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Among the several distinguished paintings from the collection of Helen Clay Fricktreat are now on loan at the Fogg Museum, the most important is the portrait of a man in an orange coat by Goya.
Its subject is a certain Don Ascencio Julia, who was the painter's, only real pupil and of whom Goya did two other portraits. He assisted his master in at least one large fresco and left a few works of no great importance. But he had the right personality to make a good subject for the great artist.
The picture appears to belong to the period of Goya's best portraits, as they are classified by Beruete from 1801 to 1808. The age of the sitter, the costume and the manner of wearing the hair, the similarity in style to others of that time, all point toward those years. In its summary technique and its candor of statement, its closest parallel is a fine sketch done in 1805 of Mocarte.
Quite apart from these external matters the canvas contains within itself a wealth of interest in color and design and painter's craftsmanship. The yellowish pink of the coat, subtly blended, carries enough red to harmonize with the man's ruddy face and brown hair. The white of the neck-cloth, dotted with red, arbitrates between the two.
The great vigor of all the color is a reminder of the vermilion uniforms which Goya so well recorded in his court portraits or the beautiful black, white and blue of the portrait in the Museum of Eme Arts.
The design is perceived at once as a contributing factor to the success of the painting. Even in so simple a subject as a head and shoulders it proves to be ingenuously built. The head is set on a broad base of white, in the neck-cloth, which narrows down, like the pedestal in a bust, and is framed by the strong orange of the coat.
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