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Saint Francis of Assisi in the Porziuncola with the Donors Antonio Contreras and María Amezquita
Caro, Francisco
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Caro, Francisco

Sevilla (Spain), 1627 - Madrid (Spain), 1667

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Saint Francis of Assisi in the Porziuncola with the Donors Antonio Contreras and María Amezquita

1659. Oil on canvas. On display elsewhere

Christ and the Virgin Mary appear to Saint Francis at the church of la Porziuncola and the saint asks them for plenary indulgence for all pilgrims to that site. We know the artist´s name because it is revealed by the signature halfway up the canvas on the right, as well as through Antonio Palomino´s Museo Pictórico (1724). Palomino´s biography of Francisco Caro (ca.1627-1667) in that book praises another large painting that he made for the cloister of San Francisco in Segovia, which is the Jubilee of la Porziuncola and includes portraits of don Antonio de Contreras and his wife, who were the owners of that work. This is, indeed, a highly elaborate work, in terms of both its size and the complexity of its composition. The artist, who was about thirty years old when he painted it, reveals a clear awareness of the most important stylistic tendencies of that time. Christ, the Virgin and some of the angels reflect the link to Alonso Cano mentioned by Palomino. And the luminous and dynamic heavens owe much to Caro´s familiarity with the works of Herrera the younger, especially his prodigious Triumph of Saint Hermenegild (P833) which he would have been able to see at the church of the convent of Barefoot Carmelites in Madrid from 1654 onwards. Herrera´s influence is visible, for example, in the musician angel that can be glimpsed behind Christ, which is a forerunner to one of the masterworks from the Madrid School: José Antolínez´s Transit of Mary Magdalene (P591).

From the standpoint of Spanish portraiture, this work is very interesting for its peculiar manner of resolving the inclusion of the figures of Antonio Contreras and his wife. They were the painting´s donors, and rather than occupying the same space as the holy figures, they appear as portraits, each with its own frame. Rather than reducing their presence, this novelty emphasizes it, as does the fact that both objects play an important role in the definition of the composition´s spatial coordinates, thanks to a placement strictly parallel to the lines of the tiles. This approach indicates that portraits had become frequent and everyday objects. Originally, artists working in this genre had had to resort to the formula of donors in order to surreptitiously include likenesses of living persons in paintings with a different subject. Here, however, those persons were presented in the form of portraits, specifically, bust portraits with few rhetorical elements and a primary focus on their facial features. The man´s sober clothing is echoed by the unadorned frame, while the woman´s rich lace is reflected by her frame´s gilded moldings. These portraits´ inclusion in a large and ambitiously composed painting bears witness to the couple´s devotion and power.

A college graduate, Antonio de Contreras y González Bernaldo de Quirós belonged to one of the best established families in Spanish bureaucracy, as Elliot put it. He became a Knight of Calatrava in 1634—he wears the cross on his suit—and an outstanding member of the Council of Castile, which endows this work with significant iconographic value. He died in Segovia in 1670 and at the period that this painting was painted, he was protector of the court´s hospitals and led a luxurious life that included a carriage comparable only to the king´s. Another of his possessions was a Taking of Christ by El Greco, which Lorenzo Ramírez later bequeathed to the Museo del Prado. The present painting was not the only public exposition of his personality in Segovia, as his coat of arms appears on the façade of the church at the Capuchin convent of Las Oblatas, which he had founded in 1637, in whose main chapel he and his wife were buried.

Technical data

Inventory number
P005249
Author
Caro, Francisco
Title
Saint Francis of Assisi in the Porziuncola with the Donors Antonio Contreras and María Amezquita
Date
1659
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
Height: 273 cm.; Width: 330 cm.
Provenance
Segovia, Convent of San Francisco; Museo de la Trinidad

Bibliography +

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

Moreno Alcalde, Mercedes, Pinturas procedentes de Segovia en el Museo de la Trinidad. Contribución al catálogo y localización del Prado disperso, BOLETIN DEL SEMINARIO DE ESTUDIOS (BSAA), 50, 1984, pp. 429-430.

Espinós, A.; Orihuela, M. y Royo Villanova, M. [et al.], El ''Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en La Coruña. Museo de Bellas Artes, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VIII, 1987, pp. 55.

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

Gomez Nebreda, Maria Luisa, Pinturas de Segovia en el Museo del Prado : Estudio de las P, Caja Segovia, Segovia, 2001, pp. 61.

Portús Pérez, Javier, San Francisco de Asís en la Porciúncula con los donantes don Antonio de Contreras y doña María Amezquita (1659). En: Ruiz Gómez, L.: El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2006, pp. 124, n. 37.

Lamas Delgado, Eduardo, Les peintures de Carducho Rizi et Carreño pour le couvent des capucins de Ségovie. Nouvelles contributions sur un mécenat méconnu, un tableau d ' autel oublié et un cycle pictural, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 2, 2012, pp. 223-238 [225].

Other inventories +

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 450.
450 / La Porciuncula de Sn Fran.co con la Vir- / gen y el Padre Eterno sobre un trono de nubes / en la parte interior dos retratos en bustos de hom- / bre y de mujer fig. del tamº Nat.l y Cuerpo entero / Autor Francisco Caro Año 1659. Firmº / Rectif.do Alto 2,73 ancho 3,30 1/2 [Nota en margen derecho] Sin forrar ni restaurar y sin marco en el archi- / vo [Nota en margen izquierdo] Nº 43 / S.P.

Exhibitions +

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Madrid
12.06.2007 - 02.09.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Bilbao
05.03.2007 - 20.05.2007

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Toledo
19.09.2006 - 26.11.2006

El retrato español en el Prado. Del Greco a Goya
Salamanca
22.06.2006 - 21.08.2006

Location +

La Coruña - Museo de Bellas Artes de La Coruña (Deposit)

Displayed objects +

Instruments, String / Chordophones: Instrumento de cuerda interpretado por un ángel, en último término, sobre la figura de Cristo (Proyecto Iconografía Musical, U.C.M.).

Painting: Retrato de la donante María Amezquita, en un cuadro sostenido por un ángel, a la derecha de la composición.

Orb / Sphere: Cristo sujeta el orbe con su mano izquierda. Estos objetos singulares suelen mostrar una transparencia y brillo que podría hacer pensar en piezas de vidrio. Sin embargo, su gran tamaño permite descartar el supuesto de que fueran de vidrio y, mucho menos aún, de cristal de roca. Lo más probable es que dada su rareza, en la mayoría de los casos no se tratara de piezas reales copiadas del natural, sino pintadas imaginativamente por el artista (Fernández Navarro, J. M.; Capel del Águila, F.: El vidrio en la pintura del Museo Nacional del Prado, 2012).

Update date: 10-10-2019 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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