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The Birth of the Sun and the Triumph of Bacchus
Giaquinto, Corrado
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Giaquinto, Corrado

Molfetta, Apulia, 1703 - Nápoles, 1766

The Birth of the Sun and the Triumph of Bacchus

1761. Oil on canvas, 168 x 141.5 cm.

This is a sketch of the fresco that Corrado Giaquinto painted in the former stairway at the Madrid’s Royal Palace, which is now the Hall of Columns. That fresco, his last work at the Royal Palace, is undoubtedly one of the finest paintings from Giaquinto’s Spanish period.

He concluded it in 1762, so the sketch presented here must have been made slightly earlier. At the top is the figure of Apollo, identified with Sol (Helios), god of light and by extension of purity, the enemy of darkness and bad deeds. He is shown holding a flaming torch and with the solar disc that identifies him. Above the disc are the signs of the zodiac, reflecting Apollo’s rule as the divinity who orders time. His image is one of a benevolent god, identified here with the Spanish monarch. Apollo’s role as god of light was interpreted in a moral and spiritual sense and he was thus seen as the emblem of order and legality, and hence of good government.

Below are the Four Seasons, positioned in a zigzag arrangement. The figure at the top, set slightly further into the pictorial space, is the goddess Ceres, riding a chariot pulled by dragons and crowned by a nymph. This figure represents summer. Behind her are two little putti, one with a flaming torch and the other with ears of corn. Autumn is represented by the god Bacchus who receives his offering of wine while seated on a donkey, as if on a throne, in a manner that recalls Giaquinto’s Bacchanal, 1735, in the Galleria Pitti in Florence. Further down on the left, representing spring, is Venus, recognisable from the presence of Cupid asleep on her lap, as well as by her doves. She rejects a man, representing harsh winter, leaning on an iron staff and accompanied by a boy wearing a helmet.

Giaquinto departed for Naples before 10 April 1762, motivated by a variety of circumstances. First among these was his delicate health. We know that Giaquinto had already suffered two strokes before returning to Italy, for which he took medicinal baths to recover mobility in his braccio addolorato e torpe (painful and immobile arm). The artist was to suffer two further strokes in Naples, the last of which caused his death on 18 April 1766. Besides his health problems, Giaquinto was adversely affected by the radical changes in art that took place during his final years in Spain, as well as by the arrival of new artists. The most important of these were painters Anton Raphael Mengs and Giambattista Tiepolo, and architect Francesco Sabatini who took on responsibilities previously assigned to Giaquinto, such as interior decoration and the direction of the Royal Tapestry Factory, Madrid.

A few years before his departure, the first criticism of Giaquinto’s art began to appear in print. It focused on two aspects of his work: a lack of clarity in his treatment of subjects, and an overly facile style that contrasted with the rigour defended by lovers of the Greco-Latin aesthetic that arrived with Mengs (Úbeda de los Cobos, A.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 244).

Technical data

Inventory number
Giaquinto, Corrado
The Birth of the Sun and the Triumph of Bacchus
High/Height: 168 cm.; Width: 141.5 cm.
Royal Collection (New Royal Palace, Madrid, “antecámara de las señoras infantas”, 1794, s.n.; Royal Palace, Madrid, “habitación del infante don Carlos-tercera pieza”, 1814-1818, s.n.).

Bibliography +

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catalogo de los cuadros, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1952, pp. 229.

Griseri, Andreina, Antologia di artisti. 'Due ritratti romani: Un Giaquinto e un Guglielmi', Paragone, 83, 1956, pp. 61-67 [62].

D'Orsi, Mario, Corrado Giaquinto, Societa Dante Alighieri, Roma, 1958, pp. 105.

Bologna, Ferdinando, Roviale Spagnuolo e la Pittura Napoletana del Cinquecento, Scientifiche Italiane, Napoles, 1959, pp. 131.

Onieva, A. J., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Offo, Madrid, 1972, pp. 39.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972, pp. 239.

Bermejo de la Rica, A., La Mitologia en el Museo del Prado, Editora Nacional, Madrid, 1974, pp. 111.

Urrea Fernández, Jesús, La pintura italiana del siglo XVIII en España, Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad, Valladolid, 1977, pp. 126.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 243.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 243.

El Real Sitio de Aranjuez y el arte cortesano del siglo XVII, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1987, pp. 245.

Arnáiz, José Manuel, Los pintores de la Ilustración, Ayuntamiento, Concejalía de Cultura, Madrid, 1988, pp. 55.

Magariños, A., Las Raices de Todas las Cosas : Exposicion con Motivo del Di, Ministerio de Obras Publicas, Madrid, 1989, pp. 114, nº51.

Painting in Spain during the later eighteenth century, The National Gallery, Londres, 1989, pp. 28, nº1.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Morales y Marín, José Luis, Pintura en España: 1750-1808, Cátedra, Madrid, 1994, pp. 97 / lám. 60.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds Mercator Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 302.

The Majesty of Spain. Royal Collections From the Museo del P, Mississipi Commission For Internati, Jackson,Mississipi, 2001, pp. 56.

Pérez Sánchez, A. E. (ed.), Corrado Giaquinto y España, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 2006, pp. 248.

Urrea Fernández, Jesús, Relaciones artísticas hispano-romanas en el siglo XVIII, Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia, Madrid, 2006, pp. 83.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Mus, 2011, pp. 170-171.

Ubeda de los Cobos, A, Corrado Giaquinto 'The birth of the Sun and the Triumph of Bacchus' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 244.

Sancho, J.L, 'Corrado Giaquinto. El Sol anima la naturaleza y las Estaciones' En:, Carlos III Majestad y ornato en los escenarios de un rey ilustrado, Patrimonio Nacional,, Madrid, 2016, pp. 161-164 n.45.

Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s. n..
Antecamara de las Sªs. Ynfantas [...] {434} Dos de dos varas escasas de alto y vara y media de ancho: El primº. borron de la Voveda del Salon de Bailes: el segundo de la Escalera àseis mil reales cada uno. Corràdo ... 12.000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Habitacion del Señor Infante Don Carlos [...] Tercera pieza [...] {21827} dos de dos varas y quarta de alto una y media de ancho = el triunfo de Baco - y el segundo alegoria - Corrado

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 394.
Corrado. / 394. Alegoría. / Nacimiento del sol y alegría de la naturaleza. Boceto del techo de uno de los Salones del mediodía del Real Palacio de Madrid. / Alto 6 pies; ancho 5 pies.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 118.
Alegoría. / Alto 1,68. Ancho 1,40.-Lienzo. / Nacimiento del sol y alegría de la naturaleza. / Boceto del techo de uno de los salones del Mediodía del R, Pal. de Madrid.

Exhibitions +

Carlos III y las Residencias Reales. Ornato y Majestad en los escenarios del Rey Ilustrado
02.12.2016 - 07.05.2017

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

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

Pintura Española del Siglo XVIII
14.03.1989 - 31.05.1989

Location +

Room 023 (On Display)

Update date: 07-02-2018 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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