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The Battle of Clavijo
Giaquinto, Corrado
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Giaquinto, Corrado

Molfetta, Apulia (Italy), 1703 - Naples (Italy), 1766

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The Battle of Clavijo

1755 - 1756. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Mounted on a white steed and flanked by an angel bearing a flag, Saint James gallops over a multitude of fallen Moors and horses. The battle scene occupies a rocky landscape in the middle ground. This canvas is a sketch for the elliptical dome at the entrance to the Royal Palace’s chapel and was painted by Giaquinto between 1756 and 1757. The canvas and its corresponding fresco are clearly derived from Giordano, both compositionally and in their depiction of the Muslims and horses on the ground, including their expressions, gestures and foreshortening. The distance is also treated in a manner that recalls Giordano. Here, Giaquinto returns to his Neapolitan origins following contact with multiple works by Luca hanging in Spain’s royal palaces.

Corrado Giaquinto had frequent contacts with Spain as of 1735 or earlier. But the death of Jacopo Amigoni in 1752 led to his being summoned to Madrid the next year. During his stay in the Spanish Court, he earned the highest honors given to a painter in that era. He became First Painter to the Court in August 1753 and director of the Academy of San Fernando that December. His main mission was the fresco decoration of the Royal Chapel and the current Staircase and Hall of Columns of the Royal Palace of Madrid. As preparatory work for the frescoes, he rendered the sketches presented in this exhibition. The first of these was the sketch for the entrance vault. The others were for the dome. The theme represented in the dome is the Coronation of the Virgin, in which the artist included countless saints, arranged in a somewhat confusing way. All this is supported by pendentives on which the artist painted Saint Isidoro, Saint Hermenegildo, Saint Isidro Labrador and Saint María de la Cabeza. In the entrance vault appears the scene of the Battle of Clavijo. In the presbytery vault is painted the Trinity with Dead Christ. In the choir is painted the Three Theological Virtues.

The work executed by Giaquinto on the fresco cycle in the Chapel was subject to the instructions issued by the Benedictine, Martín Sarmiento. As of 1743, Sarmiento was committed to the mission of drafting a document defining the elements required in the decoration of the New Palace then under construction. These elements would have to be both decorative and representative, thereby converting the royal residence into a symbol of the new Bourbon dynasty. From then until when Charles III ascended to the throne, Sarmiento drafted an enormous volume of plans in which he sought to articulate the different manifestations of art (sculpture, painting, upholstery and epigraphy), creating what he defined as a decorating scheme. The scheme would show the greatness of the Spanish monarchy, its history, virtues, and role defending Catholicism. One of the most interesting features of this project was that artistic representations were subject to the dictates of the Benedictine. Artistic creativity was exercised in service of the laudatory message.

Unfortunately, the documents drafted by Sarmiento for the painters have not been found. From the scanty records preserved, we know that the Marqués de Villarías commissioned Sarmiento to draft a report in August, 1747. He was to write about the subjects to be painted on the ceiling of the New Palace. A year later, Sarmiento delivered twenty-five plans for the ceiling of the chapel, which also have not been found. The loss of this highly important document makes it impossible to establish the degree to which the Giaquinto might have observed the monk´s dictates.

The four sketches, among which this work is, for the fresco cycle in the Chapel of the Royal Palace of Madrid (Glory of the Saints, P000109; The Trinity and Saints, P005441; Paradise, P005118) reveal the artist´s working method. He started with preliminary drawings in which he precisely defined figures and compositions. These works were so meticulously rendered that few changes would be introduced in the fresco. Their level of completion allows us to assume that these were sketches, or more properly, modelli. Giaquinto would have submitted these as proposals to the authorities for acceptance; they would subsequently be painted as frescoes. In their own time, these works were greatly appreciated, as can be seen in a notice of October 9, 1761, indicating that all the sketches rendered by Giaquinto for the decoration of the Royal Palace had been framed. This would have been done in order to group them for viewing, although nothing indicates this was ever actually carried through. These works reveal the influence of the two painters to which the artist was most attracted: Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena. Also Neapolitans, the were excellent frescoists. Indeed, Giaquinto´s first work in Spain was restoring the Allegory of the Order of Toisón, which was painted by Giordano in 1697 in the main room of the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid. Another example of their influence is the fresco picturing the Battle of Clavijo, in which Giaquinto took figures from the works of both masters. In fact, the general impression created by Giaquinto´s work is that it was very much influenced by Giaquinto´s work is that it was very much influence by Giordano. Starting with the confusion of the foreground battle, it is also evident in each successive plane as the images appear blurrier and more monochromatic. The background figures appear to be authentic grisailles, a treatment followed by Giordano on the Staircase of the Monastery of El Escorial (Battle of Saint Quentín) and in Appearance of the Virgin to St. Ferdinand, from the Church of the Hospicio in Madrid, to note two exemples (Text drawn from Úbeda de los Cobos, Andrés; The Majesty of Spain, Jackson, Mississippi, 2001, pp. 57-60).

