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Christ shown to the People / The Virgin and Child
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Christ shown to the People / The Virgin and Child

Ca. 1500. Oil on panel.
Not on display

Christ shown to the People is an unfinished painting that allows for the direct study of the pictorial process, specifically the underlying drawing. It is a work in progress for which the first stages of execution (preparation of the support and preliminary drawing) have been completed. The painting stage has begun and reaches different degrees of completion depending on the figure in question.

The scene of the presentation of Christ to the people unfolds through a classic triumphal arch. Pontius Pilate, in oriental garb, leans out of the window and points a finger at Christ. The architecture and set design of the painting refer to the Bellini family in that they recall two compositions from the ‘Book of Drawings’ (around 1430–1465) by Jacopo Bellini in the Louvre. It was widely used as a source by various generations of artists in the Bellini family’s Venetian circle. However, the construction of the panel and certain technical aspects take us far from the lagoon city, and into Castilian lands. The support comprises two pinewood panels (a material rarely used in Italy but very common in Spain) joined with a sharp edge approximately 1 cm thick. The panel has been prepared on both sides in the traditional manner of Castile in the 15th and 16th centuries. This traditional manner includes rough plaster and tow covered in turn by successive layers of matte plaster. The preparatory drawing has been applied with a brush, using a pervasive black pigment with continuous and uniform strokes.

The triumphal arch of the Corinthian order – decorated with figures of victory below reliefs of putti with garlands – is outlined with great accuracy, careful study of perspective and a profusion of detail. The drawing of the upper area of the arch is extraordinarily worked for something that is intended to be hidden by paint. The use of shadows is very pictorial, especially in the personifications of Victory in the spandrels and the putti of the upper frieze. This can be attributed to the fact that the shadows are depicted with the same black pigment gouache as the lines in order to enhance the drawings with different intensities of grey. Once the arch was finished, the figures of the courtyard were drawn. These conform to the shapes defined by the previously outlined scenario. They peek out from behind the cornices. Meanwhile, some of them are left semi-hidden. The knights in the foreground were made later since they were drawn on top of the pre-existing architecture. The distinct characteristics in the underlying drawing of these two types of figures (those that overlook and those that overlap) suggest the intervention of two different hands.

The application of paint on the drawing in this initial phase reveals that different stages of the pictorial procedure can be distinguished. In some figures, only flat-coloured bases have been executed (the cape of Christ). Meanwhile, in others, the lights and shadows have been a bit more worked (the knight on the left). However, others have been practically finished (the figure dressed in red, with a turban). On multiple occasions, ‘corrections’ have been made to the underlying drawing. Even already painted areas have been changed, hiding the previous areas with a white layer (the hat of the knight on the left). The person responsible for the pictorial execution in its entirety seems to be a single person, since there is similarity between the drawing of all the profiles and the application of colour.

The painting entered the Museo del Prado in 1928 as an Italian work, along with The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth. The latter is today attributed to Juan de Tejerina (P2541). Both came from the church of San Lázaro in Palencia. On the obverse of this panel, there is a Virgin with Child and the Infant Saint John. It is a work of poor quality, probably executed later, and is loosely based on models by the Venetian Giovanni Bellini.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El trazo oculto: dibujos subyacentes en pinturas de los siglos XV y XVI, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2006, p.224-229, nº 15

Technical data

Inventory number
Christ shown to the People / The Virgin and Child
Ca. 1500
Height: 78 cm; Width: 53 cm
Church of San Lázaro, Palencia, 1927; Acquired from Obdulio Santos, 1928.

Bibliography +

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 829.

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, El trazo oculto: dibujos subyacentes en pinturas de los siglos XV y XVI, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 224-229, nº 15.

El nacimiento de una pintura, de lo visile a lo invisible, Consorci de Museus de la Comunita, 2010, pp. 14-29.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 580.

Exhibitions +

Bibliotheca Artis: Treasures from the Museo del Prado library
05.10.2010 - 30.01.2011

Dibuixos al descobert / Dibujos al descubierto. Reflectografies infraroges de pintures dels segles XV i XVI del Museo del Pra
15.11.2007 - 30.03.2008

El Trazo Oculto. Dibujos subyacentes en pinturas de los siglos Xv y XVI<br />
21.07.2006 - 03.11.2006

Update date: 28-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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