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The Madness of Joanna of Castile
Vallés, Lorenzo
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Vallés, Lorenzo

Madrid, 1831 - Roma, 1910

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The Madness of Joanna of Castile

1866. Oil on canvas. Room A

This extraordinary historical painting -as appealing as it is disquieting- is one of the first and best examples of the fascination that Joanna of Castile (1479-1555) held for nineteenthcentury Spanish painters. The daughter of the Catholic Monarchs (Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon) and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Charles I of Spain), Joanna had an unlucky life. As the story goes, she was obsessed with extreme jealousy over her husband, Philip the Fair, even after his death. Her figure provided an incomparable source of dramatic material for literary, theatrical, operatic and artistic works, whose culmination was Francisco Pradilla´s painting from 1877, Doña Juana la Loca (Joanna the Mad), now in the Prado (P4584). Pradilla´s canvas is a supreme synthesis of the ingredients of her story that most genuinely reflects the tradition of Romanticism: the eternal tension between love, honour and death. Vallés´s painting was awarded second prize in the 1867 National Exhibition of Fine Arts, an official biannual contest, which, like the Paris Salon, helped promote young artists and the work awarded the most prestigious medal was purchased by the State. Historical painting typically triumphed as the preferred genre in official circles; it became a vehicle for reaffirming national identity through the evocation of the most significant and glorious episodes from Spain´s past, with a particular focus on the reign of the Catholic monarchs and Spain´s imperialist expansion under Charles V. In the catalogue accompanying the 1867 exhibition, this painting was glossed with the following text, chosen by the painter himself: The Queen ordered the corpse of her husband, Philip the Fair, be removed from its coffin and placed in their chamber on a richly bedecked bed. Recalling what a certain Carthusian monk had told her about a King who resurrected fourteen years after his death and his body had been kept unburied, she did not separate herself for an instant from his side, hoping for the happy moment when she would see him restored to life. All the insistence of the most respectable personages from her court was incapable of dissuading her from her obsession, and she always responded to them by telling them to be silent and to wait for her lord to awaken. (Letters of Pietro Martire d´Anghiera). Thus, the queen, a permanent sentinel over the corpse of her beloved liege, is captured splendidly by the painter in a disturbing spiritual calm, holding firm to the belief that her spouse is about to wake up. She remains standing before a large chair bearing her coat of arms, next to the bed in which Philip the Fair lies, visible through an opening in the partially drawn curtains of the canopy. With a delicate and tender gesture, the queen commands two noblemen and an ecclesiastic from her court to be silent; they attempt fruitlessly to convince her to abandon her absurd attitude. The various wilted flowers scattered on the rug complete the serene poetry of the scene, filling it with a moving and restrained solemnity that provokes sincere empathy for the queen in her delirium. Wearing a headdress and a sumptuous velvet dress, with a rosary hanging from her waist and her hair dishevelled, her figure is the central focus of the composition; her prominent role is concentrated exclusively in the eloquently narrative gesturing of her hands -splendidly sculpted by the light- with the other characters and furnishings serving as mere accessories. This is all executed in a broad technique that is enormously rich in pictorial terms, corresponding to the austere and restrained realism of the era, and with its severe though harmonious colour palette reflecting the best Spanish tradition. The result is a scene of great dramatic effect that is concentrated on the attitudes of the characters, whose faces, in the directness of their representation, seem almost familiarly natural, and surely must belong to models whom Vallés painted from life. As is especially apparent in the figure of the queen, the composition´s greatest achievement resides in Vallés´s sober use of light, which he capably directs in such a way as to produce the modelling on the figures; to integrate them into the surrounding space; and to suggest, convincingly, the heavy, mysterious atmosphere surrounding the king´s deathbed (Díez, J. L.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 236).

Technical data

Related artworks

Demencia de doña Juana de Castilla
Phototype on card, After 1905
Inventory number
Vallés, Lorenzo
The Madness of Joanna of Castile
Height: 238 cm.; Width: 313 cm.
Acquisition Museo de la Trinidad, 1867-1872; Museo del Prado, 1872-1896; Museo de Arte Moderno, 1896-1971

Bibliography +

Catalogo Provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno, Imp. del Colegio de Sordomudos, Madrid, 1899, pp. nº405.

