Francisco de Goya is considered a bridge between art of the past and art of the present because he was the first to so uniquely ignore traditions like realism (lowercase "r"). He took his inspiration from his own imagination and set a revolutionary precedent over artists to come. A man who was way ahead of his time, Goya does not really fit into any stylistic period of art history, one might say; nevertheless, much of his work did take inspiration from Romantic art theory. To observe his artistic style, however, is to take a look at something that is unique to itself, a kind of exception to the rules, and something only to be understood when understanding the man himself. Let's take a look.
The Duchess of Alba was one of the wealthiest persons in Spain. Her eccentric personality led the public to hold in its eye a rather controversial opinion of her. This general disfavor was not just based upon her manner or her private life but more largely on her scandalous behavior in public. The story goes that she had invited the queen to a ball but had sent spies to the queen's palace to find out what gown she was going to wear. She then had all her servants dress identically as the queen. Naturally, the queen was so insulted by this prank that she rebuked the prankster, and the Duchess of Alba was then promptly exiled from Madrid.
It has been rumored that the duchess and Goya were lovers, but it is not known for sure exactly what the extent of their relationship was like. Goya's portraits of her (of which there are several) all picture her delicately and beautifully. Here she is seen looking straight at the viewer with large, black eyes. She wears two rings bearing the names Goya and Alba, implying a union between the two. Whether they were or were not lovers, however, it would seem that the duchess eventually left him anyway, and when Goya's painting was cleaned after his death, the word "solo" was found inscribed in the sand before the artist's name at the bottom. The duchess, you will notice, is pointing to it.