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The dead Christ
Escalante, Juan Antonio de Frías y
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Escalante, Juan Antonio de Frías y

Córdoba, 1633 - Madrid, 1669

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The dead Christ

1663. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

In this painting, following His crucifixion and descent from the Cross, the body of Christ lies upon a white cloth. On His left is a beam of the cross bearing the sign that identifies Him as King of the Jews and the skull that, according to tradition, indicated that Calvary had been the burial site of Adam. At the other end of the painting, a washbasin recalls the tradition of the arma Christi, and in the background a landscape is visible. The composition is constructed through the use of colour, applied with delicate, confident agility, an approach that proves effective in conveying the highly emotional content of this type of image. Our gaze passes slowly over the motionless body, a response facilitated by the framing effect of the white shroud and the horizontal format of the painting. The fact that the subject has been placed in the near foreground enables us to see clearly the subtle variations in colour and light with which the musculature is modelled.The subject of the dead Christ was frequent in Golden Age Spain and much loved by the faithful, who found it propitious for meditating on Jesus' sacrifice. The artistic medium in which it achieved greatest popular success, however, was polychrome sculpture. Its popularity was doubtless due to such works' three-dimensional character and the expressive possibilities of polychromed wood, which together accentuated the feeling of being present before a real body and not simply a representation. Indeed, sculptors such as Juan Sánchez Barba (1602-73) and, above all, Gregorio Fernández (1576-1636), have long been considered among the greatest creators of religious art in Spain during the Golden Age.Juan Escalante evokes these sculptural models in his placement of the body so close in the foreground and in the elongated format of the painting. He relies on Venetian and Flemish models, however, in its execution. His free application of colour caused the writer and painter Antonio Palomino to draw a comparison with Titian, when he described a painting by Escalante in the convent of the Holy Spirit in Madrid thus: But where he exceeded even himself is in an effigy of Christ our Lord deceased [...] for it truly seemed to be the work of Titian. Half a century later, the same work still hung in that convent, where the sculptor Felipe de Castro viewed it and also remarked on its similarities with Titian. It is likely that the painting they were referring to was precisely this one, which entered the Museo del Prado in 1910. Even if the subject of their comments was another, the present painting would nonetheless be equally deserving of their praise and the comparison with Titian.A possible source for the painting has been identified as a print by the Flemish engraver Schelte a Bolswert (1586-1659), which reproduced a work by Anthony van Dyck depicting the Virgin and angels lamenting over the dead Christ. This composition was much imitated by Spanish artists. The relationship between the painting and the print, however, is merely generic, and while it is possible that Escalante knew the print or some of the painted versions based on it, the differences are sufficiently great that this particular painting may be considered Escalante's own work. Furthermore, there were several sculptural works representing the dead Christ located in Madrid or nearby, including at least four credited to Gregorio Fernández, which were a more likely source of inspiration for Escalante than the print (Portús, J.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 126).

Technical data

Inventory number
Escalante, Juan Antonio de Frías y
The dead Christ
Height: 84 cm; Width: 162 cm; Base/bottom: 2 cm
Adquisición a Eladia Cañibano, 1910

Bibliography +

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, Escalante en Navarra y otras notas sobre el pintor, Principe de Viana, 2, 1941, pp. 8.

Bédat, C., Un manuscrito del escultor don Felipe de Castro ¿esbozo inédito de una parte del 'Viaje de España' de Don Antonio Ponz?, Archivo español de arte, XLI, 1968, pp. 59-64.

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

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 208.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Carreño, Rizi, Herrera y la pintura madrileña de su tiempo, Ministerio de Cultura. Banco Herrero, Madrid, 1986, pp. 307.

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Acisclo Antonio1653-1726, Vidas, Alianza Editorial, 1986, pp. 226.

Ayala Mallory, Nina, Del Greco a Murillo: la pintura española del Siglo de Oro, 1, Alianza, Madrid, 1991, pp. 236/ lám.208.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., De pintura y pintores: la configuración de los modelos visua, Alianza, 1993, pp. 55.

Buendía, José Rogelio, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Lunwerg Editores, Madrid, 1994, pp. 137.

La Pintura Española, Electa, Milán, 1995, pp. 368/ lám.446.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Velázquez, Rubens, Lorrain: Malerei am Hof Philipps IV, Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deu, Bonn, 1999, pp. 238.

Delgado Martínez, Natalia, Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante (1633-1669), Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 2001, pp. 273.

Navarrete Prieto, Benito, Fuentes y modelos de la pintura barroca madrileña, Editorial Arco/Libros, 2008, pp. 88-89.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 126-127 nº24.

Jakstat, S, 'J.A de Frías Escalante. The Dead Christ' En:, Staatliche Museen ; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 2016, pp. 238-239 n.84.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1910. Núm. 697.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1942-1996. Núm. 697.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1332.
Autor: Juan Antonio Escalante / 1332. Asunto: Cristo yacente / Dimensiones: alto 0,60; ancho 1,62 / Adquirido por el Estado, remitido a este museo por R.O. de 19 de marzo de 1910.

Inscriptions +

Ioannes Anto. Escalante fat anno de 1663

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

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Velázquez, Rubens, Claudio de Lorena y la pintura en la corte de Felipe IV
07.10.1999 - 23.01.2000

Update date: 17-09-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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