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Execution of Torrijos and his Companions on the Beach at Málaga
Gisbert Pérez, Antonio
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Gisbert Pérez, Antonio

Alcoy (Spain), 1834 - París (France), 1902

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Execution of Torrijos and his Companions on the Beach at Málaga

1888. Oil on canvas.
Room 075

The finest work of all Gisbert’s production, this impressive painting is also unarguably one of the most beautiful of all 19th-century Spanish history paintings. Moreover, it is one of the greatest political manifestos of all Spanish painting in defense of human freedom crushed by authoritarianism and one of the very few cases in which a clear propagandistic message was directly inspired by government officialdom. In fact, it did not enter the Museo del Prado after being shown at the National Fine Arts Exhibitions, which would normally have been the case. Instead, it was directly commissioned for the museum by the liberal government of Práxedes Mateo Sagasta (1825-1903) during the Regency of María Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena. The artist, Antonio Gisbert Pérez, had been considered the liberal party’s leading artist since he painted The Communards many years earlier, as part of his rivalry -more ideological and esthetic than real- with Casado del Alisal, who represented conservative officialdom. In fact, the news of this commission was published in Madrid’s newspapers several days before it was even made official.

Thus, in a gesture that was exceptional in that period’s art and museum policies, minister of Development Eugenio Montero Ríos designated Gisbert by royal decree of January 21, 1886 to paint a large history painting exemplifying the defense of freedom for future generations. The subject intended to convey that defense was the execution by firing squad of general Torrijos and his closest unconditional followers, who had been the outstanding protagonists of the constitutional regime during the Liberal Triennium quashed by Ferdinand VII in 1823. The Triennium was followed by Ferdinand’s iron absolutism, including the persecution, imprisonment and execution of the previous government’s leaders and followers.

A professional soldier, José María Torrijos (1791-1831) was Capitan General of Valencia and Field Marshal during the Constitutional Triennium. He was even appointed Minister of War. During his exile in England after the monarch’s return, he also made several attempts to revolt against Ferdinand VII. He was the victim of an ambush prepared by Governor Vicente González Moreno, who had promised him success in his rebellion if he sailed from Gibraltar to Malaga with some seventy absolutely trustworthy men. The idea was that, upon their arrival, they would be joined by the city’s troops. At sea, they were approached by the Neptune, boarded, and forced to debark at Fuengirola in the early morning hours of November 30 to December 1, 1831. There, they were taken prisoner and on December 11, after a few days of fruitless resistance and with no trial whatsoever, they were executed by firing squad on the beach at Malaga for the crime of high treason and conspiracy against the divine rights of His Majesty’s sovereignty.

This was unquestionably the most important commission Gisbert ever received. He was fifty-three years old and, from his studio on the rue de la Bruyère in Paris, he brought the best of his art to it: extremely pure academicism, astonishingly precise drawing, and a powerful, gripping composition worthy of such a huge canvas precisely because of its extraordinary and severe simplicity. The composition’s initial impact lies in Gisbert’s choice of the moment it represents: the enormous emotional tension immediately before the execution and the different sentiments of those who are about to die, reflected in their faces as mixtures of concern, dejection and rage in some; proud resignation or emotional embraces, in others and defiant effrontery or desperate prayers among the warriors in the background. Thus he conveys the different reactions of human souls to the awareness of their imminent end, which is grippingly palpable as they contemplate their companions lying dead at their feet. At the same time, Gisbert very skillfully provokes the viewers’ emotional reaction by placing the lifeless bodies of the executed liberals in the extreme foreground. This inevitable reminiscence of Goya demonstrates an uncommon modernity by leaving parts of the bodies outside the compositional field -in one case, only one of the hands and a leather top hat are visible. He thus combines esthetic elegance and dramatic intensity (Text drawn from Díez, J. L.: El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 266-272).


Technical data

Inventory number
Gisbert Pérez, Antonio
Execution of Torrijos and his Companions on the Beach at Málaga
Height: 392.5 cm; Width: 602.5 cm
Acquisition, 1888; Museo de Arte Moderno, 1896-1951; Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo, 1951-1971.

Bibliography +

Catalogo Provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno, Imp. del Colegio de Sordomudos, Madrid, 1899, pp. nº139.

Museo de Arte Moderno, Catálogo provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno., Imp. del Colegio Nacional de Sordomudos y de Ciegos, Madrid, 1900, pp. nº151.

Lozoya, Juan de Contreras y López de Ayala, Marqués de, Historia del arte hispánico, Salvat, Barcelona-B.Aires, 1949, pp. 391.

Espí Valdés, Adrián, Vida y obra del pintor Gisbert. Un quehacer artístico de alcance internacional que abarcó toda la segunda mitad del siglo XIX., Instituciò Alfons el Magnànim, Valencia, 1971.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas del siglo XIX, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1985, pp. 86.

Menéndez Pidal, Ramón, Historia de España, vol.XXXV, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1989, pp. 417/ lám.176.

Condor, María, Gisbert y la Historia Contemporánea, Archivo español de Arte, 63, 1990, pp. 106/ lám.21.

La pintura de historia del siglo XIX en España, Consorcio Madrid 92Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 442-453.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº837.

El ''Prado disperso''. Nuevos depósitos. Madrid, Teatro Real, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XVII,35, 1999, pp. 170.

Reyero, Carlos, La Historia pasada como Historia presente. Rosales, Casado y Gisber o la política en el Museo del Prado. En Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 331-351.

Diez, J.L; Barón, J., El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, pp. 266/ lám.53.

Espí Valdés, Adrián, Las Bellas Artes en la provincia de Alicante en el siglo XIX, Canelobre, Invierno 64, 2014, pp. 16-33 [26].

Díez, José Luis (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado: catálogo general, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 230.

Pérez Velarde, Luis Alberto, El pintor Antonio Gisbert (1834-1921), 2016.

Barón, J, Una pintura para una nación: El fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros, Museo Nacional del Prado,, Madrid, 2019.

Other inventories +

Actas del envío de cuadros del Prado al Museo de Arte Moderno. Núm. 837.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1985. Núm. 4348.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900. Núm. 151.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LÁMINAS. / Gisbert (D. Antonio) [...] 151.- Fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros. / Alto 3'90 metros. Ancho 6'00 metros.

Inv. General del Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899-1902. Núm. 214.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899. Núm. 139.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LAMINAS. / GISBERT (D. Antonio) [...] 139.- Fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros. / Alto 3'90 metros. Ancho 6'00 metros.

Inv. Museo Arte Moderno, 1954. Núm. 206.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 28-G.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 53-G.

Actas traslado de obras MEAC - Prado, 1971-1973. Núm. 187.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 837.
837 / Autor D. Antonio Gisbert / Un cuadro titulado ''El fusilamiento de Torrijos y sus compañeros en las playas de Malaga''. / Alto 3'90. Anº. 6'00. // [nota al margen=] Encargado pr. Real decreto de 21 de Enero de 1886. // [con otra grafía=] Pasó al Museo de A. M.

Inscriptions +

A. Gisbert
Signed. Front, lower right corner

Inscribed in blue. Front, lower right corner

MAM 28 (G)
Inscribed. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

A Painting for a Nation. The Execution of Torrijos
26.03.2019 - 08.09.2019

El Siglo XIX en el Prado
31.10.2007 - 20.04.2008

La pintura de historia del Siglo XIX en España
01.10.1992 - 01.12.1992

Location +

Room 075 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 29-11-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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