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Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

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Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape

1612 - 1614. Oil on canvas. Room 007A

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.

The San Pedro Mártir altarpiece is completed with four depictions of Christian saints from the late classical period. These figures were the subject of popular devotion and represented the quietude and renunciation of worldly affairs that was the aim of monastic life. Maíno painted them on a much smaller scale and located them above and below the principal canvases. Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist were made on canvas and installed in the lower or predella level, while Mary Magdalene and Saint Anthony Abbot were painted on panel and located above the two principal canvases on the upper level.

The small size of these works and in particular their format determined the type of composition. The location of these scenes on the altarpiece explains the different technique used for the two upper scenes and the lower ones, but not the use of different supports. While the saint Johns were painted on taffeta-weave canvas, the other two saints were executed on panels made up of wide, roughly joined and minimally prepared planks with barely planed surfaces. They may have been old planks that were re-used by Gaspar Cerezo, who was responsible for supplying Maíno with the pieces of wood needed for this commission. Maíno must have borne in mind the height at which they would be seen and the financial stringency required of him in the contract, in which it was even stated that the artist would paint free of charge one of the small panels of the upper level of the altarpiece.

Maíno worked on the panels in an extremely summary manner, particularly the landscapes and areas around the figures, which are painted with a schematic and very sketchy technique, although he used smaller and more precise brushstrokes in specific areas, above all in the figures. The construction of the two saints’ heads is very delicate, with carefully rendered details that recall Maíno’s miniaturist skills evident in the two canvases for the predella, in particular in Saint John the Baptist. With regard to their arrangement, Maíno located the four saints at the outer edges of the compositions, making the landscape the true subject of these four works. However, he also bore in mind their intended location and subtly varied the relationship of the figures to their respective settings. In the two panels destined for the upper level depicting Saint Anthony Abbot and Mary Magdalene, the figures are slightly larger than in the other two and extend almost the full height of the panel, framed by a dark background that isolates them from the surrounding landscape. Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, which are closer to the viewer, are set in open landscapes without rocky ledges. Maíno revealed his sophisticated pictorial training in these scenes, in which he included explicit references to works by Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci. However, their most innovative aspect is the importance given to the landscape, which is unique in Spanish painting of this date and is only comparable with contemporary Roman painting. In a way close to Bolognese classicism, Maíno devised harmonious compositions of a horizontal format, but ones that also include precise, descriptive passages of the natural world that relate to the work of Caravaggio and the northern artists working in Rome.

This double stylistic trend is particularly evident in the canvases of the two saint Johns, undoubtedly because their location in the altarpiece allowed the artist to work in a more refined manner. Saint John the Baptist is the most eloquent of the four and the most canonical in its formal structure. The saint is shown seated on some rocks near the bend in a river flanked by trees and low-growing plants. Depicted as a youth wearing a red, fur-lined mantle that partly covers his body, the Baptist holds the reed cross in his left hand, while in his right he has a banner with a prophetic text that he seems to be reading. Nearby, Maíno locates the small lamb that he would also depict next to the Baptist in the portrait of Ana Hernández for the Miranda altarpiece.

For the unstable pose of the Baptist, seated on a rock with his knees wide apart and one leg bent back, Maíno used a model by Caravaggio, the Saint John the Baptist of around 1605 painted for Ottavio Costa and currently in Kansas City, in which both the body of the young saint and the red mantle are strongly modelled through the chiaroscuro illumination. In 1935 Harris was the first to associate the present canvas from the Museo de la Trinidad with Maíno, at a time when the original location of these four depictions of saints was unknown. For that author, both the figure and the landscape were painted in a style very close to that of the Dominican monk, but notably inferior in quality and the attribution is therefore questionable. Harris was convinced of the inferior quality of the present Baptist in comparison to the one on copper that she published (present location unknown). It was Angulo and Pérez Sánchez who related this canvas and the other three saints to the altarpiece.

This Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape was in the Museo de la Trinidad until 1872, at which point it entered the Museo del Prado. Between 1902 and 1970 it was on deposit with the Museo de San Telmo (San Sebastian). In 1970 it returned to the Prado (Ruiz, L.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 289, 294-295).


Technical data

Inventory number
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape
1612 - 1614
Height: 74 cm; Width: 163 cm
Retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas. Iglesia de San Pedro Mártir, Toledo
Church of Dominican Convent of San Pedro Mártir, Toledo; Museo de las Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 155, n. 201.

Harris, Enriqueta, Aportaciones para el estudio de Juan Bautista Maíno, Revista española de arte, IV, 8, 1935, pp. 333-339 [337].

