Life and work of Antonio Carnicero Mancio (Salamanca, 10.1.1748-Madrid, 21.8.1814) represent, at the same time, usual aspects of any famous painter in the enlightened world of the Madrid’s Court of the second half of the 18th century and other, more original, features that altered the normal course of his life and affected his works.
From the first sight, the work of Antonio Carnicero could be considered as typical for a recognised artist of the enlightened Madrid. Son of a sculptor, Alejandro Carnicero, he was invited to the Court in 1749 by Felipe de Castro to create a number of sculptures in the Palacio Real. Thus, Antonio Carnicero and his brothers moved to Madrid where they developed their artistic work, of which the more outstanding figures were Antonio and his stepbrother, Isidro Carnicero. This way, both of them became incorporated in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando), Antonio Carnicero in February of 1758. They went to Rome to learn the secrets of their craft, as was usual between the most advanced students of the Academy.
On his return from the roman capital, in 1766, Antonio Carnicero continued his studies in San Fernando's Academy until, gradually, he started to obtain orders from various civil and clerical private institutions, and eventually, from Casa Real. This period was marked by his aid to José del Castillo in sketching the tapestry for the residence of the princess of Asturias in the palace of El Pardo in 1775, his works on the decorations of the theatres De La Cruz and El Príncipe in 1784, and a variety of portraits of Carlos IV and María Luisa de Parma, who ascended the throne in 1789.
An emblematic person of his generation, Carnicero was an excellent draughtsman. Throughout his career, he executed a number of projects related to the engraving, like his drawings for the set "Trajes de España e Indias" of 1777; illustrations for the editions of El Quijote published by the Royal Academy of the Language (Real Academia de la Lengua) and accomplished by Joaquín Ibarra in 1780 and 1782; a number of engravings of Tauromachy in 1790; and a set of portraits from enlightened Spanish personages in 1788 or the drawings for the series of “Horsemanship” that he made between 1795 and 1797.
Following the path common for most famous painters of his period, after several failed attempts (in 1788, 1792 and 1793), Antonio Carnicero was appointed “pintor de Cámara” of Carlos IV, on April 17, 1796. From that moment on his work and his life revolves around royal orders, his studies in the Academy of San Fernando, royal infants and some private jobs.
Among the royal orders figure portraits of the Prince of Asturias, sketches for tapestry and carpets for the palace of El Escorial. Among the private jobs, the portraits of Godoy, of Francisco Policarpo Urquijo and of Luis Marino de Urquijo can be distinguished.
In 1808, with the ascending to the throne of José I, Antonio Carnicero had to choose between the old loyalty to the Bourbons and his new loyalty to Napoleon. Carnicero remained at the service of José I as Pintor de Cámara*, though never acknowledging his loyalty to the king. Everything seems to indicate that at the age of 60, being too old for emigration following Fernando VII, he decided to remain in his position, without being a fervent allegiant of the new French king. In 1814, when the return of Fernando entailed purge among the officials who had been in the service of José I, Antonio Carnicero was discharged form his position of Pintor de Cámara. Having presented a respective petition, Carnicero couldn’t enjoy his reassignment to the post due to his death on August 21, eight days before the expected amnesty from Fernando VII on 29 of August, 1814.
Nevertheless, although these observations do not stop being true, the life and work of Antonio Carnicero presented a number of originalities, worthy of being emphasized. Thus, firstly Carnicero went to Rome at a very young age, only twelve years old (in 1760) after his brother Isidro was granted with a scholarship and decided to share it with Antonio. His stay in Rome, which lasted from 1760 to 1766, gave Antonio Carnicero a cultural and artistic baggage that will be unfolded during the second stage of his life as a student in the Academy of Fine Arts. The prizes obtained in different Roman academies and the presence of his brother Isidro as a teacher in the San Fernando's Academy, made his stay there advantageous, at least in the beginning.
This situation, together with the successive prizes that he won in the Academy of Madrid, allowed Antonio Carnicero to win the second prize in the competition realized by the Academy for the decoration of the church San Francisco el Grande of Madrid (La coronación del rey Alfonso XI and la reina María, su mujer, en la iglesia del monasterio de las Huelgas de Burgos). This prize allowed him to work on the decoration of the basilica and to begin his professional career outside the Academy.
Another original aspect in the figure of Antonio Carnicero was his excellent relationship with the prince of Peace (príncipe de la Paz). Although the appointment as Pintor de Cámara arrived late, in 1796, the orders commended to Carnicero by Godoy were numerous. Also, the paintings that he had to do for the duke of Alcudia were plentiful.
His good relationship with Godoy leads to his becoming a drawing teacher of the several princes and above all, of the prince of Asturias. His relation with the future Fernando VII presents us another peculiar characteristic of the life of Antonio Carnicero. As a drawing teacher of Fernando VII, Carnicero was inside the "process of El Escorial", the conspiracy for dethroning Carlos IV, headed in 1806 by the prince of Asturias. On 7 November 1807 Antonio Carnicero was arrested as an accomplice of the conspiracy. He wasn’t liberated until the November 18 of that year, when his innocence was proved.
From that day a convulsed period that lasted from 1808 until 1814 began in life of Antonio Carnicero and in all the Monarchy, a period when Carnicero stopped performing orders of the official portraits of the new king, Fernando VII (for the Royal Academy of History and the Council of Madrid), and established among the Pintores de Cámara of José I.
This double perspective that, as we have concluded, marked the life of Antonio Carnicero, appeared as well in his death, on 21 August, 1814. Still protected by his own disciple, Fernando VII, for whom he had been arrested in the days of 1807, he couldn’t continue his daily life as Pintor de Cámara because of his "tepid frenchification".