The itinerary <em>TITULORECORRIDO</em> has been successfully created. Now you can add in works from the Collection browser
<em>TITULOOBRA</em> added to <em>TITULORECORRIDO</em> itinerary

Christ on the way to Calvary
Valdés Leal, Juan de
Close Continuar a ficha de la obra

Valdés Leal, Juan de

Sevilla (Spain), 1622 - Sevilla (Spain), 1690

See author's file

Christ on the way to Calvary

Ca. 1661. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Spanish painters of the second half of the 17th century opted for monumental forms and a benevolent or triumphant image of religion, but Valdés Leal represents the most important exception as an artist who exploited its most pathos-laden and expressionist aspects. His approach is evident in this scene, which emphasises the drama through Christ’s expression, the blood that stains his tunic, a very dynamic use of light and colour and a diagonal composition which directly confronts the viewer with the figure of the Saviour.

Almost the entire surface of this painting is filled by the figure of Christ, who is situated in the extreme foreground, violently foreshortened so as to accentuate the composition´s illusion of three-dimensionality and to make the representation of suffering all the more potent. The Nazarene can hardly bear the weight of the Cross, which is made of roughly hewn beams of wood that press heavily on his back. So as not to fall to the ground, Christ braces Himself with His legs, His right hand resting on His left knee for support. He is dressed in a purple tunic -the colour of the Passion- that is stained with patches of red blood: most prominently on His right shoulder, where He carried the Cross, and on His right elbow, a wound from one of multiple falls. The crown of thorns causes drops of blood to run down His face. Christ´s facial expression presents a combination of resignation, fatigue and suffering. Behind Him, the Virgin and another woman -possibly Mary Magdalene or the Virgin´s sister- weep with great sadness, while Saint John brings his right hand to his breast and, with the other, points toward the edifying spectacle. On the right, in the background, a very freely-executed landscape opens up: its rocky, inhospitable character provides a most fitting frame for this scene of suffering.

This type of composition is characteristic of the Spanish Golden Age, when painters and sculptors refined, to an extraordinary degree, their tools for representing pathos for the faithful -not as an abstraction, but as if the viewer were a witness at the very event, renewing at every moment the story of the Redemption. These representational strategies are related to the compositio loci -literally a composition of place, referring to the practice of imagining one is present at the event being meditated upon, which the Jesuit Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommended for prayer.Together with Murillo, Valdés Leal was one of the most important painters among those active in Seville in the second half of the seventeenth century. Valdés Leal´s use of intense colour -toward which all Spanish painting had turned by this time- became all the more pronounced, allowing him to create highly dynamic compositions with great dramatic force. In this particular painting, he plays with the connotative possibilities of colours such as red and purple, and he uses light and shadow to direct our gaze toward Jesus, lending the composition its emotional weight. The creation of the dramatic atmosphere, however, depends not only on his use of colour, but also on the way in which he applies the paint: outlines are not clearly defined and large patches of colour, executed with agitated brushstrokes, create a tense, nervous ambience well suited to this type of representation.

This painting entered the Prado in 1986 -it is not known for whom or for what place the work was produced-. The subject and its size make it a versatile object, suitable for spaces intended for public devotions or, equally, for private residences. There is a similar version of this painting signed and dated 1661 now in the Hispanic Society of America, New York. The scene in that painting, however, is more uniformly illuminated, and the group of figures that appears in the rocky landscape in the background are a distraction from the principal subject, thus sacrificing some of the clarity that characterises the present work, as well as its ability to seize and focus the viewer´s attention. Nevertheless, the similarities in composition and execution lead us to date the painting in the Prado also to around 1661.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, p.128-129 nº25

Technical data

Inventory number
Valdés Leal, Juan de
Christ on the way to Calvary
Ca. 1661
Height: 167 cm; Width: 145 cm
Acquisition, 1986

Bibliography +

Mena Marqués, Manuela B., Da el Greco a Goya. I Secoli D'Oro Della Pittura Spagnola, Electa, Milán, 1986, pp. 64.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Juan de Valdés Leal, Guadalquivir, Sevilla, 1988, pp. 249 / lám. 99.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Valdés Leal, Museo del PradoJunta de Andalucía, Madrid, 1991, pp. 186, nº54.

Museo del Prado, Últimas adquisiciones: 1982-1995, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1995, pp. 44, nº 13.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Madrid, 1996, pp. 415.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2002, pp. nº40.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La colección de pintura española en el Museo del Prado, Edilupa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 169.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 128-129 nº25.

de Carlos, Mª Cruz, 'Atribuído a Clemente de Torres. Cristo con la Cruz a cuestas' En:, Dibujos españoles en la Kunsthalle de Hamburgo, Museo Nacional del Prado Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist Univ. Hamburger Kunsthalle, Madrid, 2014, pp. 140.

Mena, Manuela, 'Círculo de Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Cristo con la Cruz a cuestas' En:, Dibujos españoles en la Kunsthalle de Hamburgo, Museo Nacional del Prado Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist Univ. Hamburger Kunsthalle, Madrid, 2014, pp. 228.

Checa, Fernando, El arte de las naciones. El Barroco como arte global, El arte de las naciones. El Barroco como arte global, Consejo Estatal para la Cultura y las Artes de Puebla, 2016, pp. 226 n.152.

Hermoso Romero, Ignacio, 'Juan de Valdés Leal. Cristo camino del Calvario' En:, Valdés Leal 1622-1690, Consejería de Cultura y Patrimonio Histórico,, 2021, pp. 166 n.25.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2081.
Valdes Leal Inv. 2081 / Cat. 7080 / Cristo camino del Calvario / 1,67 x 1,45 [Nota en margen izquierdo] Adquirido / por la Direccion / General de Bellas Artes / a D. Antonio / Hipola en / 6.000.000 pts. / Abril 1986

Exhibitions +

Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690)
02.12.2021 - 27.03.2022

El Arte de las Naciones. El Barroco como arte global
18.10.2016 - 20.02.2017

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

Valdés Leal
25.04.1991 - 30.06.1991

Valdés Leal
07.03.1991 - 07.04.1991

Update date: 01-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

Other works by Valdés Leal, Juan de

Print on demand

Print artworks available in our catalogue in high quality and your preferred size and finish.

Image archive

Request artworks available in our catalogue in digital format.