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Allegory of Night
Ribera y Fernández, Juan Antonio
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Ribera y Fernández, Juan Antonio

Madrid, 1779 - Madrid (Spain), 1860

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Allegory of Night

Ca. 1819. Oil on canvas Not on display

The allegories, The Hours of the Day, were painted in 1819 by José de Madrazo in Rome just before his return to Spain, to be used in the decoration of the small palace in Madrid known as Casino de la Reina. This country holding, considered one of “the most prized curiosities of Madrid”, was acquired in 1816 by the city government of Madrid as a gift for Queen María Isabel of Braganza (1797-1818), the second wife of the monarch Ferdinand VII, prior to their marriage that same year; however, the official delivery of the palace did not take place until April 25, 1818, when the basic interior decoration was complete. This was a job entrusted to the most outstanding painters active at the Court in those years. Along with murals and these historic canvases, the pictorial decoration of this country house was completed with at least three series of small pictures of allegorical figures symbolizing time cycles, each with very similar characteristics. In fact, in addition to Madrazo´s work, Juan Antonio Ribera himself painted the series The Seasons of the Year. Even the Casino was decorated with another group of a similar nature by an unknown painter; years later this series was also moved into the collections of the Prado Museum. The allegorical painted by Madrazo show size and formal characteristics almost identical to those of Ribera, and rival Ribera´s work in quality, forming one of the most interesting cycles of this genre in Spanish Neoclassical painting. The most immediate precedent in Spain can be found in the picture painted by Mengs for the Queen´s Boudoir in the Royal Palace of Madrid. Emanating from France at the time of the Revolution, these time-cycle allegories reintroduced models of decorative figures in flight, from Roman Classical painting and sculpture, especially the reliefs at the Basílica of Porta Maggiore in Rome. Europe was to be flooded with such models appearing in paintings and illustrations in the imperial style. The majority of these were repetitive in the outlines of their composition and were not dissimilar to work of the British artist John Flaxman.

Of all these, the figure representing Dawn (P004471) is perhaps the most beautiful, both in its modeling as well as in the formal elegance of its design. The hour of daybreak is incarnated in a young winged female figure of victory. With one hand she pulls back the mantle of night that covers her head, over which dawn´s light radiates, while in the other hand she holds the torch that illuminates the day. At her side a putto holds a swallows, a bird that flies through the morning sky, and a jug lets fall the morning sky, and a jug lets fall the morning dew on the solitary country landscape that spreads out at the feet of the flying figures. The canvas, which represents Noon or the Zenith (P004472), shows a young nymph suspended in the air with chrysalid wings. She protects herself from the noonday sun with a stole inflated by the wing, which extends over her head to create a shadow. Close by, a putto holds a solar clock that marks the zenith of the sun. At the feet of the flying figures, there is a stretch of country landscape in which we see a shepherd snoozing near his flock, all protected by the shade of a tree. We get a glimpse of the fold beyond some stylized trees and, in the background, we can just make out the outline of a group of people on a hillock. The Dusk (P005823), which illustrates the hour of twilight, in the form of a nymph with the wings of a butterfly, flying across the sky holding the hand of a putto. The nymph is waving good-bye to the last rays of the sun, which is dropping behind the line of the horizon, the sea. In the area the figures are flying over, we can see a country estate in the foreground, where peasants are gathering with their plows after the labor of the day. In the background a coastal landscape stretches out, bathed by the tranquil waters of the sea, with sailboats at sail in the dusk´s las light, which illuminates a cloudscape. Of the entire group, perhaps this is the most evocative of Flaxman´s models, both in the rigorous outline of its design and the harmonious linear forms of the drapes floating in the air. However, this is also an example of the artist´s most careless drawing, with some lack of attention to proportions, and a less-than-felicitous execution of the folds of the robes. By the very nature of his symbology, in this work, Madrazo makes a special effort in his study of twilight. The light of evening softly licks the outlines of the figures, bathing the whole composition in a warm, serene atmosphere that effectively represents the calm of the day´s end. The last allegory represents Night (P005822) in the form of winged victory crowned with poppies, covering her head with her mantle. She is looking toward a firmament in which the first stars have started to shine, with the North Star the brightest above her head. Her right hand lets fall the darts of sleep onto the earth. A putto covers himself with the mantle for the arrival of the night, symbolized by the owl he holds. The figures float over a stark coastal landscape of rocky cliffs. The moon brings out silvery reflections on the tranquil waters of the sea as it lights up a mountainous horizon. Along with Dawn, this is undoubtedly one of the most felicitous allegories of the series. In design, it is graceful and delicate, and in its modeling, sure and firm, allowing the anatomy of the nymph to show through her vaporous robes, which flow in the wind in rhythmic loops, lending a highly decorative effect (Text drawn from Díez García, José Luis; The Majesty of Spain, Jackson, Mississippi, 2001, pp. 106-107).

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Jackson, Mississipi, Mississipi Commission For Internati, 2001, p.106-107

Technical data

Related artworks

Allegory of Dawn
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1819
Allegory of Noon
Oil on canvas, 1819
Allegory of Dusk
Oil on canvas, 1819
Inventory number
P005822
Author
Ribera y Fernández, Juan Antonio
Title
Allegory of Night
Date
Ca. 1819
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
Height: 87 cm.; Width: 54 cm.
Series
Las Horas del Día, Casino de la Reina
Provenance
Royal Collection (Real Casino, Madrid, 1865)

Bibliography +

Calendario manual y guía de forasteros en Madrid, Imprenta Real, Madrid, 1762-1873, pp. 503.

Los Madrazo: una familia de artistas, Ayuntamiento, Concejalía de Cultura, Madrid, 1985, pp. nº 5.

Augé, Jean-Louis, Les élèves espagnols de David, Acl-Crocus, Castres, 1989, pp. 104.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, I, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. 796.

Noticias. Levantamiento de depósitos. Játiva (Valencia). Museo Municipal, Boletín del Museo del Prado, 13, 1992, pp. 132.

José de Madrazo (1781-1859), Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 1998, pp. 282-283.

The Eleventh Hour, Museum of Foreign Art, Sinebrychoff (Filandia), 1999.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson, Mississipi, 2001, pp. 106-107.

Augé, Jean-Louis, Les élèves espagnols de David. Mythe et réalité et état présent des oeuvres dans les collections françaises, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXV, 2007, pp. 8-17.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado: catálogo general. Dirección científica, José Luis Díez; catálogo, Ana Gutiérrez Márquez; coordinación, Pedro J. Martínez Plaza, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 503.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, Adiciones, 1857-1868. Núm. 3048.
''3048. alegoría que representa una hora del día. / Del Casino. / Alto 3 pies, 2 1/2 pulg; ancho 1 pie, 11 pulg.''

Inv. General del Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899-1902. Núm. 10.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899. Núm. 226.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900. Núm. 417.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 4-M.

Exhibitions +

Tha majesty of spain. Royal collections from the Museo del Prado & patrimonio nacional (La majestad de España)
Jackson MS
01.03.2001 - 03.09.2001

The eleventh hour
Helsinki
31.12.1999 - 31.05.2000

José de Madrazo
Madrid
01.10.1998 - 07.12.1998

José de Madrazo
Santander
01.08.1998 - 30.09.1998

Update date: 06-05-2019 | Registry created on 24-08-2015

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