Florinda, was one of the ‘ladies-in-waiting to the queen’ in the court of king Roderic, (who was the last Visigothic king to rule Spain before the Arab invasion.) Roderic had a roving eye, and became infatuated with the lovely Florinda. Kings usually get what they want, and It wasn’t long until Roderic had his way with Florinda.
Florinda’s dad, a nobleman, was not amused. He was a macho Spaniard who did not take matters of honor lightly. As it happened, Tariq ibn Ziyad was at that time approaching with his army and looking for a way to storm the royal castle. The aggrieved father called on Tariq, and helped him get into the castle, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The story is likely a myth, but it was widespread in Europe after the Arab invasion and into the 19th century. This brings us to Franz Winterhalter, who was a famous German painter in the mid-19th century, specializing in flattering portraits. His clients were mainly the kings and princes of Europe, for he charged for one portrait the equivalent of a Rolls-Royce today. Winterhalter painted a large painting inspired by the legend of Florinda. The painting shows the ladies-in-waiting frolicking in the gardens outside the royal castle, while Roderic spies on them from behind the trees. (See top picture, top left.) Queen Victoria acquired the painting and it is now in the Buckingham Palace.
Neither Roderic, nor Tariq, (nor the Buckingham Palace) interest me, but the composition of the painting is incredible. I liked it so much, that I painted a copy of it, (shown below, underneath the original.) I did not care about painting the voyeuristic king, nor do I know which particular one of the ladies is Florinda. But that’s not of the essence, and I don’t think that it was important to Winterhalter himself either.
*) Like other myths, people made up different versions of the Florinda. In one of these versions, it is Florinda who seduces the king, and she is given the epithet ‘La Caba,’ a term derived from the Arabic word ‘قحبه’, (meaning a woman of loose morals.) Spanish does not distinguish between b and v, so she is sometimes called ‘La Cava.’
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