This portrait of the Spanish soldier, engineer and important naturalist Félix de Azara (1742 – 1821), was made Francisco de Goya in in 1805 and is currently part of the collection of Goyesque works held by the Camón Aznar Museum in Zaragoza.
When Goya portrayed Azara, he was a brigadier in the Navy and actively participated in the Fortification and Defense Board of the Indies. That is why he presents him as a soldier, but at the same time he shows us as an outstanding scientist, since we must not forget that Félix de Azara spent more than 20 years in South America, mainly in lands of Uruguay and Paraguay, where he carried out important studies of the local flora and fauna. Some works that earned him recognition in Spanish and European scientific forums, and there are even current scholars who consider it one of the immediate antecedents for the later theories of evolution of Charles Darwin.
Portrait of Felix de Azara by Goya
For all this, we see it in his cabinet, where there are not only books on the shelves, but also stuffed birds and various mammals. That atmosphere is the perfect excuse for Goya to paint a portrait full of color, where the showy uniform, as well as the exquisitely modeled face of Félix de Azara, are striking. which is identifiedlikewise because of the paper that he carries in his right hand where his name is read, next to that of the painter and the date of 1805.
If the figure of the character in the foreground and full-length dominates the canvas from the first glance, it is also true that it is very interesting to observe the background, where much looser brushstrokes are discovered, sketched and with an abundance of colors, as corresponds to the representation of stuffed animals of tropical origin, although everything is still very ordered and visually hierarchical in the scene, so that the military and scientific man are not detracted from the leading role.
That is to say, it is a decoration that what it does is provide us with more information about the character, as happens with the three books that are observed on the table, which correspond to his own scientific studies. Just as there is also a bicorne that tells us about his military facet, and even carries the baton, and we must not forget that when Goya painted it, Félix de Azara had asked to retire, and had even refused the charge of Viceroy in Mexico to live much more peacefully in his homeland, Huesca in Aragón, the same region where Francisco de Goya.