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Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds
Carreño de Miranda, Juan
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Carreño de Miranda, Juan

Avilés, Asturias (Spain), 1614 - Madrid (Spain), 1685

Carreño de Miranda, Juan See author's file

Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds

Ca. 1646. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

In 1724, Antonio Palomino, who had been Juan Carreño de Miranda’s disciple, included his teacher’s biography in his Parnaso español pintoresco y laureado. Their close relationship makes that text a highly informative source of first-hand information. Palomino wrote: Two other works by his hand (though early) are the paintings on the facing side walls of the church of El Caballero de Gracia, which are of Saint Francis and Saint Anthony, one preaching to the birds, and the other, to the fish. Both works were still at that church in 1800, when Ceán Bermúdez published his Diccionario. The Museo del Prado has a work signed by Juan Carreño in 1646 (P5097, 249 x 167 cm), whose subject and dimensions suggest it is the one mentioned by Palomino, as the painter was 32 years old that year. That makes it the earliest known signed work by Carreño. Nothing was known of the whereabouts of its companion until a similar-sized (244 x 167 cm) painting of Saint Francis preaching to the birds appeared at a Madrid auction. In the auction catalog, its close relation to Carreño’s Saint Anthony was mentioned.

From a narrative perspective, there are some differences between the two, especially the considerable development of the Christ Child and angels in the Prado’s version. In the painting of Saint Francis, they are replaced by a forest and the sky. Nonetheless, the similar dimensions, the fact that both figures are presented on a similar scale, and that the two paintings work very well as pendants, suggest they were conceived at the same time and by the same artist. Comparison is made difficult by the fact that one is set in a luminous and open coastal landscape, and the other in a closed and shady forest, but the figures of the saints can still be compared. And they are, indeed, similar in their presentation and in the handling of their respective habits. In both cases (unlike other Franciscan images by Carreño), the textures of their clothing are barely reflected, and both show a similar approach to the upper part and folds. In their present condition, there are differences in the execution that seem to make Saint Anthony’s modeling much more convincing than Saint Francis’s, and the former appears to be of higher quality than the latter. This is visible, for example, in the faces and hands, which are much more accurate in the case of Saint Anthony, although his right foot is quite similar to that of the Saint Francis of Assisi at the Museo de Oviedo.


Technical data

Inventory number
Carreño de Miranda, Juan
Saint Francis Preaching to the Birds
Ca. 1646
Height: 244 cm; Width: 167 cm
Madrid, Church of the Monastery of San José de Jesús María, popularly known as the Monastery of El Caballero de Gracia, of Barefoot Franciscan Conceptionist Cloistered Nuns, until 1836; private collection; acquired by the State for the Museo del Prado, 2014.

Bibliography +

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario historico de los mas ilustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en España, I, Imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, Madrid, 1800, pp. 270.

Ponz, Antonio, Viaje a España seguido de los dos tomos del viaje fuera de España, M. Aguilar, 1947, pp. 477.

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Acisclo Antonio, Vidas (1724), Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1986, pp. 286.

Subastas Alcalá, de 9 y 10 de Octubre, Alcalá subastas, 2014, pp. lote n.352.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Juan Carreño de Miranda "San Francisco predicando a las aves'', en: Memoria de actividades 2014, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 36-38.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2877.

Update date: 13-01-2022 | Registry created on 01-09-2015

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