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The Dead Christ supported by an Angel
Cano, Alonso
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Cano, Alonso

Granada, 1601 - Granada, 1667

Cano, Alonso See author's file

The Dead Christ supported by an Angel

1646 - 1652. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Cano lived in Madrid on two different occasions. The first (1638-1651), during which he was able to study the Royal Collection, absolutely transformed his concept of color and brushstrokes. Contact with Flemish and Italian painting, as well as his friendship with Velázquez, were determinant in that radical change. The present Dead Christ Supported by an Angel belongs to the end of that stay and clearly exemplifies the degree of refinement he attained.

This work’s singular iconography does not stem from the Gospels, but from the so-called Christ of Saint Gregory, an Oriental icon that represented that pope’s vision of the dead Christ flanked by two angels. According to tradition, praying before that image earned Indulgences for the dead. During the Renaissance, this funerary image gained strength as an alternative to the Holy Burial or the Pietà- one that included the supernatural presence of angels as yet another indication of Jesus’ divinity. Cano created a personal prototype in which a single angel holds the dead body and shows it to the viewer. To do so, the artist employed a customary practice of his time, drawing on various engravings. He seems to have combined a print by Hendrick Goltzius after a model by Bartolomeus Spranger with another by an unknown author that was later copied by Italian artist Giuseppe Diamantini. Thus, he obtained an original iconographic prototype by reworking earlier graphic sources. One of Cano’s first biographers, Antonio Palomino, already mentions this process of recycling as the basis for his rich repertoire.

The results are stunning, not only because there is barely any visible trace of the antecedents, but also because of the composition’s balance and the exquisite overall color. The subtle suggestion of a crepuscular landscape surrounds the group, in which the warm tones of the angel contrast with the bluish cold of Christ’s lifeless body. This subject offered the painter an excellent opportunity to depict a male nude. The elegant treatment of the body, its softness and stylized forms are the most characteristic achievements of Cano’s painting, and his relation to nudes makes him exceptional in Siglo de Oro painting.

The image transmits a serenity that is not at all common in a subject that lends itself to pathos and pain. Cano offers a contained vision of the tragedy of death in keeping with the piety practiced by the courtly elite. It has been suggested that this painting reflects Jesuit practices or that it may even have Eucharistic connotations. All that is certain is that it must have been made for a private client. It is first documented in the collection of the Marquis of La Ensenada in the 18th century. From there, it was acquired by King Charles III in 1769, and subsequently became a part of Spain’s Royal Collections, from which it entered the Museo del Prado. It must have been quite successful in its time, as there are known copies and versions, including one at the Museo del Prado (P2637). Period documentation also mentions others in private collections in Madrid, including one that belonged to José de Lezama.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, p.144-145


Technical data

Related artworks

The dead Christ supported by an Angel
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Inventory number
Cano, Alonso
The Dead Christ supported by an Angel
1646 - 1652
Height: 178.3 cm; Width: 119.8 cm
Royal Collection (Collection of marqués de la Ensenada, Madrid; adquirido por Carlos III, 1769; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, paso al dormitorio del rey, 1772, s.n.; Palacio Real Nuevo, Madrid, segundo gabinete, 1794, s.n.; Palacio Real, Madrid, pieza grande inmediata al dormitorio, 1814-1818, s.n.)

Bibliography +

Inventario Nuevo Palacio Real, Madrid, 1772.

Palacio Nuevo (Madrid), Madrid, 1794.

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario historico de los mas ilustres profesores de las, en la imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, Madrid, 1800, pp. 219.

Inventario. Real Palacio de Madrid. 1814, Madrid, 1814.

Inventario de las Pinturas del Museo Hecho a la Muerte del Rey, Madrid, 1834, pp. 12.

Solvay, Lucien, L'Art espagnol: précéde d'une introduction sur l'Espagne et les espagnols, Jules Rouam, Paris, 1887, pp. 219.

Lefort, Paul, La Peinture Espagnole, Librairies Imprimeries Reunies, París, 1893, pp. lám. 91.

Quintero Atauri, Pelayo, Antolínez, pintor sevillano, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 11, 1903, pp. 220.

Sentenach y Cabañas, Narciso, Adiciones y notas al catálogo del Museo del Prado, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 12, 1904, pp. 122.

