Saturday, June 30, 2012

The power of Spain in America prompts Matilda and Josef to engage in matrimony and have their portraits done by Stuart in full pomp, but the glory did not last long.

In the last post the story of Matilda Stoughton was told, a young American girl of 16 who most likely married her minor Spanish attache’ Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot (1794) out of love, whereas he most likely married her to advance his career, perhaps entertaining the pleasing notion of becoming the permanent envoy of Spain in America. Josef surely felt he had made a catch, some considered Matilda a beauty, but her father’s position for thirty years as the Spanish Consul in Boston might have been the persuading factor in the match. One can also imagine that a 16 year old would be a willful young lady, if in love....

America at the time was under the thumb of Spain in many ways; until 1795 Spain was in control of navigation of the Mississippi River and transport through the port of New Orleans. The Spanish from 1762 were the owners of the vast region known as the Louisiana territory, stretching from the Mississippi River to the beginning of the Rocky Mountains (taken back by Napoleon in 1800). Spanish currency, a gold coin called the pistole, was commonly in use. Matilda surely had her father’s eager consent to marry this young diplomat from her father’s native homeland, and the father must have thought that Josef had every prospect of rising to the elite of the social/political set. Josef’s outfit in the Stuart portrait, a dark blue velvet coat over scarlet waistcoat and breeches and threaded profusely with silver embroidery, matching in opulence Matilda’s billowing confection of silks and diamonds, boasts of wealth and aristocracy. Yet within the two years, it is suggested that Josef was involved in some type of corruption, and the brilliant couple was sent back in disgrace to Spain, living out the rest of their lives at the family’s ancestral estate, a vineyard. They live on in their sumptuous portraits.

 New York 1794; Matilda and Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Monthly pick: Matilda Stoughton [de Jaudenes y Nebot] has big dreams and marries a minor Spanish attaché; the portrait by Gilbert Stuart

1794 Matilda in silks, diamonds, pearls, & snowflake piochas (hairpins) 
At age 16, in 1794, Matilda Stoughton was the dutiful daughter and married a man of great prospects; or so it was thought at the time.  Officially recognizing the United States government under George Washington in Philadelphia, Charles IV of Spain sent an ambassador with two trade attachés, one of which was Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot.  The two trade attachés carried on negotiations with regard to Spanish Louisiana, navigation on the Mississippi river, trade with Cuba, amongst other issues. [Spanish and U.S. negotiators concluded the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also known as Pinckney’s Treaty, on October 27, 1795. The treaty was an important diplomatic success for the United States. It resolved territorial disputes between the two countries and granted American ships the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River as well as duty-free transport through the port of New Orleans, then under Spanish control. Prior to the treaty, the western and southern borders of the United States had been a source of tension between Spain and the United States.]
 Marrying the Spanish Consul’s daughter allowed Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot to stay in the United States where he surely happily envisioned being able to stay as a permanently ensconced envoy of Spain (like his father-in-law).  But by 1796, charged with corruption, he was sent back home where he returned to his family’s ancestral estate, a vineyard near Palma, Majorca.  Matilda had surely imagined a more illustrious outcome of the marriage.  But at least the two had their Stuart portraits which were commissioned for the occasion of their wedding.  Which is why the two are remembered today. 

Louisa Carolina Matilda Stoughton was the second daughter of Don Juan (John) Stoughton who, for thirty years previous to his death in 1820 in his 76th year, was the Spanish Consul in Boston.  He was prominent in the establishment of the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, erected in Boston. Esther Fletcher, whose death in 1789 is noticed in a contemporary Boston newspaper, and who was the mother of his daughter Louisa, was either Stoughton’s first or second wife.  Louisa Carolina Matilda was well known in Boston, in her youth, for her beauty.  In 1794 she married Don Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot.

New York, 1794. ....Her dress is of white flowered silk, finished at the neck with a dainty fichu edged with lace.  Her luxuriant hair is powdered and a coronet-shaped headdress with two tall feathers is set on top of her head in the center.  Nestling in her hair, at the base of the headdress, are clusters of jewels.  Jewels are in her ears, around her neck, on her dress, and at her wrists.  By her side is a table, with a red velevet cover, on which are two leather-bound books, one open as though she had been reading.  Her hands are in her lap and she holds a closed fan.  A brownish-pink curtain is draped in the background, showing clouds and a sky of blue and pink at the right. In the upper left-hand corner under a coat of arms is the following inscription: “Dona Matilde Stoughton de Jaudenes-Esposa de Don Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot Comisario Ordenador de Los Reales Exercitos de Su Magestad Catholica y su Ministro Embiado cerca de los Estados Unidos de America.  Nacio en la Ciudad de Nueva-York en los Estados Unidos el 11 de Enero de 1778.”


The two were married in New York, and there Josef commissioned their two portraits to be done by Stuart.  Was he in love, or did he only wish to advance his career? “Scholars have described him as a “dandy and spendthrift,” a “swarthy Spanish provocateur,” “arrogant,” “slippery,” “shifty,” and even “cruel.”   
(From the Met book Gilbert Stuart [from Albert Ten Eyck Gardner, “Fragment of a Lost Monument,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s.6 March 1948, p 190] p 125), 

Next; Josef's portrait.

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