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A native of Valencia, Vicente López was called to Madrid in 1814 by Fernando VII, newly restored to the Spanish throne after six years of Napoleonic rule. Soon afterward, he was appointed First Painter to the King, in effect replacing Goya as the preferred portraitist at court and marking a shift in taste toward a more classicizing style.
In this work, López portrays a courtier he must have known well. Juan Miguel de Grijalba, the learned favorite of Fernando VII, wears the dress uniform of the king's Secretary and grasps a bundle of letters emblematic of his office.