Museo de Arte Moderno, Catálogo provisional del Museo de Arte Moderno., Imp. del Colegio Nacional de Sordomudos y de Ciegos, Madrid, 1900, pp. nº618.

Lozoya, Juan de Contreras y López de Ayala, Marqués de, Historia del arte hispánico, Salvat, Barcelona, 1949, pp. 390.

De la Puente, J., Casón del Buen Retiro. Catálogo de las pinturas del siglo XIX, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1985, pp. 253.

La pintura de historia del siglo XIX en España, Consorcio Madrid 92Museo del Prado, 1992, pp. 250-253, nº22.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (III). Nuevas Adquisiciones. Museo Iconográfico. Tapices., Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996, pp. nº208.

El ''Prado disperso''. Nuevos depósitos. Madrid, Teatro Real, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XVII,35, 1999, pp. 170.

Hoozee, Robert (1949-2012)), Mise en Scene. Keizer Karel en de Verbeelding Van de Negenti, Mercatorfonds, Gent, 1999, pp. 242, nº 281.

Diez, J.L Barón, J., El siglo XIX en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado,, Madrid, 2007, pp. 232/ lám.44.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 236-237, nº86.

Barón, Javier, The Spanish presence at Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition and Chicago's world's Columbian, Collecting spanish art. Spain's golden age and America's Gilded Age., 2012, pp. 65-93 [69, l.2].

Díez, José Luis, 'Eduardo Rosales y la conquista del realismo por los pintores españoles en Roma (1855-1875)' En: Del realismo al impresionismo, Fundación Amigos Museo del Prado - Galaxia Gutenberg, Madrid, 2014, pp. 81-104 [95].

G.Navarro, Carlos, Lorenzo Vallés 'La Démence de Jeanne de Castille' En:, L' invention du passé. Histoires de coeur et d' épée en Europe, 1802-1850. II, Éditions Hazan, Paris, 2014, pp. 290-291 n.16.6.

G.Navarro, Carlos, 'Peinture d'histoire et idéalisme romantique à la cour espagnole (1833-1868)' En:, L' invention du passé. Histoires de coeur et d' épée en Europe, 1802-1850. II, Éditions Hazan, Paris, 2014, pp. 239-245 [243].

Díez, J.L. (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado. Catálogo general., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 578.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 208.
208 / Don Lorenzo Valles / Lienzo = Demencia de Doña Juana de Castilla. / Alto 2'37 ancho 3'11 figs. / Marco dorado // [nota al margen=] Adquirido por Real orn, de 3 de Mayo de 1867 en la cantidad de 2000 escs. Figuró en la Exposicion nacional de 1866 y obtuvo Medalla de 2ª clase. // [con otra grafía=] (Paso al Museo del Prado fha 4 Mayo 1878) / [con otra grafía=] Pasó al Museo de Arte moderno

Inv. General del Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899-1902. Núm. 63.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1899. Núm. 405.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LAMINAS. / VALLES (D. Lorenzo) [...] 405.- Demencia de Doña Juana de Castilla. / Alto 2'37 metros. Ancho 3'71 metros.

Catálogo Museo de Arte Moderno, 1900. Núm. 618.
SECCIÓN DE PINTURA EN SUS DIVERSAS CLASES, DIBUJOS Y GRABADOS EN LÁMINAS. / Vallés (D. Lorenzo) [...] 618.- Demencia de Doña Juana de Castilla. / Alto 2'37 metros. Ancho 3'71 metros.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 10-V.

Registros-Inventarios Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno, 1900-1936. Núm. 13-V.

Inv. Museo Arte Moderno, 1954. Núm. 619.

Actas traslado de obras MEAC - Prado, 1971-1973. Núm. 740.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1985. Núm. 4669.

Inscriptions +

L. Valles Roma 1866 [en letra gótica, en la base del catafalco]
Signed and dated. Front, Lower right area

T.208, M.A.M. 10 (V)
Front, lower right corner

Stretcher, crossbeam


Exhibitions +

The Invention of Past
19.04.2014 - 21.07.2014

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

El Siglo XIX en el Prado
31.10.2007 - 20.04.2008

La mise en scène du passé. Charles quint au 19 siècle
02.12.1999 - 19.03.2000

La pintura de historia del Siglo XIX en España
01.10.1992 - 01.12.1992

Location +

Room A (Temporary Exhibition)

Exposición Temporal
Update date: 11-05-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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