b. 1814, Madrid, Spain; d. 1843, Madrid, Spain
Rosario Weiss was a painter, copyist, and forger of the paintings of the masters in mid-19th century Madrid. Her mother Leocadia Weiss was officially Goya’s housekeeper (in reality his partner), and she and Rosario accompanied him in his exile in Bordeaux. During her brief career as a painter in classicist circles in Madrid, Weiss had to fight both the sexist prejudices of the art academy and the legal heirs of the famous painter, a particularly oppressive patriarchal combination. The drawings presented here were originally deposited in the Biblioteca Nacional de España.
Francisco de Goya / Rosario Weiss
Dibujos dobles (Double drawings), 1821–24
Brush, pen, ink and gouache; facsimile reproductions
The interesting thing about these drawings, made by Rosario Weiss on the back of the notebooks belonging to her godfather Francisco de Goya, is the possibility that they may well be comments on her teacher’s drawings on the front of the pages. In many senses, the dream-like quality of her childish doodles influenced Goya’s own fantastical imagination. On one side, Goya painted a feral soldier; on the back, Rosario drew a woman with a fan. A tattered, ghostly monk is by Goya, and the two dead monks on the back are by Weiss. A comfortable sled seems to have been the girl’s response to the outlandish figure that Goya makes shout that he is very tired.
Rosario was barely ten years old, and Goya was fascinated by her drawing skills. As such, these sketches seem to suggest playfulness between master and student, a version of the game of opposites, the world upside down, and other ‘nonsense’ expressions of the kind that so interested Goya near the end of his life. These drawings are dated just before Goya went into exile in France (accompanied by young Rosario and her mother, who was probably his partner at the time). When they arrived in Bordeaux, Goya secured a position for Rosario as apprentice in Claude Joseph Vernet’s studio, and then as a student in Antoine Lacourt’s academy. Goya’s commitment is significant, given that it was unusual to support a woman embarking on a career as a painter. Goya insisted on Rosario’s artistic professionalisation with extraordinary passion and vehemence (it has been suggested that she was his illegitimate daughter), aware of the politically transgressive nature of the gesture at the time.