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. 303, 309, n. 3.

Ars Hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispánico, XV, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1971, pp. 34.

La peinture espagnole du siècle d'or: de Greco a Velazquez, Association Française d'Action Artistique, Paris, 1976, pp. n. 19.

Ottani Cavina, A., On the them of landscape. I, Additions to Saraceni, The Burlington magazine, 118, 1976, pp. 83-87.

The Golden Age of Spanish Painting, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1976, pp. n. 19.

Salerno, Luigi, Pittori di paesaggio del Seicento a Roma = Landscape painter, I-III, Ugo Bozzi, Roma, 1977-1980, pp. 206; 954, il 41-42.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Panorama de la pintura española desde los Reyes Católicos a Goya, Servicio de Publicaciones del Instituto de Cooperación Iberoamericana, Buenos Aires, 1980, pp. 36.

Pita Andrade, José Manuel, Ob el Grieka Ob Goje, Narodni Muzei, Belgrado, 1981.

El Toledo de Domyco Theotocopuly: El Greco, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1982, pp. 176, n. 148.

Greogori, M., Un'inedita Adorazione dei pastori di Juan Bautista Maíno. En: Natale, M. Scritti di storia dell' arte in onore di Federico Zeri, II, Electa, Milano, 1984, pp. 618.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 388.

Velázquez en Zijn Tijd: zeventiende-eeuwse Spaanse schilderk, Rijks Museum, Amsterdam, 1985, pp. 48, n. 7.

De Greco à Picasso, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1987, pp. 125-126, n. 16.

Du Greco a Goya: chefs-d'oeuvre du Prado et de collections e, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Genève, 1989, pp. 46, n. 15.

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

La pintura española en su siglo de oro, Catálogo de la exposición, Galería de Bellas Artes de la Fundación Internacional Liudmila Yívkova, Sofía, 1989.

Nicolson, Benedict, Caravaggism in Europe, II, Umberto Allemandi & C., Milán, 1990, pp. il. 468.

Urrea, Jesús, La Pittura Madrilena del Secolo XVII, Edizioni Carte Segrete, Roma, 1991, pp. 72, n. 9.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991, pp. n. 201.

Boitani, M. C., Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, [S.L.], 1995, pp. 145-148.

Réau, L., Iconografía del Arte Cristiano, T. I, vol. 2, Barcelona, 1996.

Luci del secolo d'oro spagnolo, Unione LatinaPinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Bolonia, 1998, pp. 107.

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo, 2002.

Ruiz, L, 'Juan Bautista Maíno. San Juan Bautista en un paisaje' En:, Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea, Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2005, pp. 206-209, n. 45.

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

Ruíz Gómez, L, Juan Bautista Maíno, 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 132, n. 17.

Gayo, Mª D.; Jover de Celis, M., Evolución de las preparaciones en la pintura sobre lienzo de los siglos XVII y XVIII en España, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXVIII, 2010, pp. 39-59.

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

Other inventories +

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 201.
201. / Sn Juan Bª en el desierto con el cordero á los pies en un pais don de se ve un barco en un lago y en este varias anades, fs de acuarta y cuerpo entero es al n 197. / Autor / Rdo Alto 0,74; ancho 1,61. / Fdo y rdo y en la g.p. / Nº 55 S.B.

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 201.
ESCUELA TOLEDANA. [...] FRAY JUAN BAUTISTA MAYNO.[...] 201. Paisaje. / Lienzo. - Al. 0,74.- An. 1,63. - Fig. / En la derecha y en el centro del cuadro, un rio cuyas margenes están cubiertas de árboles; sobre las aguas del rio se ven unos patos y una barca a la vela con varios hombres. A la izquierda del cuadro y en la márgen del rio sentado sobre unas peñas se ve a San Juan con el cordero a los piés. El carácter del país revela las márgenes del Tajo en Toledo.

Inscriptions +

VIVA/ MARIA/ IVAN [en el tronco del álamo]
Inscribed in brown color. Front, right side

Exhibitions +

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea
06.10.2005 - 15.01.2006

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

El siglo de oro de la pintura española
15.01.1998 - 12.04.1998

Pintura madrileña del Siglo XVII
10.12.1991 - 31.01.1992

Obras maestras de la Pintura Española: del Siglo de Oro a Goya
14.06.1989 - 24.09.1989

La pintura española en su Siglo de Oro
16.03.1989 - 16.05.1989

Cinco Siglos de Arte Español
05.10.1987 - 05.01.1988

Location +

Room 007A (On Display)

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

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