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Carrera y Carrera: Jewellery in Portraits

Jewellery is a form of artistic expression, and Carrera y Carrera always bears this in mind. Sometime after Ferdinand VII began his reign, a new artistic movement arose that focused on the jewel as a decorative element inspired by naturalism, supported by botanic collecting.

This jewelry style, characterized by the profusion of flowers and petals, would be developed during the reign of Isabella II and is especially visible in the work of Federico de Madrazo (1815-1984).

Carrera y Carrera took then the liberty of incorporating pieces of the iconic Spanish jewelry brand incorporated into Madrazo’s portraits, being jewellery inspired by nature part of many of CyC’s collections.


Queen Isabella II, known as “Isabelina”, was a great fan of jewellery.

The continuity of the governments of Narvaez and Bravo Murillo made social and recreational activities like parties, theater, and celebrations as well as politicians, generals, and aristocrats (who had been exiled during the previous period) return to Spain, bringing with them the fashions and customs of Paris.

In this portrait by Federico de Madrazo, one may observe the profusion of jewels with pearls worn by the Queen.  The Gardenias ring by Carrera y Carrera in yellow gold, diamonds, and pearl could well have been part of this portrait.

Federico de Madrazo, Queen Isabella II, 1850. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rome, Italy.



It is believed that Federico de Madrazo’s specialization in detailed painting of jewellery could have been due to family influence.  His father-in-law Rafael Garreta was a famous Madrid jeweller married to the daughter of a banker of Ferdinand VI.  His jewellery shop was located on the Carrera de San Jerónimo.  According to Raimundo de Madrazo, Federico’s son, his grandparents owned such important pieces as the “La Peregrina pearl” which was one of the Spanish crown jewels, painted numerous times by Velázquez, and later belonging to the iconic Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Taylor.

Federico de Madrazo not only made portraits of Spanish royalty, but also painted foreign ladies like Elizabeth Wethered Barringer of England.  In this case, the brooch worn in the painting is shaped like an eagle, something unusual in the Spanish jewellery of the period.  The inspiration may be related to naturalist representations and the creation of animal-shaped jewels in England such as dogs and horses.

The design of jewels with an animal theme has been a tradition at Carrera y Carrera from its inception.  The Eagle bracelet in yellow gold belonging to the Bestiario collection perfectly illustrates this style.

Federico de Madrazo, Elizabeth Wethered Barringer, 1852. Auckland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


Better than any of his contemporaries, Federico de Madrazo was able to capture in his portraits the glow of the noble atmosphere of that period in Madrid. He delighted all those who commissioned paintings thanks to his faithful and elegant representation of clothing and jewellery, through which these people flaunted their social status.

Concepción Remisa was the daughter of Gaspar de Remisa, one of the most important bankers in the Spain of Isabella II.  She was married to the politician and literary figure Segismundo Moret, and chose the painter Federico de Madrazo to paint the couple portrait, so customary in the romantic world.

The Granada pendant from Carrera y Carrera in yellow gold and onyx could have been the perfect complement for the gold and pearl necklace and earring set that adorn Concepción’s charismatic face.

Federico de Madrazo, Concepción Remisa de Moret, 1856. Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.


The jewellery of the period centered on bracelets, rings, and brooches that were inspired by architectural patterns and by figurative depictions of characters from medieval legends to miniature sculptures.  In the early years of this era, academic formalism continued, focusing on delicate leaves and flowers and on a figurative style faithful to reality.  These naturalistic designs remained popular for over fifty years.

The Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Bourbon wears many jewels in this portrait: earrings, necklace, bracelet, diadem, and various brooches.  All appear to be crafted in gold, diamonds, pearls, and rubies.

The Sol y Sombra earrings from Carrera y Carrera in white gold and diamonds possess that characteristic vintage flavor that makes them irresistible and completely a modern classic.  The Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Bourbon surely would have worn them flawlessly in one of these portraits.

Federico de Madrazo, The Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Bourbon, 1851. Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain.


Federico de Madrazo’s specialty was courtly portraits in which the vestments of those being painted would be reflected in all of their splendor.  The quality of the fabrics of the dresses, the accessories, as well as the jewellery played a very important role in these portraits.

Federico de Madrazo frequently made preparatory studies of the jewels he would portray in his paintings.  In these studies, Madrazo noted how the jewels should be represented in the final portrait and added all types of details:  the color of gold, the type of gem, and the reflections visible in the jewels…He tended to draw the jewels life-size in his portraits to be as close as possible to reality.

In this portrait of the Duchess of Castro Enríquez, she wears different jewels, several bracelets, and a triple-strand pearl necklace.  As an accessory for her dress with blue details, the Aqua ring from Carrera y Carrera in white gold, diamonds, and faceted blue topaz could have been the ideal complement.

Federico de Madrazo: Isabel Álvarez Montes, 2nd Duchess of Castro Enríquez and 2nd Marchioness de Valdera, 1868. Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.


During this period it was customary for the portrait sitters to wear a single jewel. It was common that the only important jewel that adorned the immortalized woman would be a bracelet.  The portrait of Mrs. Josefa Coello of Portugal is a clear example of this trend.  It is a deceptively simple portrait that highlights the bracelet worn on her right arm.  It depicts a boat with its sails unfurled and a fish hanging from the prow.

One of the Carrera y Carrera jewels that Mrs. Josefa Coello of Portugal could have worn in this portrait is the Mosaicos bracelet, crafted in a beautiful combination of yellow and white gold with diamonds.  A bracelet that supposes a declaration of intent.

Federico de Madrazo: Josefa Coello of Portugal, 1855. Prado Museum, Madrid, España.

SOURCE: Carrera y Carrera, with reference to La Joyeria Romantica a traves de los retratos de Federico de Madrazo, by Amelia Aranda Huete. 

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