Lozoya, Juan de Contreras y López de Ayala, Marqués de, Historia del arte hispánico, Salvat, Barcelona, 1945, pp. 337.

Martinez Chumillas, Manuel, Alonso Cano: estudio monográfico de la obra del insigne que fue de la catedral de Granada, Carlos Jaime, Madrid, 1949, pp. 95/lám. IV.

Alonso Cano: estudio y catálogo de la exposición, Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 1954.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano: painter, sculptor, architect, Princeton University, Nueva Jersey, 1955, pp. 151.

Pérez Sánchez, A.E, Breves novedades en torno a Cano. Un nuevo antecedente grabado. En:, III Centenario de Alonso Cano en Granada, 1970, pp. 265-273 [265-268].

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

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España, VI, Madrid, 1972, pp. 33.

Rodríguez Culebras, Ramón., El Rostro de Cristo en el Arte Español., Urbion, Madrid, 1978, pp. 234.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Panorama de la pintura española desde los Reyes Católicos a, Servicio de Publicaciones del Instituto de Coopera, Madrid, 1980, pp. 66.

Prinz Von Hohenzollern, J.G., Von Greco Bis Goya. Vier Jahrhunderte Spanische Malerei, Haus Der Kunst, Munich, 1982, pp. 112.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano: pintor, escultor y arquitecto, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1983, pp. 60,118 n.18 fg.36.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 115.

Male, Emile, El Barroco. Arte Religioso del Siglo XVII. Italia. Francia., Encuentro, Madrid, 1985, pp. lám. 109.

Rijksmuseum, Velazquez en Zijn Tijd: zeventiende-eeuwse Spaanse schilderkunst uit het Prado, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1985, pp. 88.

Réau, Louis, Iconographie de L'Art Chretien. T. I. Introduction Generale, Kraus Reprint, Millwood, 1988, pp. 527.

Fernández Miranda y Lozana, Fernando, Inventarios Reales. Carlos III. 1789-1790. Vol. I, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1988, pp. 31.

Pérez Sánchez, A.E., Nuovi studi su Paolo Veronese. Convegno internazionale di studi. Veronese e la Spagna nel Seicento, Venecia, 1988, pp. 106/lám. 83.

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Alonso Cano: espiritualidad y modernidad artística: [IV Centenario], Junta de Andalucía, Consejería de CulturaTf Editor, Sevilla, 2001.

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The Heart of Spain : A Rare Exhibition of Spain's Religious, Alexandria Museum of Art, Louisiana, 2003, pp. 27.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel, Alonso Cano 'Dead Christ supported by an Angel' En:, Sacred Spain. Art and belief in the Spanish world, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009, pp. 238-239.

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Hellwig,K, 'A.Cano. The Dead Christ supported by an angel' En:, Staatliche Museen ; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung., 2016, pp. 236-237 n.82.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 166.
Cano./ 166. El cadaver de Nuestro Señor./Sostenido en una peña por un angel que estiende sobre el sus alas. (C.L.) (C.N.)/ Alto 6 pies, 4 pulg, 6 lin; ancho 4 pies, 4 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 166.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 672.

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. s. n..
Paso del dormitorio del Rey [...] {12984} =Ensenada= Otro [quadro] de Christo difunto sostenido por vn angel de dos varas y tercia de alto y vara y media de ancho original de Alonso Cano

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. s. n..
Pieza grande inmediata al Dormitorio / Techo cuando Hernan Cortes presenta a los / Reyes Católicos el Nuevo Mundo y sus produciones [...] {21624} Cristo muerto en los brazos de un Angel = Cano

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. s. n..
Segundo Gavinete / {223} Dos varas y quarta de alto y vara y media de ancho: Un Cristo muerto en los brazos de un Angel. Alonso Cano ... 8000

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Velázquez and the Golden Age
16.11.2018 - 03.03.2019

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

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

Sacred Spain - España Sagrada: Arte y Creencia en el Mundo Hispano
Indianapolis IN
11.10.2009 - 03.01.2010

El corazón de España. Arte y símbolo religioso - The Heart of Spain
Alexandria LA
03.09.2003 - 30.11.2003

El arte de Alonso Cano: Espiritualidad y modernidad
14.12.2001 - 19.03.2002

La pintura española en su Siglo de Oro
16.03.1989 - 16.05.1989

Displayed objects +

Objects from Christ's Passion

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

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