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Saint John the Evangelist in Patmos
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

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Saint John the Evangelist in Patmos

1612 - 1614. Oil on canvas.
Room 010B

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.

For the composition of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos, Maíno devised a slightly unbalanced composition, locating both the figure of the saint as well as the principal elements of the landscape on the right-hand side and filling the left with the sea and the compact blue mass of the sky. His intention in doing so was to emphasise the traditional insular character of Patmos and the vastness of the sea that surrounded the saint as he composed the Revelation of Saint John the Divine in his retreat on this Aegean island. At the same time, Maíno remained faithful to the classicising formulas of Bolognese landscape, using asuccession of rocky outcrops and areas of vegetation that alternate ochre and green tones, into which the Evangelist is perfectly inserted. His figure is notably close to the Apostles in the Pentecost, also painted for this altarpiece. The young Evangelist is depicted seated on a rock and accompanied by his iconographic attribute, the eagle. As is traditional in this scene, he is shown writing, leaning a book on his right knee, which is crossed over his left one. His head is raised as he looks in the direction of a point in the sky, undoubtedly towards the apocalyptic vision of Mary, which, unlike in traditional representations of this scene, is not visible here, as it takes place outside the pictorial space. In Serrera’s opinion, in the panel’s original location in the altarpiece Saint John looked up towards the sculptural image of the Virgin of the Rosary, which was higher up than this predella scene.

The pose of the Evangelist, with his legs crossed and the sole of his right foot visible to the viewer, seems to be a direct derivation from Caravaggio, in particular from the Saint Matthew that was destroyed in 1945. Maíno may also have had in mind earlier engraved sources such as a print by Martin de Vos (1532-1603) published by Anna van Hoeswinkel, in which the posture of the saint is very similar and the eagle accompanying him also appears (Ruiz, L.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 289, 294-295).

Ruíz Gómez, L, Juan Bautista Maíno, 1581-1649, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, p.133-135, n. 18


Technical data

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

Bibliography +

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 155, n. 197.

Harris, Enriqueta, Aportaciones para el estudio de Juan Bautista Maíno, Revista española de arte, IV, 8, 1935, pp. 333-339 [336].

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. 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. 27.

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. 20.

Salerno, Luigi, Pittori di paesaggio del Seicento a Roma = Landscape painter, III, Ugo Bozzi, Roma, 1977, pp. n. 41.

El Toledo de Domyco Theotocopuly: El Greco, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1982, pp. n. 147.

Valdivieso González, E., Spanish Painting of 16th & 17th Century. Pintura Española de los siglos XVI y XVII, The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1985.

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

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. 197.

Boitani, M. C., Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, [S.L.], 1995, pp. 148-151.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velazquez, Esplendores de Espanha. De El Greco a Velazquez, Arte Viva, Río De Janeiro, 2000, pp. 186.

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

El arte en la España del Quijote, El arte en la España del Quijote, Empresa Pública Don Quijote de la Mancha 2005: So, Ciudad Real, 2005, pp. 222, n. 49.

Ruíz Gómez, L, Juan Bautista Maíno, 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 133-135, n. 18.

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.

Jakstat,S, 'F.Juan B. Maíno. St. John on Patmos.' En:, Staatliche Museen ; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 2016, pp. 102-103 n.9.

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

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 197.
ESCUELA TOLEDANA. [...] FRAY JUAN BAUTISTA MAYNO.[...] 197. Paisaje. / Lienzo. - Al. 0,74.- An. 0,625. - Fig. / A la derecha del espectador S. Juan Evangelista en la isla de Pafos sentado sobre una peña, mirando al cielo y teniendo sobre la pierna derecha un libro; en la mano izquierda el tintero, en la derecha la pluma, a su lado el águila. En el fondo del cuadro y a su derecha el mar.

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 197.
197. / Sn juan en la pocalipsis cuadro apaisado escribiendo en un libro con el aguila a su lado. / Fs como de atercia y cuerpo entero, el fondo es un paisaje. / Autor maino (sin firmar) / Rdo alto 0,74; ancho 1,62. / Fdo rdo sin marco y colgdo en la g.p. / Nº 49 B.b

Exhibitions +

El Siglo de Oro. The Age of Velázquez
25.11.2016 - 26.03.2017

El Siglo de Oro. The Age of Velázquez
01.07.2016 - 30.10.2016

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

El arte en la España del Quijote
Ciudad Real
03.11.2005 - 26.02.2006

Obras Maestras del Museo del Prado - Tokio
05.03.2002 - 23.06.2002

De El Greco a Velázquez. La cultura española durante la Unión Ibérica, 1580-1640
Río de Janeiro
12.07.2000 - 24.09.2000

Location +

Room 010B (On Display)


Displayed objects +



Update date: 01-02-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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