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

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