Anton Raphael Mengs (German, Ústi nad Labem (Aussig) 1728–1779 Rome), Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, duquesa de Huescar (1740-1794), 1775. Oil on panel, 34 1/16 × 27 7/16 in. (86.5 × 69.7 cm). Mr. and Mrs. Otto Naumann, New York
This portrait of a Spanish noblewoman—herself an artist and a member of the Academia de San Fernando—is both haunting and enigmatic. It is a version of a work that passed down through the sitter’s family and was probably painted at the time of her second marriage in 1775, symbolized by the ring she holds and the faithful lapdog whose shape is left in reserve. We cannot say with any certainty why the portrait was left unfinished and then altered, with her facial features covered as if by a veil. The final result appeals to modern sensibilities and is almost surrealist in its obliteration of identity.
This work is exhibited in the "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Invisible" exhibition, on view through September 4th, 2016. #MetBreuer