A rare portrait of influential American merchant and naval agent Richard Worsam Meadethe first major collector of Spanish art in the U.S.is accessible to the public in its new home at the Meadows Museum
at Southern Methodist University
. On May 10, the museum unveiled the masterwork by Vicente López, one of the most significant painters of the Spanish Enlightenment. Acquired with the generous support of six donors from the Dallas community, the unpublished painting adds depth to the museums holdings of work by this celebrated court painter and provides insight into a legendary American family.
Meade was the son of the Philadelphia Revolutionary George Meade, and his son, George Gordon Meade better known as General Meade went on to defeat Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Around 1800, Richard Worsam Meade moved his export business to the port city of Cádiz, Spain where he began to collect paintings as currency for debts. It was there that Meade developed one of the most outstanding private collections of Spanish art, including paintings by Titian, Correggio, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, Velázquez, and Murillo, and ultimately became the first American collector known to have owned a painting by Murillo.
Meade could in many ways be considered the earliest predecessor of our museums founder, Algur H. Meadows, said director Mark Roglán. Both men were influential American entrepreneurs who, in the course of their business abroad in Spain, developed a passion for the countrys art, ultimately creating a new audience for it back home. This exceptional painting is the first portrait of an American painted by a Spanish painter to enter our collection, and it is fitting that the subject is someone who shares a legacy with our founding patron.
The painting is on display at the museum and will be included in the upcoming exhibition Meadows Collects: Ten Years, Ten Works, which will open in the fall of 2011. The exhibition will feature the ten most significant works the Meadows has acquired over the past decade, and will celebrate the ten year anniversary of their current home, which was funded by The Meadows Foundation.
López, honorary court painter to Charles IV (r. 1788-1808), was later appointed First Court Painter to Ferdinand VII alongside Francisco Goya in 1814. Ferdinand VII eventually began to greatly prefer the work of López, and in 1826 Goya requested permission to retire, leaving López as the primary court painter to the King. López went on to be the court painter for a third monarch, Queen Isabella II (r. 1830-1868), the eldest daughter of Ferdinand VII. This monumental portrait of Meade, which dates from 1815, was likely created in Madrid where López was working at the time. The painting depicts Meade seated at a desk, turned to confront the viewer, and showcases Lópezs extraordinary technical skill, from his detailed depiction of a wrinkle in the carpet to the color palette on the Meades clothing, which is echoed on the patterned rug.