Spanish Old Master Drawings

Self-portrait

Manuel Salvador Carmona

(Nava del Rey, Valladolid, 1734-Madrid, 1820)


  • Date: 1759
  • Red chalk with light strokes of black chalk on paper
  • 185 x 140 mm
  • Signed: “Manl Salvador carmona, desin, 1759.” (in red chalk, lower left corner)
  • Provenance: Carderera Collection
  • Literature: Exposición (1922), p. 134, no. 468, pl. XII; Carderera (1950), p. 40

  • SOLD TO THE MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO, MADRID

The son of Pedro de Salvador y Carmona, Manuel was born in Nava del Rey on 20 May 1734. From an early age he demonstrated a pronounced interest in drawing and at the age of thirteen moved to Madrid with his uncle Luis Salvador Carmona (1708-1767), who was at that date deputy director of sculpture at the recently founded Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. There the young Manuel expanded his knowledge, particularly with regard to drawing and printmaking. His outstanding abilities earned him the chance to move to Paris in 1752 where he studied under Nicholas Gabriel Dupuis (1695-1771) at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. The results of this period of study are evident in a series of prints of 1754, which depict Louis XV, Mary Magdalen divesting herself of her Finery (after a print by Edelink) and Mary Magdalen at the Entrance to the Tomb (after Guercino).

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Again in 1754, Carmona produced his first independent print, depicting Christ appearing to Mary Magdalen, which he dedicated to the Spanish ambassador in Paris, Jaime Masones. Over the following years he focused both on the reproduction of works by the Old Masters and on the production of engraved portraits of the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand VI and Bárbara de Braganza, and Charles III (1758). With the aim of obtaining the status of Academician in Paris, in 1761 he executed the portraits of François Boucher and Hyacinthe Colin de Vermont for that institution, both based on paintings by Roslin. The success and fame that these two works earned him reached the attention of Charles III, who extended his study grant in Paris for another year. 1

Carmona was summoned to Madrid by the Spanish monarch in 1763. His arrival brought with it a complete change in the situation of printmaking in Spain. While during the early years of his career he had focused almost entirely on devotional images, this would cease to be the case with the ascent at court of figures of the importance of Nicolás de Azara and Eugenio Llaguno, among others. From this point onwards Carmona thus produced the illustrations for an edition of Sallust (1772) for the Infante Don Gabriel, for Iriarte’s poem Music (1779) and for Ibarra’s edition of Don Quixote (1780). In 1783 Carmona was made Engraver to the Privy Chamber after he executed a print of Mengs’s portrait of Charles III. Towards the end of his life he received further honours and was made an academician of merit by the Real Academia de Nobles y Bellas Artes de San Luis in Zaragoza (1796), an academician of the Academia de San Carlos in Valencia (1815), and an academician of the Academy of Saint Luke in Rome in 1818. Carmona died in Madrid two years later at the age of eighty-six.

Of particular interest within his highly active career are the years of his academic training in Paris. As noted above, Carmona moved there in 1752 in the company of three other grant students: Juan de la Cruz Cano y Olmedilla, Tomás López and Alfonso Cruzado. In Paris, Carmona devoted his attention to the study of engraving and etching with a view to producing portrait prints and historical scenes. 2 Nine years later and still in Paris, he engraved a beautiful self-portrait, depicting himself in the company of his fellow-students (Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, inv. no. IH/8433/2). Set against a stone base and attached to a garland-like chain hang four medallions depicting the four grant students. These in turn are joined to a symbolic, four-branched tree from which new leaves are sprouting, representing the shoots of a new generation of artists who would completely revolutionise art in Spain. 3 At the bottom is a fictive plaque with the inscription “LONGÉ ET PROPÉ” [separated but united], which should be read in conjunction with the two chained hearts in front of the tree, which are crowned with laurel and thus refer to the love for what Carmona considered to be his two homelands: Spain (his country of birth) and France (where he trained).

The present drawing is closely associated with this print given that it depicts the same Self-portrait of Carmona but with some extremely interesting variations. It is masterfully executed in red chalk with very light touches of black chalk, using a technique frequently employed by the artist for his drawings. 4 This one is signed at the lower left corner: “ManI Salvador carmona, desin, 1759”. The principal difference with the print lies in the depiction of the fictive stone border, which in the case of the drawing is topped with a large bow. This suggests that the artist first devised his self-portrait as an independent print in 1759, but for unknown reasons it was not published and he subsequently re-used it for the above-mentioned commemorative print of 1761. In its design Carmona was directly influenced by works by his master Dupuis, for example his portrait of Jean Baptiste Leoine le Fils (1755) and that of the jurist and historian Léon Ménard, in which we find the same type of shading and, above all, the large bow above the border.

 

  1. On Manuel Salvador Carmona, see: Carderera (1950); Gallego (1979), pp. 280-283; and Salvador Carmona (1989), pp. 19-35.
  2. Carderera (1950), pp. 39-41 and Salvador Carmona (1989), p. 20. Of the other three students, Juan de la Cruz Cano and Tomás López trained in the field of architectural and decorative prints and maps, while Alfonso Cruzado specialised in intaglio engraving for medals and seals.
  3. Carderera (1950), pp. 39-41. See also: Carrete Parrondo (1980), no. 27.
  4. A large number of them are in the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, including the contemporary Portrait of Francois Boucher (MNP, inv. no. D658), which is preparatory to the print of that subject of 1761. See: Pérez Sánchez (1986), pp. 411-414.