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Saint Ambrose denies Theodosius entry to his Church
Valdés Leal, Juan de
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Valdés Leal, Juan de

Sevilla (Spain), 1622 - Sevilla (Spain), 1690

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Saint Ambrose denies Theodosius entry to his Church

Ca. 1673. Oil on canvas. Not on display

The episodes from the life of Saint Ambrose were commissioned from Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690) by Ambrosio Ignacio Spínola y Guzmán (1632-1684), Archbishop of Seville, for his private oratory. They are markedly specular in nature given that the saint and archbishop share the same name, ecclesiastical rank and connections with northern Italy. The series was conceived by Spínola as a model of exemplary behaviour to the extent that the settings evoke the streets and churches of Seville and the saint’s features are those of the archbishop.

In the year 390 the Emperor Theodosius violently repressed the population of Thessaloniki, after which he returned to Milan where he was excommunicated by Saint Ambrose, who denied him entry to his church. Depicted here, this episode is representative of one of the issues present in the history of Christianity: the tension between religious and civil authority.

The series remind us of an aspect of the art of this period that is sometimes overlooked, namely that painting was an essentially narrative language which, with regard to the type considered superior at the time, had the purpose of recounting a story. This was frequently a sequential or serial narrative, which is sometimes difficult to appreciate today as many of these series have been broken up.

Technical data

Inventory number
Valdés Leal, Juan de
Saint Ambrose denies Theodosius entry to his Church
Ca. 1673
Height: 165 cm; Width: 110.5 cm
Serie de la vida de San Ambrosio
Altarpiece of the Lower Oratory of the Archbishop's Palace, Sevilla, 1673-1810; stolen by Marshal Soult in 1810-12; heirs of Marshal Soult; New York, Rosenberg & Stiebel, 1960; Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, private collection; Acquired by the Museo Nacional del Prado in 2002

Bibliography +

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en España, V, Imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, Madrid, 1800, pp. 110.

Kinkead, Duncan Theobald, Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-1690): his life and work, Garland Publishing, Nueva York-Londres, 1978, pp. 233-244.

Kinkead, Duncan Theobald, The Altarpiece of the Life of Saint Ambrose by Juan de Valdés Leal, The Art Bulletin: A Quarterly Published by the College Art Association (CAA), 64, 1982, pp. 473-481.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Juan de Valdés Leal, Guadalquivir, Sevilla, 1988.

Brooke, Xanthe, Murillo in Focus, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1990.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Valdés Leal, Museo del Prado; Junta de Andalucía, Madrid, 1991, pp. 34-35.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura barroca en España 1600-1750, Cátedra, Madrid, 1992, pp. 376.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de actividades 2002, Madrid, 2003, pp. 46-53.

Álvarez Lopera, José, Valdés Leal: la vida de San Ambrosio, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, pp. 80.

Valdivieso, Enrique, Juan de Valdés Leal. San Ambrosio negando al emperador Teodosio la entrada en el templo, En: A su imagen. Arte, cultura y religión, A su Imagen, Madrid, 2014, pp. 282-283 n.77.

Brooke, Xanthe, From English gentleman to spanish hidalgo: Frank Hall Standish (1799-1840) and his spanish art collection, Boletín del Museo del Prado., XXXIV, 2016, pp. 50-63 [59].

Portús Pérez, Javier, Ejemplo y recreo. Series pictóricas de uso privado en el Barroco andaluz, En: El hijo pródigo de Murillo y el arte de narrar en el Barroco andaluz, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 15-49.

Cenalmor, Elena y Portús, Javier, Juan Valdés Leal. Serie de la vida de San Ambrosio, En: El hijo pródigo de Murillo y el arte de narrar en el Barroco andaluz, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2021, pp. 131-163.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2638.

Exhibitions +

Murillo’s The Prodigal Son and the art of narrative in Andalusian Baroque painting
21.09.2021 - 23.01.2022

A su imagen. Saber y enseñar
18.11.2014 - 12.04.2015

Valdés Leal. La vida de San Ambrosio
20.01.2004 - 18.04.2004

Serie San Ambrosio, Valdés Leal
20.10.2003 - 04.01.2004

Displayed objects +


Update date: 25-01-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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