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Saint Bernard of Clarivaux visits Guigo I at the Charterhouse
Carducho, Vicente
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Carducho, Vicente

Florence (Italy), 1576 - Madrid (Spain), 1638

Carducho, Vicente See author's file

Saint Bernard of Clarivaux visits Guigo I at the Charterhouse

1632. Oil on canvas.
On display elsewhere

On August 29, 1626, King Philip IV’s painter, Vicente Carducho (ca. 1576-1638), signed a contract for the creation of a cycle of paintings to celebrate the founding of the Carthusian Order by Saint Bruno and its leading members. This colossal undertaking sought to visually narrate numerous episodes from the Carthusians’ history and tradition. It was the most complete commission ever dedicated to this order, a series of fifty-four large canvases and two more of a smaller size with the coats of arms of the king and the order. This project was originally conceived by Father Juan de Baeza (d. 1641), a fundamental figure for the Carthusians’ spirituality and organization who closely controlled compliance with that order’s postulates. Juan de Baeza furnished Carducho with the episodes to be included in the series, many of which were unpublished or barely known and previously unrepresented in Spain. In terms of its narrative content, the group was organized in two parts: the first twenty-seven canvases illustrate the life of the order’s founder, Saint Bruno of Cologne (1035-1101), from the moment he decided to abandon public life and retire to the Grande Chartreuse Valley, north of Grenoble, through this death and first posthumous miracle. The second group glosses meaningful episodes in the order’s history, which took place in the principle European charterhouses between the 11th and 16th centuries. This group reveals the order’s strong founding drive, as well as some of its identity traits, including withdrawal to solitary and very beautiful settings, and a life of humility, mortification and penance, dedicated to study and prayer. The second group closes with a set of heroic scenes that represent episodes of persecution and martyrdom suffered by some Carthusian communities during the 15th and 16th centuries -images that seek to strengthen the monks’ faith while depicting Europe’s religious and territorial conflicts at that time. The series was painted between 1626 and 1632, following a laborious creative process that included the production of numerous drawings and sketches, as well as the necessary participation of some assistants. Like most 16th and 17th -century cloister series, this project was originally conceived by Carducho as a mural group. Over the course of his extensive career, he had already demonstrated his mastery of fresco painting, which was the most characteristic and, a priori, appropriate for this type of narrative cycle -at least in Italy, where every detail of this technique was known. However, the complexity of the project, the location of El Paular, and the order’s rigorous cloistering probably argued against the use of that technique. The large canvases have a semicircular arch at the top to fit the gothic segments of the cloister designed by Juan de Egas between 1484 and 1486.

This work depicts the meeting between Saint Bernard of Clarivaux (1090-1153), the primary author of the Cistercian rules, and Guigo I (1083-1136), who wrote the Carthusian rules. They appear together at the entry to the charterhouse as a group of monks point to Clarivaux’s horse, impressed by its luxurious tack. The delivery of the rules to the two monks appears in the background. Guigo I wrote the Consuetudines or Customs that constitute the norms of Carthusian existence since its founding. This scene thus serves to demonstrate that, while Bruno left no written rules for his followers, Guigo’s text was recognized as such -even, implicitly, by such prestigious figures in the Christian tradition as Bernard of Clarivaux (Text drawn from Ruiz, L. en: La recuperación de El Paular, 2013, pp. 185-190).

Technical data

Inventory number
Carducho, Vicente
Saint Bernard of Clarivaux visits Guigo I at the Charterhouse
Height: 337 cm; Width: 298 cm
Historia de la Orden de los Cartujos. Cartuja de El Paular, Rascafría, Madrid
Rascafría (Madrid), Cartuja de Santa María de El Paular, cloister; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 11.

Angulo Íñiguez, D.; Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Historia de la pintura española: escuela madrileña del primer tercio del siglo XVII, Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1969, pp. 134.

Foucart, Jacques, Nouvelles Acquisitions du Departement des Peintures (1980-82, Editions Musees Nationaux, París, 1983, pp. 23.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991.

Beutler, Werner, Vicente Carducho : Der Grosse Kartauserzyklus in el Paular, ANALECTA CARTUSIANA,130/12, Institut Fur Anglistik Und Amerikan, Salzburg, 1997, pp. 190.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, 'La recuperación de la serie cartujana de El Paular' En:, La recuperación de El Paular, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, 2013, pp. 186-202.

'Los Carduchos del Museo del Prado de la Cartuja de El Paular. Secuencia ordenada de la serie de V.Carducho para El Paular' En:, La recuperación de El Paular, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, 2013, pp. 217-233 [225 f.407].

de Carlos Varona, Mª Cruz, 'Vicente Carducho en El Paular, la elaboración de un imaginario cartujano' En:, La recuperación de El Paular, Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Madrid, 2013, pp. 203-216.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 29.
29. S. Bruno visitado por otro Santo. / Firmado, Vin. Carduchi P.R.F.A.-1632 / A la puerta del convento sale S. Bruno acompañado de varios monjes á recibir al Santo que viene á visitarle, y al cual abraza cariñosamente. Detrás de los Santos hay un hombre teniendo por la brida á un caballo, en el cual parece haber venido montado el Santo.

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 29.
29. Sn Bruno. / El sto. sale de la cartuja seguido de la comunidad á recibir á otros sto qe tiene tambien abito blanco pero de diferente echura detras de este un caballo los dos santos estan en actitud de abrazarse figuras de cuerpo entero y tamaño natural fondo esterior del convento y pais / Firmado Vicente Carducho. / Rdo. alto 3,43; ancho 3,01. / Como los anteriores. / Nº 228 g.p.

Inscriptions +

Vin. Carduchi P.R.F.A.-1632
Signed and dated. Front, lower left corner

Location +

Rascafría - Monasterio de Santa María de El Paular (Deposit)

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

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