On 22 April, ‘Goya and the Altamira Family’, an exhibition of five portraits of members of the Altamira family, will open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It is the first time these family portraits will be seen together as a group. We spoke to curator Xavier Salomon about the family reunion:
Can you tell us a bit about the exhibition?
The exhibition reunites for the first time five portraits of the aristocratic Altamira family from Spain. Four are by Goya and one by his collaborator Agustín Esteve.
What makes this a distinctive show?
This is the first time all five portraits can be seen in the same space since they were painted. One was painted for the Banco de San Carlos, and four for the Altamira family palace in Madrid.
How did you come to curate this exhibition?
Two of the portraits are in the Metropolitan Museum. The idea was born of the desire to show these two great Goya portraits in their appropriate context.
What is likely to be the highlight of the exhibition?
The grouping of the five together will be the main, unique, feature of the exhibition. Also, the portrait of Count Altamira usually hangs in the Bank of Spain in Madrid, and has rarely been seen in public. This will be a great opportunity for people to see it.
And what’s been the most exciting personal discovery for you?
The most exciting part of the exhibition for me has been the research behind it. I particularly enjoyed travelling around Spain tracing the Altamira family, visiting their palaces and studying archival material relating to the family history.
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in preparing this exhibition?
There really have been no challenges preparing this exhibition.
How are you using the gallery space? What challenges will the hang/installation pose?
The hang of the show is very simple. Two of the portraits – the Count and Countess of Altamira – hang next to each other. On the other side of the room, facing them, are their three children.
Which other works would you have liked to include?
Other family portraits by Esteve are still missing and have not been identified yet. I would have liked to find those and include them, to show that Goya was not working alone, but that there were other people in Spain in the 1780s painting portraits of the aristocracy.
‘Goya and the Altamira Family’ is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from 22 April–3 August 2014.