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Landscape with the Burial of Saint Serapia
Claude (Lorrain, byname of Claude Gellée)
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Claude (Lorrain, byname of Claude Gellée)

Chamagne, 1600 - Rome, 1682

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Landscape with the Burial of Saint Serapia

Ca. 1639. Oil on canvas.
Room 002

Saint Sabina, the noble Roman widow, became a Christian through the influence of her maid, Saint Serapia, a native of Antioch who fled the religious persecution of Christians there. The painting presents Serapia’s burial. Her body is carried by a group of matrons who place it in the tomb. Dressed in red and orange, Sabina stands out among all of them, mournfully contemplating the scene from above. Until now, there has been insufficient explanation this painting’s presence among the landscapes at the Buen Retiro Palace, which presented bucolic scenes or anchorites. Still, it can easily be associated with the latter group, as both saints withdrew from the world to constitute an informal congregation. In that sense, there is a certain coincidence with the biography of Saint Paula Romana (P2254). And the proposal defended here suggests that the latter depiction may well have been a companion to this one.

The artist chose a dreamily archeological view of Mount Avetino as the supposed setting for the burial of both saints, with the Tiber River and the Coliseum in the background. Despite his precise reproduction of the architectural ruins, the artist did not attempt a topographical reconstruction, as that would have required a horizontal composition in order to shift the Tiber to the left. Instead, probably at the request of his Spanish clients, Lorrain emphasized the format’s forceful verticality by placing four columns in the right side of the composition as supposed remains of the temple of Juno Regina, which had, in fact, existed on Mount Avetino, where Saint Sabine is traditionally said to have been martyred, and over which her basilica was built in the 5th century.

The doubts about this work’s subject matter, which were expressed in successive royal inventories from the early 18th century onwards, indicate that this is the most problematic, and also one of the most beautiful and evocative of Lorena’s early works. The representation of the life of both saints was not common in 17th century painting and Lorrain himself had never painted it before, nor did he ever do so again. This work’s iconographic identification was already missing in the listing of Charles II’s estate (1701), where it is described as the burial of Saint Sabina. This may have been the result of a misreading of the inscription on the cover of the tomb. The subject was finally identified by Roethlisberger.

Here, Lorrain summarizes and condenses numerous experiences present in earlier works. The architectural ruins that frame the main figures and the archeological remains in the foreground, as well as the existence of a group of figures, make it close to the View of the Trinità de’ Monti in Rome (1632, London, National Gallery; Roethlisberger 1961) and Capriccio with ruins of the Roman Forum (ca. 1630-35, Springfield, Mass., Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts), whose Coliseum is taken from the same drawing as the one at the Museo del Prado.

Like Lorrain’s other works in the second series for the Buen Retiro Palace, the drawing is in the Liber Veritatis (LV 48), and it has no significant modifications with respect to the painting at the Museo del Prado. An inscription explains that it was commissioned by the King of Spain.

The formidable campaign of arts acquisitions carried out by the Count-Duke of Olivares in the 1640s in order to decorate the vast spaces at Madrid’s Buen Retiro Palace included a very notable number of landscapes. We cannot determine how many of these works -almost two hundred in all- were purchased in Flanders or Spain, nor which ones came from private collections or other Royal Seats, but thanks to the works at the Museo del Prado and documents found to date, we can establish with certainty that the Buen Retiro Palace was furnished with numerous landscapes painted for the occasion by artists active in Rome.

A series of at least twenty-five landscapes with anchorites and a dozen Italianate landscapes -large format works by different artists- were commissioned. Only some of those pieces have survived, and most of them are at the Museo del Prado.

Commissioned in Rome between 1633 and 1641, these landscape paintings from the Buen Retiro constituted an early anthology of this new painting from nature characterized by a new awareness of the effects of light and the atmosphere of the Roman countryside that would eventually spread through most of Europe, representing one of many aspects of classicism (Text drawn from Posada Kubissa, T.: Pintura holandesa en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, 2009, pp. 230-232; Capitelli, G. in Úbeda de los Cobos, A.: El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2005, p. 241).


Technical data

Inventory number
Claude (Lorrain, byname of Claude Gellée)
Landscape with the Burial of Saint Serapia
Ca. 1639
Height: 212 cm; Width: 145 cm
Paisajes para el Palacio del Buen Retiro
Royal Collection (Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1701, n. 182; New Royal Palace, Madrid, "estudio de Andrés de la Calleja", 1772, n. 182; Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1794, n. 1063).

Bibliography +

Inventario Nuevo Palacio Real, Madrid, 1772.

