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Carnival in Rome
Miel, Jan
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Miel, Jan

Beveren-Waas, Antwerp, 1599 - Turin, 1664

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Carnival in Rome

1653. Oil on canvas.
Room 077

Acquired by Philip V for the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Idelfonso, where it appeared in a 1727 inventory, Carnival in Rome, 1653, is one of the best known paintings by Flemish artist Jan Miel. In fact, it may well be his most recognised depiction of Carnival, a popular feastcomprising dances, masquerades and pantagruelian gatherings, the excesses at which were intended to prepare believers for the imminent arrival of Lent, the liturgical period preceding Easter that calls for fasting and penance. This painting is probably most characteristic of the style that Miel developed during the final decade of his career, incorporating colours that recall pastel technique.

An oxcart bears eight characters, some of whom look directly out of the painting, drawing the viewer into the scene. Other characters observe three apparently inebriated figures in the foreground, to the left, who wear the uniform of the Pope´s personal escort, the Swiss Guard. This firmly places the scene in Rome, where Miel must have settled before 1636. The assumed location is further evidenced by the ruins in the background that recall ancient Roman monuments, although they are actually invented by the artist. Other buildings featured are contemporaneous with the painting. From the right, two figures dressed as the Doctor and Polichinela, typical commedia dell’arte characters, ride into the scene on mules.

Some of these figures, and even their postures or gestures, appear in earlier works by Miel whose subject matter is closely related to this painting, including Carnival at the Piazza Colonna, c.1645 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, United States) and Cart with revellers of the Carnival masquerade (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome). This is, in fact, one of his most often repeated subjects and it can be related to the bambochadas that some artists, principally from the Low Countries but based in Rome, painted during the seventeenth century. Considered genre paintings because they dealt with anecdotic, everyday subjects of little apparent importance, bambochadas were popularised by Dutch artist Pieter van Laer (1599-c.1642), known as Il Bamboccio in Italy.

Thomas Krens points out that the Prado’s work is more than just a repeat of the motif addressed in the Hartford painting, although it could be considered a mere simplification of the latter. Typically the number of characters appearing in Miel’s Carnival depictions matches the size of theatre companies of that period: twelve or thirteen players. According to Krens the Prado’s painting has the distinct character of a group portrait, leading to the possibility that the Miel may have been depicting a specific company. Were that the case, the Prado’s work would not only be a paradigm of Miel’s capacity to brilliantly capture figures in motion and at rest, but it would also be, in Krens’s words, one of the earliest and most original representations of popular comic performers (Riello, J.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 152).

Technical data

Inventory number
Miel, Jan
Carnival in Rome
Height: 68 cm; Width: 50 cm
Royal Collection (colección Felipe V, Palacio de La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, 1727; col. Felipe V, La Granja, pieza donde se dice misa, 1746, nº 176; Palacio de Aranjuez, Madrid, pieza de música, 1794, nº 176; Aranjuez, undécima pieza del cuarto del príncipe, 1818, nº 176).

Bibliography +

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Maitres flamands du dix-septieme siecle du Prado et de collections privees espagnoles, Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruselas, 1975, pp. 108,109.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975.

Kren, Thomas J., Jan Miel (1599-1664) a Flemish painter in Rome, II, University Microfilms Internation, 1978, pp. 32-33.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, La Escuela Flamenca del Siglo XVII, Ediciones Alfiz, Madrid, 1983, pp. 91.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 424.

Greindl, E., XVII Siecle L'Age D'Or de la Peinture Flamande, La Renaissance du Livre, Bruselas, 1989, pp. 257.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº1439.

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona, 1994, pp. 450.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado de pintura flamenca del siglo XVII, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1996, pp. 736.

Vlieghe, Hans, Flemish Art and Architecture 1585-1700, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998, pp. 174/ lám.243.

Roma : musa degli artisti : pittori stranieri nell' Urbe tra..., Viviani, 2008, pp. 220-221.

Riello,J, Jan Miel 'Carnival in Rome' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 152.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1439.
J. Miel. / 1439. Mascarada. / Los romanos se entretienen en esta diversion junto a la Columna Trajana. Se ven tambien las ruinas del Templo de la Paz, y otras. / Alto 2 pies, 5 pulg; ancho 1 pie, 9 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1439.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 1460.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 1577.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 1577.

Inv. Fernando VII, Aranjuez, 1814-1818. Núm. 176.
QUARTO DEL PRINCIPE [...] Undécima Pieza [...] {21105} 176 / vara de alto dos tercias de ancho distintas figuras enmascaradas y un carro de bueyes junto a vn arco = Juan Miel

Inv. Felipe V, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 176.
Otro Pays origl en lienzo, de la misma mano [Juan Miel], que reptª un Carro tirado de Bueyes, con distintas Figuras encima vestidas de Mascara, y una Columna en medio. Tiene tres quartas y un dedo de alto; media vara, y cinco dedos de ancho. Marco dorado, bronceado Tallado de medio relieve ... 1

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Aranjuez, 1794. Núm. 176.
Pieza de musica [...] {186} 176 / Otro [quadro] de la misma medida que el antºr [pie y tres quartos de largo y dos y quarto de alto] dibersas figuras en mascara y un Carro tirado de bueyes. Ydem. [Juan Miel] ... 1500

Inscriptions +

Cross of Burgundy or Cross of Saint Andrew, collection’s mark belonging to Felipe V. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in white. Front, lower left corner

Giov. Miele Fecit / Roma, 1653
Signed and dated. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Location +

Room 077 (On Display)

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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