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The Holy Family
Carducho, Vicente
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Carducho, Vicente

Florence (Italy), 1576 - Madrid (Spain), 1638

Carducho, Vicente See author's file

The Holy Family

1631. Oil on canvas.
Room 007A

Vicente Carducho is a paradigmatic figure in Spanish painting from the early decades of the seventeenth century, a period of transition from the Tuscan-Roman mannerism to so-called early naturalism. In this context, the works of Carducho, who trained in the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial together with his brother, Bartolomé, may be seen as prolonging the Tuscan traditions in their precise outlines, compositional clarity, monumentality of figures and cool palette. These aspects are also evident in works by Italian painters from the same period, which could be seen at the court in the northern city of Valladolid and, to a limited extent, in Madrid thanks to the Carducho brothers´ activities as art dealers. This image of the Holy Family, accompanied by the Virgin´s parents, Saints Joaquim and Anne, is marked by its superb execution which, despite the late date of its creation, maintains the ideals of narrative clarity and visual forcefulness that the painter learned at El Escorial.The composition is endowed with a subtle equilibrium; the figures are perfectly framed by the space of the canvas and arranged in a marked hierarchy that is reinforced by sharp lighting focused on the Christ Child and His mother. The other figures are less clearly delineated, particularly in the case of the two male saints who are immersed in a dark background, with Saint Joseph practically in darkness. The Virgin and Child´s eyes meet in a complicit gaze, the symbolism of which is continued in the fruit they reach for in the basket on Saint Anne´s lap. Jesus is taking up an apple -the symbol of humankind´s original sin, which will be redeemed by His death on the cross- while Mary´s hand rests on a bunch of grapes, whose meaning is tied to the Eucharist and Christ´s Redemption. At the time, the Virgin´s serene, melancholic gaze would have been recongised as a premonition of Jesus´ future Passion. The intense concentration expressed on the subjects´ faces, heightened by the neutral background, is inscribed within a long-held Spanish spiritual tradition that focused on the Passion, this expression is also evident in works by Luis de Morales (c.1510-c.1586) and El Greco. Carducho must have been familiar with excellent versions of this subject by the latter painter, which he may have seen in Toledo where he frequently worked. Despite the differences between the works of these two painters, there are nevertheless interesting visual parallels between this Holy Family and those produced by El Greco.The painting entered the Prado in 1911 from the Ministry of Finance, where it had been listed as an Italian painting with no indication of its provenance. Owing to its dimensions and the devotional subject, it must have been conceived for a chapel, perhaps a private one. Carducho was an enormously prolific painter and his studio produced many works; the year he completed this painting, Carducho was also working on two commissions that were fundamental in his career. One of these was the decoration of the Carthusian monastery of Santa María de El Paular, north-west of Madrid. This monumental series of 54 paintings was the largest project of its nature in the seventeenth century. The commission reflected the fame and esteem the artist had attained, a reputation solidified shortly afterwards with the publication of his treatise Diálogos de la pintura (Dialogues on painting) in 1633. In this key work on the history of Spanish art, Carducho reaffirmed his understanding of painting, consonant with the principles of Tuscan classicism (Ruiz, L.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 146).

Technical data

Inventory number
Carducho, Vicente
The Holy Family
Height: 150 cm; Width: 115 cm
Ministry of Finance, 1911

Bibliography +

Angulo Íñiguez, D.; Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Historia de la pintura española: escuela madrileña del primer tercio del siglo XVII, Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1969, pp. nº363.

Puente, Joaquín de la, Exposicion de Arte Español, Asahi Shimbun, Tokio, 1970, pp. nº31.

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

Volk, Mary Crawford, Vicencio Carducho and seventeenth century castilian painting., Garland Publisching, 1977, pp. 254 n.93.

Puente, Joaquín de la, Del Greco a Goya, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1978.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 122.

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1993, pp. 52.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº1338.

Esplendores de Espanha de el Greco a Velazquez, Arte Viva, Rio Janeiro, 2000, pp. 183.

El arte en la España del Quijote, Empresa Pública Don Quijote de la Mancha 2005, Ciudad Real, 2005, pp. 112, nº5.

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado., Tokio - Osaka, 2006.

Gayo, Mª Dolores; Jover de Celis, Maite, Evolución de las preparaciones en la pintura sobre lienzo de los siglos XVII y XVIII en España., Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXVIII, 2010, pp. 39-59.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 146-147, nº34.

Pascual Chenel, Á.; Rodríguez Rebollo, A., Vicente Carducho. Dibujos Catálogo razonado, Biblioteca Nacional de España - Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, Madrid, 2015, pp. 288 f.81.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1338.
Autor Vicente Carducho (?) / 1338. Asunto: La Virgen con el Niño Jesús en actitud de coger una fruta de las que en un cestillo le ofrece Sta. Isabel, arrodillada. En el fondo Zacarías y San José. / Dimensiones. Alto 1,50 Ancho 1,14. [Al margen del nº 1335], Procede del Ministerio de Hacienda incorporado al Museo por Reales órdenes de 15 de febrero y 10 de marzo de 1911 lo mismo que los tres siguientes

Inscriptions +

Vo C.1631
Signed and dated. Front, Lower right area

T. 1338
Inscribed in blue. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

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

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
14.07.2006 - 15.10.2006

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
24.03.2006 - 02.07.2006

El arte en la España del Quijote
Ciudad Real
03.11.2005 - 26.02.2006

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

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
25.02.1994 - 27.03.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
21.01.1994 - 20.02.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
17.12.1993 - 16.01.1994

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
12.11.1993 - 12.12.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
08.10.1993 - 07.11.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
03.09.1993 - 03.10.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
29.07.1993 - 29.08.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
25.06.1993 - 25.07.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
21.05.1993 - 20.06.1993

Pintores del reinado de Felipe III
15.04.1993 - 06.05.1993

Location +

Room 007A (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Update date: 26-05-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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