Angel de Saavedra, 3rd Duke of Rivas (Spanish, 1791-1865)
Self Portrait signed, dated and inscribed 'A.de Saavedra seipsum pt Gibraltar a.1825' (lower centre, under frame) watercolour, framed as oval 14.5 x 12cm (5 11/16 x 4 3/4in).
Born in Córdoba, Don Angel quickly assumed the roles of both poet and politician, whilst simultaneously operating within the upper stratum of Spanish gentile society. Having fought in the vanguard during the War of Independence (1808-1814), Don Angel became a pre-eminent member of the Cortes in the early 1820s. It was as a result of his political standpoint and, more particularly, his opposition to the absolute monarchy, that Don Angel was condemned to death. Escaping to Gibraltar, Don Angel lived in exile, supporting himself as an artist, until the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833 finally enabled his return to his homeland.
Having succeeded his elder brother as the Duke of Rivas in 1834, Don Angel's career as the first Spanish Romantic flourished as his attentions turned to playwriting. His work of 1835, 'Don Alvaro; o la Fuerza del Sino', is considered to be the first documented instance of French Romanticism in Spanish literature. 'Don Alvaro' was subsequently reappropriated by Verdi, who utilised the work as a basis for a libretto in his opera of 1862, 'La Forza del Destino'.
Don Angel's liberal persuasion continued to prove problematic. Appointed Minister of the Interior in 1835, heated controversy in the Spanish parliament compelled a return to exile. Two years later, Don Angel had re-aligned his political views and as a member of the Moderate Party became first Prime Minister and secondly Ambassador to the French and Italian courts.
The present lot has only recently come to light: gifted to a close friend, Lieutenant Colonel John Christopher Harrison of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers), the inscription identifying the sitter was concealed for many years.