(Fuendetodos, Zaragoza, 1746 – Bordeaux, 1828)
Don Pantaleón Pérez de Nenin
oil on canvas
206 x 124.7 m
Inv. no. 444
On the subject and clothing
Date painted and provenance
Pantaleón Pérez de Nenin, the second son of a family of wealthy traders, was born in Bilbao in 1779. In 1795 his family helped finance the creation of Queen María Luisa’s regiment of hussars, which he joined the following year at the age of sixteen and with the rank of First Lieutenant, though without having graduated from any military academy. Following his participation in the brief military conflict that took place between Spain and Portugal in 1801, known as the War of the Oranges, he rose to the rank of captain and in 1805 he was promoted to the post of Adjutant Major and then on 21 February 1808 he was granted retirement for family reasons with the rank of Adjutant Captain. The uniform he is wearing in the portrait enables the work to be dated from the beginning of the year, when he was still active, and the uniform’s fur lining tells us that it was winter time, during the months when the court remained in Madrid. This hypothesis is confirmed by the inscription, signed and dated on the scabbard: “D. Pantaleón Pérez de Nenin, by Goya 1808”.
The black backdrop, against which his solid figure is cut out, further emphasises the outstanding qualities of the red dolman jacket, the mastery and violence of the brushwork with which he resolves its adornments and the assured treatment of the pelisse. The lavishness of the brushwork on the clothing reveals the changes in Goya’s palette and contrasts with the inexpressive face of the subject.
Pérez de Nenin was thirty two years old at the time of the portrait. He is depicted stiff and proud, dressed in the uniform of the Queen’s hussars. He is resting his right hand on the Adjutant-in-Chief’s ceremonial staff with its ivory pommel, while the left hand is holding a large sable whose known length of 106.5 cm reveals the imposing stature of the subject (over 1.8 m), which is further set off by the tall busby hat and its spectacular red plumage. His horse can be made out in the background, behind a balustrade, situating the scene in what would seem to be a palace garden, though this would be rather unusual for military portraits.