Juan Bautista MAÍNO (1581-1649). A little-known Master

<em>Adoración de los Magos</em>. Juan Bautista Maíno. Óleo sobre lienzo, 315 x 174 cm. 1611-1613. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Adoración de los Magos. Juan Bautista Maíno. Óleo sobre lienzo, 315 x 174 cm. 1611-1613. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

    This October the Museo del Prado is presenting the first monographic exhibition on Juan Bautista Maíno, one of the most original but least known figures within Spanish painting of the first half of the 17th century. For the first time the exhibition, sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, will bring together almost all the artist’s known works, together with seven previously unknown ones and others by Spanish and Italian painters that will help to set Maíno’s paintings in an international and Spanish context.

    Tuesday 20 October 2009

    The exhibition Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649) includes 37 works by the artist and a further 26 by the painters who most influenced his artistic development, among them Velázquez and Caravaggio. It will allow visitors to see most of the known works by Maíno, one of the most important figures within Spanish painting of the first half of the 17th century but also one of the least known due to the scarcity of surviving information on his life and work and the problems involved in reconstructing his biography and oeuvre.

    The exhibition thus offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore and become familiar with the figure of Juan Bautista Maíno, who has not previously been the subject of a monographic exhibition. Thanks to recent research and the growing interest in his figure new attributions have been added to his small output of around 40 works. Seven of these recent attributions will be included in the exhibition as autograph works by Maíno, in addition to various paintings that were previously only known in photographic reproductions and others that have rarely been exhibited and have not previously been set within the context of the rest of his output.

    The exhibition also includes notable paintings by the artist such as The repentant Saint Peter (Galería Barbié, Barcelona), The penitent Magdalen (Swiss private collection) and Saint Dominic in Soriano, the composition for which he was best known (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg).

    Particularly outstanding are the ten paintings that make up Maíno’s masterpiece, The Saint Peter Martyr Altarpiece, painted for the Dominican monastery in Toledo where he took religious orders in 1613. In the past they were housed in the now defunct Museo de la Trinidad and are now part of the Prado’s collection. The four large canvases are the most important within the overall composition and can be considered key works of 17th-century Spanish painting. Of them, The Adoration of the Magi and The Adoration of the Shepherds are among the finest examples of Spanish painting of the time and immediately suggest the work of painters such as Savoldo, Caravaggio, Orazio Gentileschi and Guido Reni.

    Portrait of a Gentleman (1618-23) dates from this period when Maíno was close to Velázquez. Acquired by the Museo del Prado in 1936 it is one of only four signed works by Maíno and is of particular importance within his oeuvre, revealing clear parallels with Velázquez.

    Caravaggism and Classicism

    The German art historian Carl Justi was one of the first to locate Maíno within Caravaggio’s orbit (“It is likely that no one came as close to Caravaggio as this Spanish Dominican monk”, he wrote in 1888). The exhibition therefore includes works by Italian artists who can be related to Maíno’s years of training in Rome and his Italian roots. In addition to paintings by Caravaggio, the exhibition includes examples by Gentileschi, Reni, Saraceni, Cavarozzi, Elsheimer and Cecco de Caravaggio. Particularly notable is Caravaggio’s Ecstasy of Saint Francis, loaned by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and exhibited for the first time in Spain.

    To help provide a context for Maíno’s work and in addition to the above-mentioned comparison with contemporary Italian painters, the exhibition also includes works by other contemporary Spanish painters that relate to his years in Toledo and Madrid. They include examples by El Greco, Velázquez, Tristán, Orrente, Bartolomé González, Núñez del Valle and Lanchares. Together they present a broader perspective of the significance of Maíno’s compositions within Spanish painting of the day.

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