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Jackson,Mississipi, Mississipi Commission For Internati, 2001, p.57-60

Technical data

Related artworks

The Glory of Saints
Oil on canvas, 1755 - 1756
Giaquinto, Corrado
The Trinity
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Inventory number
Giaquinto, Corrado
The Battle of Clavijo
1755 - 1756
Height: 77.4 cm; Width: 136.2 cm
Serie para la Capilla del Palacio Real
Royal Collection (Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, sacristía, 1794, s.n.; Palacio Real, Madrid, cuarto del infante don Francisco-primera pieza, 1814-1818, s. nº.)

Bibliography +

Madoz, Pascual, Diccionario Geográfico, Estadistico, Histórico de España y sus posesiones de ultramar, X, Madrid, 1848, pp. 230.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catalogo de los cuadros, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1952, pp. 230.

Bologna, Ferdinando, Roviale Spagnuolo e la Pittura Napoletana del Cinquecento, Scientifiche Italiane, Napoles, 1959, pp. 123.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Urrea Fernández, Jesús, La pintura italiana del siglo XVIII en España, Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad, Valladolid, 1977, pp. 239.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 243-244.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Kasl, Ronda, Painting in spain in the age of enlightenment: Goya and his, University of Washington Press, Washington, 1997, pp. 160-161.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson,Mississipi, 2001, pp. 57-60.

Pérez Sánchez, A. E. (ed.), Corrado Giaquinto y España, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 2006, pp. 202.

Luna, J. J., Guerra y pintura en las colecciones del Museo del Prado. S. XVI a Goya, Arte en tiempos de guerra Jornadas de Arte (14º.2008.Madrid), 2009.

Rodríguez Arana, Esperanza, La técnica mural de Corrado Giaquinto tras la restauración de los frescos de la Capilla Real, Reales Sitios, XLIX, 2012, pp. 48-70 [52 f.4a].

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1146.
Corrado. / 1146. Batalla de Clavijo. / Se ve a Santiago combatiendo en un caballo blanco. / Alto 2 pies, 9 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 10 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 121.
121.-La batalla de Clavijo. / alto 0,77. Ancho 1,36.-Lienzo. / Se ve á Santiago, sobre un caballo blanco, combatiendo por los cristianos y llenando de espanto á los musulmanes. / Boceto del fresco pintado en la bóveda á la entrada de la capilla R. del Pal. de Madrid.

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Quarto del Infante Don Francisco / Primera pieza [...] {21888} dos varas menos tercia de largo vara de alto = Batalla de moros con Santiago en vn caballo blanco = Borron de Corrado

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s. n..
Sacristia [...] {588} Vara y media de largo, por vara escasa de alto. Santiago: diseño de un platillo de la Capilla. Ydem [Corràdo] ... 2000

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

América: Tierra de jinetes. Del gaucho al cowboy, siglos XIX-XX
México D.F.
17.04.2018 - 21.10.2018

Corrado Giaquinto
04.04.2006 - 25.06.2006

Tha majesty of spain. Royal collections from the Museo del Prado & patrimonio nacional (La majestad de España)
Jackson MS
01.03.2001 - 03.09.2001

Paintings in Spain in the age of enligtenment: Goya and his contemporaries
Indianapolis IN
23.11.1996 - 19.01.1997

Displayed objects +


Lances / Spears




Update date: 05-08-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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