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Female Nude
Cano, Alonso
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Cano, Alonso

Granada, 1601 - Granada, 1667

Cano, Alonso See author's file

Female Nude

1645 - 1650. Wash, Pencil, Grey-brown ink on laid paper.
Not on display

In this superb drawing acquired in 1997, two different and independent motives are overlapped. The main one is a nude woman on a bed, but arches and architectural elements have been drawn over it. The woman is not lying down, as is customary in this type of image. Instead, she is reclining, and that generates a very special tension between her expression of receptive abandon and a position that suggests something more than rest. The subject of this work is unknown, if in fact it is anything more than a nude study. From a formal and narrative standpoint, it is clearly related to the world of mythological images, rather than to other repertories that can also include female nudes, such as allegories or Bible stories, as what this woman transmits is only recognizable in the context of certain classical fables. This work bears curious similarities to a drawing by Alonso Cano at the Uffizi, whose subject is debatable, but unquestionably mythological: a similar reclining nude woman is attended by a cherub and accompanied by a figure of ambiguous identity. The two drawings are very similar in a formal sense. Both are constructed with the same technique, which clearly emphasizes the body profiles and resolves the volumes with nervous and continuous hatching. Moreover, the two women’s postures are similar, with one arm resting in much the same manner on the bed, and the legs equally spread. Both have the same small elevation around the navel, which descends rapidly to the pubis, and both turn their heads in a similar manner, transmitting a sense of sexual abandon. The most notable difference between the two is the inclination of their bodies, which is much greater in the present drawing than in the one from Florence. The natural accompaniment to this anatomy is on a higher plain, and this is even more evident when comparing this work to the one at the Uffizi. All of this, along with the general relaxation of the limbs and the receptivity transmitted by the figure’s spread legs leads us to consider a scene from classical mythology that was among the erotic subjects most frequently depicted in the Western tradition: the story of Danaë, whom Jupiter visited in the form of goden rain while she was confined to a tower. A drawing of those characteristics can only be satisfactorily explained as something Cano made after arriving at court. Until 1638, he worked in Seville, primarily with clients that demanded works of a religious character, and while there were collections of ancient sculpture in that city, including a splendid one belonging to the Duke of Alcalá, the atmosphere was not conducive to the generation of profane images, much less mythological nudes. In Madrid, however, Cano had access to the Royal Collections, with their abundance of classical fables, and to an artistic atmosphere which already believed that the nude was one of the fundamental art forms, and a field that some of the finest painters had employed to display their finest capacities. This was clear in some of the king’s own paintings. The present Female Nude bears traces of some of the nude images that had left their mark on Cano’s imagination. Its debt to the Sleeping Nymph -a splendid sculpture that was in the Duke of Alcala’s collection- has been suggested, but its relaxed abandon and the immediacy with which the profile of a female body is presented also bring this drawing into the lineage of Titian’s Danaë Receiving the Golden Rain (P00425), which was one of the jewels of the Royal Collection. Still, while those works were on Cano’s creative horizon when he addressed this motif, his representation of the female nude is very original in its use of irregular, trembling lines (though they are actually both confident and efficient) that transmit the bodily emotion in an incomparable fashion (Text drawn from Portús, J.: No solo Goya, Adquisiciones para el Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas del Museo del Prado 1997-2010, Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 21-24).


Technical data

Inventory number
Cano, Alonso
Female Nude
1645 - 1650
Wash; Pencil; Grey-brown ink
Laid paper
Height: 163 mm; Width: 158 mm; Alto segundo soporte: 169 mm; Ancho segundo soporte: 162 mm
Collection of Aureliano de Beruete y Moret, Madrid; Luis M. Feduchi, Madrid; Artur Ramón, Anticuario, Barcelona; Acquisition 1997.

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Dibujos españoles. Vol. IV. Alonso Cano, IV, Hauser y Menet, Madrid, 1930, pp. 350.

Martinez Chumillas, Manuel, Alonso Cano: estudio monográfico de la obra del insigne que fue de la catedral de Granada, Carlos Jaime, Madrid, 1949, pp. 141-142 / lám. 83.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano's drawings, The Art bulletin, 34, 1952, pp. n.LI.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Gli Spagnoli Da el Greco a Goya, Fratelli Fabbri, Milán, 1970, pp. 68.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., El dibujo español de los siglos de oro, Dirección General del Patrimonio, Madrid, 1980, pp. 131.

Wethey, Harold E., Alonso Cano: pintor, escultor y arquitecto, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1983, pp. 168 / lám. 12.

López Torrijos, Rosa, La mitología en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro, Cátedra, Madrid, 1985, pp. 276 y 418 / lám. 104.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Historia del dibujo en España : de la Edad Media a Goya, Cátedra, Madrid, 1986, pp. 221, 223.

Bassegoda, Bonaventura, ''Estudio de desnudo femenino''. En: Raiz del arte II : una exposición de dibujos antiguos (siglo..., Sala d'Art Artur Ramon, [Barcelona], 1996, pp. 32-35.

Véliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano's Drawings and Related Works, Courtald Institute-London Univ., Londres, 1998, pp. nº 76.

Rodríguez Ruiz, Delfín, ''Sobre un dibujo desnudo de Alonso Cano''. En: Avisos : noticias de la Real Biblioteca, 3/14, Real Biblioteca, Madrid, 1998, pp. 2-5.

Rodríguez Pérez, Delfín, ''No importa, pues lo iso Cano''. En : Figuras e imágenes del barroco : estudios sobre el barroco español y sobre la obra de Alonso Cano, ''Figuras e imagenes del barroco'' (Sevilla, 6 al 10 de mayo 1996); ''Alonso Cano: pintor, escultor y arquitecto'' (Málaga, 7-9 abril 1997), Madrid, 1999, pp. 403.

Alonso Cano. Dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 197.

Alonso Cano: espiritualidad y modernidad artística : [IV Cen, Junta de Andalucía, Consejería de CulturaTf Editor, Sevilla, 2001, pp. 284.

Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, III, T.F. Editores: Fundación Amigos, Madrid, 2006, pp. 920.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 2009, pp. 422-423; nº 92.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo del Prado: la colección de escultura, artes decorativas y dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009.

Museo Nacional del Prado, No solo Goya: adquisiciones para el Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas del Museo del Prado: 1997-2010, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 21-26.

Other inventories +

Inv. Dibujos, Fondo Antiguo. Núm. 1983.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2483.

Inscriptions +

2 Rs
Inscribed with pen and ink. Front, lower area

Inscribed in pen and ink. Back

de Alonso Cano
Inscribed with pen and ink. Front, lower area

Exhibitions +

No solo Goya. Adquisiciones para el Gabinete de dibujos y estampas del Museo del Prado 1997-2010
05.05.2011 - 28.08.2011

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

Update date: 24-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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