Colección litográfica de cuadros del Rey de España el Señor, I, Madrid, 1826, pp. estampa XXVI.

Roethlisberger, Marcel, Claude Lorrain. The Paintings, I, New Haven, 1961, pp. 182-184, 477-78.

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

Roethlisberger, Marcel, Claude Lorrain: the Paintings, Hacker Art Books, New Hawen, 1979, pp. 183 / lám 113.

Luna, Juan José, Precisiones sobre las pinturas de Claudio de Lorena en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, II, 1981, pp. 103.

Brown, Jonathan, Un palacio para un rey: el Buen Retiro y la corte de Felipe IV, Alianza Editorial, Revista Occidente, Madrid, 1981, pp. 133 / lám.74.

Rusell, Diane, Claude Lorrain. 1600-1682, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1982.

Claudio de Lorena y el ideal clásico de paisaje en el siglo, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1984, pp. 146.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 372-373.

Brown, Jonathan, Velázquez: pintor y cortesano, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 91/ lám.105.

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

Vega, Jesusa, Museo del Prado: catálogo de estampas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1992, pp. 245 y ss..

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Barcelona, 1994, pp. 503.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 532.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Velázquez, Rubens, Lorrain: Malerei am Hof Philipps IV, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deu, Bonn, 1999, pp. 178.

Capitelli, Giovanna, Los paisajes para el Palacio del Buen Retiro, En: El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 275.

De Tiziano a Goya: grandes maestros del Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado: SEACEX, Madrid, 2007, pp. 262.

Morán Turina, Miguel, La memoria de las piedras. Anticuarios, arqueólogos y coleccionistas de antigüedades en la España de los Austrias, Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, Madrid, 2010, pp. 51-107.

Arquitecturas pintadas del Renacimiento al siglo XVIII, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza: Fundac, 2011, pp. 231-2 / 239.

Roma naturaleza e ideal: paisajes 1600-1650, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 43, 194-5.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: The Golden Age in the Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokio, 2018, pp. n.36.

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. [182].
[182] Un Pais de el Ittaliano de dos Uaras y media de alto y siete quartas de ancho Con Unas ruynas y el sepulcro de Santta Sauina con marco tallado y dorado tasado en Settenta doblones ... 4.200

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 1063.
{3426} 1063. Otra [pintura] imitando à Claudio Lorenès con un Pais o Vista de Roma el Sepulcro de Stª. Sabina: de dos baras y media de alto y dos de ancho ... 2000

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 182.
Estudio de don Andres de la Calleja [...] {13327} 182 / = Retiro = Otra [pintura] de Santa Sabina romana que le estan dando sepultura del mismo tamaño [dos varas y media de alto y dos escasas de ancho] y autor [Claudio lorenes]

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1985.
1985.-(942-I.)-País.-Ruinas de la antigua Roma, con edificios de la Via Sacra y el anfiteatro Flavio en lontananza, y figuras que representan el entierro de Santa Sabina.-Las figuras son de Filippo Lauri.-Compañero de los tres siguientes. [Catálogo de 1873 nº 1986, 1987 y 1988] / Fue pintado para el rey Felipe IV.-C.L. / Alto 2,09; ancho 1,44.-L.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 942.
Claudio de Lorena (Claudio Gelee, llamado) / 942. Pais. / Rruinas de la antigua Roma, con el anfiteatro Flavio. En primer termino se ven cuatro mugeres ocupadas en sepultar en una urna de marmol el cadaver de santa Savina. Las figuras son de Felipe Lauri (C.L.) / Alto 7 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 5 pies, 2 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 942.

Inscriptions +

SEPVLTVRA.S.SABIN... / SEPELIRI IVBET.C. /SANCTAE SERAPI...[En la cubierta del sarcófago]
Front, lower area

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
13.06.2018 - 14.10.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
24.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
20.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Arquitecturas pintadas
18.10.2011 - 22.01.2012

Rome: Nature and the Ideal. Landscapes 1600-1650
05.07.2011 - 25.09.2011

Nature et idéal. Le paysage à Rome 1600-1650 - Landscape
08.03.2011 - 06.06.2011

De Tiziano a Goya. Grandes Maestros del Museo del Prado
Pekín - Beijing
24.06.2007 - 24.08.2007

El palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro
06.07.2005 - 30.10.2005

Velázquez, Rubens, Claudio de Lorena y la pintura en la corte de Felipe IV
07.10.1999 - 23.01.2000

Location +

Room 002 (On Display)

Update date: 23-06-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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