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Saint Dominic of Guzmán
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

See author's file

Saint Dominic of Guzmán

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.

As in most of the male faces in this altarpiece, Saint Dominic is so vividly and specifically depicted that he could almost be a real person. His dark, curly hair, short, thick beard, dark eyes and well-defined nose and mouth all suggest that this is a portrait of a contemporary of the artist. Angulo and Pérez Sánchez suggested that this figure is a self-portrait, an idea reinforced by the position of the eyes, which look out at the viewer, and the way in which the saint holds his quill pen, in a manner very close to that of holding a brush. Juan Miguel Serrera subsequently returned to this idea, noting that this way of holding the pen could symbolise Maíno’s commitment to the service of the Church through his art, with the Church symbolised by the architectural model that the saint holds in his left hand. Clearly this is an interesting idea and the youthful presentation of Saint Dominic could correspond to Maíno’s actual age at this point (thirty-two).

However, in my opinion, it is not likely that a recently ordained monk would depict himself as the Order’s great founder, still less in a commission for such an important monastery, ruled by one of the great religious figures of the day, Fray Antonio de Sotomayor. As suggested elsewhere, it is more likely that Maíno depicted himself in a more discreet fashion in the Adoration of the Magi, which is the only canvas of the entire altarpiece that he signed (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 Dominic of Guzmán
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. 314.

El Toledo de Domyco Theotocopuly: El Greco, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1982, pp. 176.

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. nº984.

Boitani, Maria Consuelo, Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, 1995, pp. 171 / lám. 34.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, 'Maíno en Pastrana. El retablo de los Miranda'', Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXIV, 2006, pp. 14-23.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 138-141.

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. 984.
984. / Tabla de figª irregular. Sto domingo con una pluma en la mano dra y un edificio en la izqda figs de mas de medio cuerpo y tamº nat.l / Autor / Rectifdo alto 1,18 ancho 0,92 / Id. Id. Id. / Nº 67 / 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 +




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

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