but that the artist refused to part with it, "not even for three thousand duros." (see J. Wilson-Bareau, "Goya and the X Numbers. The 1812 Inventory and the Early Acquisition of Goya Pictures," Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31 (1996), p. 173, "Letter II".
6.  The marvelous suburban palace was bought by Prince Esterházy where he housed his own magnificent collection of paintings, which was opened twice weekly to the public. The Palais Kaunitz-Esterházy was severely damaged in the Second World War and finally pulled down in 1970, although its appearance is recorded in a number of prints as well as a magnificent painting by Bellotto (Szépművészeti Műzeum, Budapest).
7.  The diplomatic documents relevant to Kaunitz's posting to Madrid were discovered recently by Gudrun Maurer and are cited in the entry she co-authored on the Kaunitz portrait in the Prado exhibition Goya en tiempos de Guerra, pp. 464-466.
8.  Madrid 2008, p. 465: "...everywhere he has earned the esteem of everyone, and the affection of the very sovereigns close to whom he has had the honor to live."
9.  Clemens Wenzel Lothar, Fürst von Metternich. Lettres du prince de Metternich à la comtesse de Lieven, 1818-1819. Edited by Jean Hanoteau. Paris, 1909, pp. 215-216 (cited by Naef: see note 11 below).
10.  Madrid 2008, p. 466: Mariano Carnero, writing to Madrid from Vienna in a dispatch of 1822, noted that Kaunitz had carried "la depravación á tal extremo que mas bien debe atriburise á demencia que á libertinage [trans: depravity to such an extreme that it would better be attributed to mental illness than to libertinage]".
11.  See the entry by Hans Naef in New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Portraits by Ingres. Image of an Epoch, October 5, 1999 – January 2, 2000, exhibition catalogue, pp. 220-222, cat. no. 77.
12.  See the artist's account books in Ulrich Hiesinger, "The Paintings of Vincenzo Camuccini, 1771-1844," The Art Bulletin, vol. 60, no. 2 (1978), p. 820 (Appendix D, no. 4).