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Roman Gladiators with Wooden Swords
Romanelli, Giovanni Francesco
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Romanelli, Giovanni Francesco

Viterbo (Lazio), 1610 - Viterbo (Lazio), 1662

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Roman Gladiators with Wooden Swords

1635 - 1639. Oil on canvas Not on display

Until 1956, this painting was attributed to Pietro da Cortona, an understandable mistake, given how close Romanelli’s style was to that of his teacher. In fact, it appears as such in Charles II’s will and in the Museo del Prado’s 1845 catalog (p. 373, no. 1623), where it is mentioned for the first time as being on the staircase leading to the new Flemish rooms of the ground floor. In the 1878 catalog (p. 31), it is already listed as on loan to the Supreme Court, like many other paintings from the same series. There, it was damaged by fire in 1915, and its condition was later worsened by a deficient restoration. In 2005 it was again restored, this time with brilliant results. Its correct attribution is due to Alessandro Marabottini, who proposed assigning it to Romanelli in 1956. This was confirmed by Briganti in 1962 and has never been questioned since then.

It is not possible to base an estimated date for this painting on its stylistic characteristics, but it must have been within the general dates the Buen Retiro palace project, that is: between 1635 (the date of the first paintings) and 1639, when there was a documented shipping from Rome. That same year (1639), Romanelli gave a painting to Philip IV’s ambassador to Rome, the Marquis of Castel Rodrigo, which proves there was contact between them at that time, possibly as a result of the Buen Retiro commission. Therefore, the present work corresponds to his youthful period, which was strongly influenced by the heroic and archeological character he had learned from Petro da Cortona. At that time, Romanelli was part of the artistic court around Cardinal Francesco Barberini. His later work was largely shaped by two trips to the French court (1646-1647 and 1654-1657), where he painted the frescoes at the Mazzarino palace and at Queen Mother Anne of Austria’s apartment at the Louvre.

It seems clear that Romanelli depicted gladiators training with wooden swords, although he did not base this work on any of the plates that illustrate the Antiquarian literature employed by other artists in this series. The closest image is found in Justo Lipsio’s Saturnalium, which shows a similar exedra and the same bloodless combat. The following illustration in that book presents a similar scene, except the gladiators are wielding real weapons. This scene no longer exists among those in the Ancient Rome series, but it could well have been one of the Gladiators’ Arenas listed in the 1701 will but no longer in existence.

In recent decades, efforts have been made to establish the existence of a series of paintings related to the History of Rome -including the present work- that Philip IV’s representatives would have commissioned in that city and in Naples around 1634 for the Buen Retiro Palace. Today, twenty-eight extant works can be related to this project (most in the Museo del Prado or Patrimonio Nacional), along with another six mentioned in Charles II’s will but now lost or destroyed. This total of thirty-four paintings constitutes the largest group from the Retiro, including the Hall of Realms. The only larger group consists of mythological scenes that the king’s brother, Cardinal-Infante don Fernando, commissioned Rubens to paint for the Torre de la Parada. The size of the Roman group is the first indication of its importance in the new palace (Text drawn from Úbeda de los Cobos, A. in: El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2005, pp. 169-170; 231).

Technical data

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Inventory number
P002968
Author
Romanelli, Giovanni Francesco
Title
Roman Gladiators with Wooden Swords
Date
1635 - 1639
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
Height: 235 cm.; Width: 356 cm.
Series
Historia de Roma Antigua, Palacio del Buen Retiro
Provenance
Royal Collection (Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1794).

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, I, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Úbeda de los Cobos, A., El ciclo de la Historia de Roma antigua, En: El Palacio del Rey Planeta, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 169-189.

Úbeda de los Cobos, A., El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 231.

Luna, J. J., Guerra y pintura en las colecciones del Museo del Prado. S. XVI a Goya, Arte en tiempos de guerra Jornadas de Arte (14º.2008.Madrid), 2009.

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. 479.
Una pintura de quatroUaras y tres menos quarte de alto Con Una palestra de gladiadores con espadas de palo y escudos de azero original de Pedro de corttona con marco tallado y dorado tassada en setentta Doblones....4.200

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 998.
Otra [pintura] de Francº. Romaneli, con una Palestra de Gladiadores con espadas de palo y escudos de acero de quatro varas de largo y tres menos quarta de alto, marco dorado...12000

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1623.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1623.
P. de Cortona / 1623. Gladiadores romanos. / Simulacro en un anfiteatro, con espadas de madera, presidido por tres matronas, a cuyo lado hay dos hombres tocando la trompeta para animar a los combatientes. / Alto 8 pies, 4 pulg; ancho 12 pies, 8 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 141.

Exhibitions +

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

Displayed objects +

Trompet: Dos trompetistas representados en la parte superior izquierda de la composición. El primero, figura representada de perfil, más cercano al espectador. Sujeta una larga trompeta curva de metal dorado de una sola vuelta al igual que la otra representada. De la tipología de las trompetas con la mayor parte del tubo de sección cilíndrica abierta en campana en el extremo final. En este caso se representa como un antiguo Cornu romano, aunque no es visible la barra de sujeción central del instrumento; el pabellón remata en cabeza de animal, como suele ser usual en estos instrumentos. El soldado la sujeta con ambas manos y se aprecia la hinchazón de los carrillos al presionar con fuerza para la insuflación del aire, como corresponde a los instrumentos de boquilla. La fuerza de su soplido se indica también mediante el movimiento de la figura. El segundo, figura representada casi de espaldas, más alejado del espectador. Sujeta una larga trompeta curva de metal dorado de una sola vuelta. El instrumento es similar al primer soldado, sólo cambia que sujeta la embocadura con la mano derecha (otro soldado con la izquierda) sin que esto tenga ninguna incidencia en la representación musical. El cornu es un instrumento de viento utilizado por el ejército, que originariamente estuvo fabricado de cuerno y más tarde de metal (Varr. L. L. V. 117). Athenaeus habla de su origen etrusco. Es un instrumento grande (unos 3 m.) y de sonoridad poderosa, cuyo pabellón se incurva formando casi la forma de una letra "G" mayúscula, con una barra central que sirve para sostener el instrumento a la conveniencia del intérprete. Como las trompetas naturales, da la serie natural de armónicos, que se modifica sólo por la presión de los labios en la boquilla. Según puede deducirse de las descripciones dadas por los poetas, su sonoridad era probablemente una octava más grave que la trompeta. Era habitual que formara dúo con el lituus, también de origen etrusco (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, U.C.M.).
El cornu se utilizaba como instrumento de señales y los encargados de su tañido en el ejército romano fueron los "cornicines".

Update date: 25-07-2019 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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