PASADENA>> There's more mystery to Francisco de Goya's portrait of Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna, other than that it has never been seen on the west coast until this week.
The painting, which depicts the prominent Spanish Enlightenment figure smiling slightly and looking to the right of the frame, carries no record of when it was painted or who commissioned it. Art scholars can only estimate that the painting was finished in the 1790s.
The painting was found during an auction at the Osuna family estate, but no other records exist detailing its origins.
“We know so much about the duke, so much has been written about him, but we don't know who commissioned this particular painting, it doesn't come up in the literature until the sale of the estate,” said Susan Galassi, senior curator of The Frick Collection in New York. “It leaves kind of an interesting question. There is a bit of a mystery to it.”
The portrait is on loan from The Frick Collection starting this week in a new exhibit at the Norton Simon Museum through March 3. The loan marks the first time the painting has been on display in a west coast gallery, and represents a continuing partnership between the Norton Simon and The Frick Collection since 2009.
Norton Simon Chief Curator Carol Togneri, who co-curated the exhibit with Galassi, said the partnership has contributed greatly to the museum over the years, and the Goya portrait's arrival is no exception.
“It allows us to look at our collection next to another image that tells us a little more about the artist. This is another way to see yet another example of his tremendous talents,” Togneri said. “And Goya was one of Mr. Simon's favorite artists.”
The painting is also a significant portrait because Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna, was an important patron of Goya's and was largely responsible for purchasing as well as advertising the artist's work, Galassi said. In the portrait, the duke is holding a note from Goya.
The exhibit also features the Norton Simon's own collection of Goya paintings, including two self portraits, as well as a dozen other pieces from French and Italian artists.
“The first step is to pay homage to the duke and to Goya,” Galassi said. “We wanted to make it a Goya-fest but also have the duke in formidable company.”
To celebrate the Goya portrait's arrival, the museum is also putting on a second exhibit of a selection of Goya's prints to go along with the loaned portrait. The exhibit, called “Unflinching Vision: Goya's Rare Prints,” was curated by Leah Lehmbeck. The over 30 prints feature Goya's more political side, depicting his social commentary on issues from prostitution, to bullfighting, to the war between the French and Spanish in 1808.
“He was a great painter, but also made these prints that were really kind of satirical and political,” Norton Simon spokeswoman Leslie Denk said. “It shows the other side of the artist, and also shows the process of print making and what makes these so rare.”
Throughout the exhibit, the Norton Simon will also present a number of community events, including a lecture 4 p.m. Saturday by Galassi. For more information visit www.nortonsimon.org.