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The Immaculate Conception
Castillo Saavedra, Antonio del
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Castillo Saavedra, Antonio del

Córdoba (Spain), 1616 - Córdoba (Spain), 1668

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The Immaculate Conception

Ca. 1645. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

All parts of this extraordinarily meticulous work are related to each other from a formal and iconographic standpoint. The Virgin appears in the foreground, where she occupies a considerable portion of the pictorial surface. This insures her powerful presence, and the painter emphasizes it with a very elaborate frame that fills the image with meaning. There are two clearly differentiated parts, the upper of which is filled with light, including a triangular ray whose apex lies outside the range of the image. This beam of light directly evokes the idea of the Divine Wisdom that encompasses the Virgin and a highly symmetrical crown of light expands behind her head.

Beyond this frame, Castillo has constructed another, outer frame with four complete angels and the heads of another twelve, all arranged in a symmetrical manner. The fully bodied angels appear on each side of Mary bearing an iris, a lily, a palm and an olive branch—plants associated with her and with the concepts of purity, peace and glory. Immediately beneath the Virgin is a head that rises above two other symmetrically placed ones, with two more on the sides. Mary’s feet rest on a Moon whose very clear circle encompasses an infernal dragon at the bottom, and this breaks the painting’s strict equilibrium.

The second part, which appears beneath the Virgin and her angelical pedestal, presents the Earth with a very interesting mixture of symbolic allusions and local references. A fountain and tower on the right evoke Mary’s Litanies, while the left is occupied by a landscape with a bridge over a river. Rather than an invention by the artist, this is the famous Roman bridge of Cordoba, which was defended by the Calahorra Tower and constituted one of that city’s main topographical features. The part of this work dedicated to the Earth contains some very delicate elements that reveal why Castillo is considered one of the most original Spanish landscape painters of his time.

The attribution of this canvas to Castillo is based on its typological, compositional and chromatic similarities to various works know to be by his hand, including a Virgin of the Rosary at Cordoba Cathedral. In the context of his oeuvre, this Immaculate Virgin is usually considered an early work, painted when the artist was barely thirty and was emerging as an important figure on the local art scene.


Technical data

Inventory number
Castillo Saavedra, Antonio del
The Immaculate Conception
Ca. 1645
Height: 192.5 cm; Width: 131 cm
Sotheby's, London, 7-12-1994; Óscar Alzaga Villaamil Collection, Madrid; donation of Óscar Alzaga Villaamil to the Prado Museum, 2017

Bibliography +

Sotheby London, Lote 33, 1994 7 de Diciembre, pp. lote 33.

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Navarrete Prieto, B., Pintura española recuperada por el coleccionismo privado, Fundación Fondo de Cultura de Sevilla, Sevilla, 1996, pp. nº 46.

Nancarrow, M., Navarrete Prieto, B., Antonio del Castillo, Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 220-21.

Palencia, J. M. en Banda y Vargas, Antonio de la, Inmaculada. 150 años de la proclamación del dogma, Cajasur, Córdoba, 2004, pp. 380-81.

Navarrete Prieto, B., García de la Torre, F., Antonio del Castillo. Dibujos. Catálogo razonado, Fundación Marcelino Botin, Santander, 2008, pp. 230, 232.

García de la Torre F., Navarrete Prieto, B., Antonio del Castillo. En la senda del naturalismo, Junta de Andalucía, Sevilla, 2016, pp. nº 26.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Antonio del Castillo, "La Inmaculada Concepción", en: La donación Óscar Alzaga, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2017, pp. 34-39.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Antonio del Castillo, La Inmaculada Concepción, h. 1645, en: Memoria de actividades 2017, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2018, pp. 102-104.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2946.

Exhibitions +

The Óscar Alzaga Donation
07.11.2017 - 25.06.2018

Displayed objects +

Attributes of the Virgin / Attributes of Mary

Update date: 13-01-2022 | Registry created on 19-09-2017

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