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The Birth of the Virgin
Leonardo, Jusepe
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Leonardo, Jusepe

Calatayud, Zaragoza (Spain), 1601 - Zaragoza (Spain), 1653

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The Birth of the Virgin

Ca. 1642. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Jusepe Leonardo was born in Calatayud in 1601. He soon moved to Madrid, became a pupil of Pedro de las Cuevas and lived in his house between 1616 and 1621. While collaborating on the decoration of the Buen Retiro Palace in 1635, he was in constant contact with the court’s painters and collections, which informed him of the influence of Velázquez. His refined sensibility to colour makes him one of the most interesting artists of his generation. However, his career was unfortunately cut short due to madness in the mid-1640s, which led to his subsequent death during his stay in the Hospital of Zaragoza in 1656.

Very little is known about this painting. We know that it was acquired for the Museo Nacional de la Trinidad in 1864 through the Royal Decree of 17 May from that same year. We also know that it was valued at 10,000 reales. When the museum was dissolved, it was transferred to the Museo del Prado. The painting has been dated to the early 1840s (the artist’s most mature period) and is undoubtedly one of his finest works, as exemplified by its budding dynamism, its naturalism, and its perfect execution. From an elevated point of view, the artist creates a wide perspective that results in three shots of different depths, for each of which he employs a differentiated and particularly successful treatment of light. The first group forms a kind of circumference, which, along with more intense lighting, serves to highlight the baby Virgin. Thus, it emphasises devotion to Mary, which was quite intense in 17th-century Spain. In the midground, Saint Anne lies in bed. Meanwhile, in the background, Saint Joachim emerges, against a backlight, through a doorway, which becomes another source of light. This has led to the suggestion of a possible influence on Velázquez’s Las Meninas. Leonardo demonstrates his expertise as a colourist with bright, lively shades applied with thick, loose brushstrokes, all without neglecting the quality of the drawing. Thus, he creates figures with well-placed foreshortenings and whose particularly beautiful heads have been rightly highlighted and attributed to Velázquez’s influence. The artist is also careful to include the naturalistic details that give the scene the quality of everyday life. Two other works from this period have also been attributed to the artist. One of them is a small work, most likely a preparatory sketch, from the Marquess of La Almunia’s collection. On the contrary, the other one has a more disputed attribution (in competition with Valdés Leal) and is located at the Monastery of El Escorial.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velázquez, Río de Janeiro, Arte Viva, 2000, p.189

Technical data

Inventory number
Leonardo, Jusepe
The Birth of the Virgin
Ca. 1642
Height: 180 cm; Width: 122 cm
Acquired from Bernardo Hérnandez Callejo, 1864; Museo de la Trinidad, 1864-1872

Bibliography +

Mayer, August L., Historia de la Pintura Española, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1928, pp. 406.

Couto, J., Pinturas Espanholas Dos Seculos XIV,XV e XVI, Museu Das Janelas Verdes, Lisboa, 1940.

Justi, Carl, Velázquez y su siglo, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1953, pp. 399.

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

Mazón de la Torre, María Angeles, Jusepe Leonardo y su tiempo, Institución "Fernando el Católico", Zaragoza, 1977, pp. 266/ lám.43.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Exposicion Jusepe Martinez y Su Tiempo, Museo e Instituto de H.Camon Azna, Zaragoza, 1982, pp. nº10.

Angulo Íñiguez, Diego; Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Historia de la pintura española: escuela madrileña del segundo tercio del siglo XVII, Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1983, pp. 84,93/ lám.107.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 364.

Rijksmuseum, Velazquez en Zijn Tijd: zeventiende-eeuwse Spaanse schilderkunst uit het Prado, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1985, pp. 82.

Fernandez-Galiano, Luis, El Espacio Privado. Cinco Siglos en Veinte Palabras, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1990.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

En torno a Velázquez: pintura española del siglo de Oro, Apelles Ltd., Londres, 1999, pp. 122/ lám.5.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velázquez, Arte Viva, Río de Janeiro, 2000, pp. 189.

Encrucijada de culturas, Ibercaja, Zaragoza, 2008.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 123.
Autor José Leonardo / 123. Lienzo = El nacimiento de la Virgen / Alto 1,80 ancho 1,21 fig./ Adquirido por Orn. de la dirección Gral. fecha 17 de mayo de 1864 en la cantidad de 10.000 rs.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 768a.

Exhibitions +

Zaragoza y Aragón: Encrucijada de Culturas
05.06.2008 - 19.10.2008

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

El espacio privado
05.10.1990 - 06.01.1991

Update date: 02-10-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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