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Angels with Flaming Swords pursuing Heretics
Cano, Alonso
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Cano, Alonso

Granada, 1601 - Granada, 1667

Cano, Alonso See author's file

Angels with Flaming Swords pursuing Heretics

Ca. 1665. Grey-brown wash, Pencil, Pencil ground on yellow laid paper.
Not on display

The foreground and the right-hand side of the drawing are occupied by two angels wielding flaming swords to chase away three figures who have fallen to the ground while fleeing. In the background, two angels lead a Dominican monk towards an arched doorway adorned with a cross and a tiled roof. It has not been easy to link this iconography with the Dominican legend. The figures in the foreground are heretics and, considering that there are three of them, they may represent Judaism, Islam and Protestantism: the main sources of contamination against which the Dominicans fought to protect the true faith. The Dominican leading to a church or a convent suggests the site of a rigorous orthodoxy.

Although the image does not exactly correspond to any recorded episode in the life of Saint Dominic, it may maintain a relationship to some 17th-century interpretations of the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). In this drawing, the emphasis on the architectural surroundings and the prominence given to the angels is consistent with a possible interpretation in which the Dominican in the background is Thomas Aquinas, whose faith and beliefs place him at the centre of the church; the heretics, who occupy the atrium outside of the church but close to it and lacking the authority to enter; and the ministers (angels), who are armed with a Thomistic argument.

The figures in this drawing appear to have been studied from wax or small-scale clay models. In fact, the two angels and the two heretics in the lower right part are almost identical in their postures, although they were drawn from different points of view and foreshortenings. It is possible that the type of angel and the particular style of the flaming swords are partly influenced by an engraving executed by Saenredam and inspired by Bloemaert, whose works Cano used to adapt and integrate into his compositions. The Boix Collection (Madrid) eventually included a copy of this drawing, which was later incorporated into the Vasconcel Collection (Barcelona). There is no record of the current whereabouts of the copy, nor has any photograph of it been located.

This drawing falls within an important decorative programme for the convent of Santa Cruz la Real in Granada and narrates the life of Saint Dominic. A text by Palomino constitutes the first reference to Cano’s drawings: ‘And at that time, he produced all the drawings for the paintings in the cloister of the convent of Santa Cruz la Real, of the Dominican Order, of the Life of their Glorious Patriarch, which I have in my possession. However, the paintings in said cloister were executed based on Cano’s drawings by someone from the castle and have deteriorated over time.’ This passage has permitted the attribution to Cano of 15 drawings of Dominican themes, all of which have arched tops and similar, although not exact, dimensions. In addition, other direct copies of Cano’s drawings exist and were produced by another hand. In several instances, these copies bear witness to compositions for which the signed drawings have been lost. Considered altogether, these two groups of drawings reveal the scope of the iconographic programme designed by Cano that was intended to adorn the main cloister of the Convent of Santa Cruz la Real.

The commission for these drawings must have been very important to Cano given that the convent of Santa Cruz la Real – founded by Ferdinand and Isabella to commemorate the 1492 victory over the Muslim rulers of Granada – was one of the most prestigious religious centres in Andalusia.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Santander, Fundación Marcelino Botín, 2009, p.327-369; nº 74


Technical data

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Inventory number
Cano, Alonso
Angels with Flaming Swords pursuing Heretics
Ca. 1665
Grey-brown wash; Pencil; Pencil ground
Yellow laid paper
Height: 150 mm; Width: 121 mm
Serie Santo Domingo, Granada
Lefort Collection; Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Dibujos Españoles.Vol. IV. Alonso Cano, IV, Hauser y Menet, Madrid, 1930, pp. 328.

Martinez Chumillas, Manuel, Alonso Cano: estudio monográfico de la obra del insigne que fue de la catedral de Granada, Carlos Jaime, Madrid, 1949, pp. 196-197.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano's drawings, The Art bulletin, 34, 1952, pp. 230, nº XIX.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Catálogo de Dibujos. Vol.I. Dibujos españoles siglos XV-XVII, Madrid, 1972, pp. 56.

Wethey, H.E., Los Dibujos de Alonso Cano.Separata, Universidad de Granada, Granada, 1979, pp. 552.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano: pintor, escultor y arquitecto, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1983, pp. 161, nº 21.

Véliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano's Drawings and Related Works, Courtald Institute-London Univ., Londres, 1998, pp. nº 62.

Alonso Cano dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 176, nº 64.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 2009, pp. 327-369; nº 74.

Larios Larios, Juan Miguel, Santa Cruz la Real según la crónica de Fray Francisco Páramo, Comares, Granada, 2009, pp. 109, 111.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 162.

Inscriptions +

ALONSO CANO [En el Pasapartú]
Inscribed in pen and ink. Front

Exhibitions +

Alonso Cano (1601 - 1667). Dibujos
02.04.2009 - 17.05.2009

Displayed objects +


Update date: 20-08-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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