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Saint Catherine of Siena
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

See author's file

Saint Catherine of Siena

1612 - 1614. Oil on panel.
On display elsewhere

On 14 February 1612 Juan Bautista Maíno signed the contract to execute the paintings for the monastery church of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo. Maíno agreed to a period of eight months to make the paintings, which had to portray the scenes and episodes specified by the prior of the monastery. Despite the agreement reached in the contract, the paintings were not completed until December 1614. In the meantime Maíno entered the monastery, becoming a member of the Dominican Order on 27 July 1613.

As a result, this altarpiece is the key reference point in Maíno’s oeuvre. Antonio Palomino based his judgement of the artist’s work on it, describing Maíno as one of the most eminent painters of his day, as can be seen in his works for the said house [San Pedro Mártir], particularly the high altar of that church with the four canvases of the Cuatro Pascuas [four feasts], in which there are excellent nudes and other things painted in majestic life-size. For his part, Ponz singled out the invention, knowledge of chiaroscuro, draughtsmanship and skill in the use of colour that Maíno’s paintings revealed, and he was the first to refer to the subjects depicted: The coming of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection of Christ, his Birth and the Adoration of the Magi. Together, these are the most important episodes in the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection, and thus constitute the great iconic images of the Catholic world and the most important festivals in the ecclesiastical calendar, known together in Spanish as the Cuatro Pascuas.

These two half-length figures (Saint Dominic, P3130 and Saint Catherine of Siena, P3129) were originally painted on trapezoidal panels with curved outer sides. Their format responded to their projected location in the altarpiece, where they were to act as the top, lateral elements on the upper level, placed on either side of the sculptural group representing the Crucifixion.

Their outer, convex side created the two, curving lines of the upper section of the altarpiece. As a consequence, the outer edges of the panels were covered with gold leaf to imitate mouldings, as were the inner, vertical edges of this trompe-l’oeil framework. The present appearance of the panels has been altered: they are now rectangular in format, as the area outside the outer curve has been filled in to create a regular shape. No documentation survives on this alteration, but it appears to have taken place around 1965, as in 1969 Angulo and Pérez Sánchez noted that it was shortly before that year that the two panels were attributed to Maíno. This attribution must have resulted in the paintings leaving the Prado’s stores and entering the Museum’s restoration studio.

The fact that the two saints were located at such a high level on the altarpiece in an area also occupied by sculptures must have obliged Maíno to depict them in a dramatic manner, for Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena shared space with the Crucifixion and the freestanding sculptures of Saint Albert the Great and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Maíno’s manner of painting perfectly adapted itself to this requirement.

The strong lighting and volumetric modelling give the figures a remarkable monumentality that is emphasised by the beautiful rendering of their Dominican habits of thick, tactile wool, and the way that the two saints are fitted into the architectural framework. However, this effect is somewhat marred by the half-length format, which reduces the dramatic presence of the saints. When these two panels were listed in the inventory of the monastery’s possessions in February of 1836 they were not identified but simply described as a male and female Dominican saint of irregular shape, small life-size.

Saint Catherine is depicted in profile, deeply engrossed in prayer and looking up to the part of the altarpiece that housed the image of the crucified Christ. Her slightly parted lips suggest that she is praying. Dressed in the Dominican habit, her hands bear the wounds inflicted on Christ on the cross and her head sports a crown of thorns, a direct allusion to the Dominican tradition that saw Saint Catherine as an image of the Passion of Christ. As a female type she conforms to Maíno’s standard model, with a small, well-defined mouth and pronounced chin. This solid but delicate figure recalls others by Orazio Gentileschi, such as the Sibyl at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (Ruiz, L.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 289, 295-296).


Technical data

Inventory number
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
Saint Catherine of Siena
1612 - 1614
Height: 118 cm; Width: 92 cm
Retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas, Iglesia de San Pedro Mártir, Toledo
Toledo, Iglesia de San Pedro Mártir; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

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

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. 313.

Ars hispaniae: historia universal del arte hispánico, XV, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1971, pp. 34.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 389.

Orihuela, Mercedes, Noticias del Prado. Nuevos depósitos, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VIII (24), 1987, pp. 206.

Serrera, Juan Miguel, Juan Bautista Maíno: Notas sobre el retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 1989, pp. 35-41.

Orihuela, Mercedes, El ''Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Gerona, LLagostera, Olot, Figueras, Lérida, Poblet, Mataró, Sitges, Sabadell y Villanueva y Geltrú, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XII (30), 1991, pp. 136.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991, pp. nº985.

Boitani, Maria Consuelo, Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, 1995, pp. 170 / lám. 34.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, Maíno en Pastrana: el Retablo de los Miranda, XXIV, 2006, pp. 14-23.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 139-141.

Papi, Gianni, Borgianni and Maíno: new discoveries, Artur Ramon Art, 2017, pp. 57.

La presencia del Prado: episodios de una historia, Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer Ediciones Lectio., 2020, pp. 114-115.

Other inventories +

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 985.
985. Tabla id. una Sta coronada de espinas, las manos cruzadas y las llagas. De mas de medio cuerpo y tamº nat.l Autor / Rectifdo alto 1,18 ancho 0,97 / Id. Id. Id. / nº 68 / S.R.

Exhibitions +

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

Location +

Villanueva Y Geltrú - Biblioteca Museo Víctor Balaguer (Deposit)

Displayed objects +

Objects from Christ's Passion: Corona de espinas


Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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