The Marquesa de Santiago stands full-length in front of a landscape of gently sloping hills. Well-born, very wealthy, and a commanding presence, she confronts the viewer directly. Her white lace mantilla extends to her knees, and she holds a closed fan in her left hand. Heavily applied make-up accentuates her features. Known for her dissolute lifestyle, the Marquesa died at the age of forty-three, three years after this portrait was made. An English visitor to Spain once described her as "very profligate and loose in her manners and conversations, and scarcely admitted into female society
and said to boast of her nocturnal revels."
While contemporary portraitists sought to convey ideal beauty with a highly finished technique, Goya used a more expressionistic handling of the paint. Broad, quick brushstrokes describe her dark dress, and the application of thick impasto suggests the gold braid on the Marquesa's sleeve and lace of her mantilla. In the background, crude cottages and trees are merely indicated with wide, rapid sweeps of the brush.