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The Pentecost
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

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The Pentecost

1612 - 1614. Oil on canvas. Not on display

On 14 February 1612 Juan Bautista Maíno signed the contract to execute the paintings for the monastery church of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo. Maíno agreed to a period of eight months to make the paintings, which had to portray the scenes and episodes specified by the prior of the monastery. Despite the agreement reached in the contract, the paintings were not completed until December 1614. In the meantime Maíno entered the monastery, becoming a member of the Dominican Order on 27 July 1613.

As a result, this altarpiece is the key reference point in Maíno’s oeuvre. Antonio Palomino based his judgement of the artist’s work on it, describing Maíno as one of the most eminent painters of his day, as can be seen in his works for the said house [San Pedro Mártir], particularly the high altar of that church with the four canvases of the Cuatro Pascuas [four feasts], in which there are excellent nudes and other things painted in majestic life-size. For his part, Ponz singled out the invention, knowledge of chiaroscuro, draughtsmanship and skill in the use of colour that Maíno’s paintings revealed, and he was the first to refer to the subjects depicted: The coming of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection of Christ, his Birth and the Adoration of the Magi. Together, these are the most important episodes in the life of Christ, from his birth to his resurrection, and thus constitute the great iconic images of the Catholic world and the most important festivals in the ecclesiastical calendar, known together in Spanish as the Cuatro Pascuas.

Located on the left-hand side of the altarpiece, this Pentecost is characteristic of Maíno’s most Caravaggesque style, conceived with a simple but astonishingly effective realism in the choice of the male figure types and the representation of their poses and gestures. In addition, the artist deployed an innovative manner of arranging these characters, resulting in an unusual presentation of a theme frequently depicted in Christian art and one that was challenging insofar as it involved including a large number of major players in a narrow space, particularly in altarpieces of this type. The traditional hierarchical arrangement generally located Mary at the centre, symmetrically flanked by the Apostles. Maíno, however, chose to shift Mary towards the left in the middle-ground, close to and slightly behind the Magdalen, who is here presented as another member of the group of Apostles. As a result the two most striking and important figures are Saint Peter and Saint Luke in the foreground. For Spear, this arrangement was based on Brescian traditions prior to Caravaggio, while the precise rendering of the details, the clarity of the modelling and the effects of chiaroscuro all point to a new vision associated with Roman Caravaggesque painting.

The episode of the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Virgin and the Apostles is narrated in Acts of the Apostles (2:1-4). As they were gathered together, praying in the room of a house in Jerusalem, fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as of fire, and they sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Maíno locates the events in a large and imposing interior, indicated by the weighty column shaft that closes the composition on the right. It is, however, a neutral space with no other significant elements apart from the insets into the wall on the left that convey the height of the room, emphasise the vertical format of the group of figures and frame the apparition of the Holy Spirit. Maíno presents the latter in the form of a white dove with outstretched wings from which bursts of yellow and orange light emerge. The artist locates this luminous apparition towards the top of the canvas, omitting the presence of the tongues of flame over the heads of those present. This restraint in the depiction of the presence of the Holy Spirit is also evident in the reactions of the Apostles, whose astonishment lacks fear or excessive drama and is experienced in serene silence. The raised heads and wrinkled brows of the men (which contrast with the idealised faces of the two women) convey the respect and concentration that the miraculous event provokes in them. One of the Apostles and the Magdalen join their hands in prayer while Mary raises her left hand to her breast and stretches out her right hand, which is close to the figure of Saint Peter in front of her. He is undoubtedly the most expressive figure in the entire group, moving both hands and raising his head to create a vigorous profile as he looks up at the Holy Spirit. With his grey hair and bald, bulging crown, he is difficult to mistake, but the presence of a key on the ground, symbol of the Christian Church, ensures a correct identification. Another significant figure is the one on the viewer’s right. This is Saint Luke, depicted writing one of his biblical texts, probably the Acts of the Apostles. He has a distinctive personality that contrasts with that of the other Apostles, distinguished by their popular character, tinged even with a certain roughness, which Enriqueta Harris considered close to models by Caravaggio. Luke was a man of relatively elevated social origins. Born in Antioch, Greece, and therefore not Jewish, he was an educated person, a doctor by profession who became the faithful companion of Saint Paul. In the present work, Maíno sets him apart from the celestial vision and depicts him busily writing in a large book that is balanced precariously on his lap.

He has a quill pen in his right hand, while in his left he holds one edge of the book as well as an inkwell in a way comparable to the figure of Saint John the Evangelist on Patmos from the same altarpiece. Luke is similarly dressed to the other Apostles in a long jacket with trimming on the shoulder, but instead of a cloak he wears a rough wool blanket crudely decorated with a triple line of stripes running across the shorter ends. This textile is similar to the one Saint Joseph has in Caravaggio’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. Luke’s feet, clad in white stockings and typically early seventeenth-century, Spanish type round-toed shoes tied on the instep, contrast with Peter’s bare ones.

Again this detail reveals Maíno’s interest in depicting small elements observed from everyday life. The Evangelist’s features also seem more specific than those of the other Apostles: his yellowish skin, short, dark and thinning hair, moustache and goatee beard all suggest that this is a portrait of a specific individual who needed glasses to write. Behind Luke and leaning over to watch him at work is Saint John, another of the Evangelists. The focus placed on these two figures is most unusual, although there are other known depictions of the Pentecost in which these two Apostles’ status as Evangelists is particularly emphasised. Here, Maíno’s intention would have been to highlight the importance that the Dominicans placed on the word and on preaching. The two female figures in this canvas deserve separate mention. They are clearly idealised and indicate Maíno’s willingness to move away from Caravaggio in order to focus on classicising formulas close to Gentileschi and Bolognese classicism. The canvas was kept in the Museo de la Trinidad until 1872, when it entered the Museo del Prado. Between 1896 and 1933 it was on deposit with Cordoba Cathedral, then in 1933 it entered the Museo Arqueológico in Toledo, where it was damaged during the Civil War. When the canvas was restored it was cut down (having originally measured 295 x 174 cm). Between 1939 and 1981 it was on deposit with the Museo Balaguer in Vilanova i Geltrú, and was cut in various places during an attempted robbery. It returned to the Prado in 1981 for restoration and has remained there since that date (Ruiz, L.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 289, 293-294).


Technical data

Inventory number
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
The Pentecost
1612 - 1614
Height: 285 cm; Width: 163 cm
Retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas, Iglesia de San Pedro Mártir, Toledo
Chapel of the Dominican Convent of San Pedro Mártir, Toledo; Museo de la Trinidad.

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España. Vol. I, I, Joachin Ibarra, Madrid, 1776, pp. 162.

Cruzada Villaamil, Gregorio, Catálogo provisional, historial y razonado del Museo Nacional de Pinturas, Madrid, 1865, pp. 154, n. 200.

Mayer, August L., Geschichte Der Spanischen Malerei, Klinkhardt & Bierman, Leipzig, 1922, pp. 419.

Harris, Enriqueta, Aportaciones para el estudio de Juan Bautista Maíno, Revista española de arte, IV, 8, 1935, pp. 333-339 [336].

García Figar, A., Fray Juan Bautista Maíno, pintor español, Goya: Revista de Arte, 25, 1958, pp. 6-13 [8].

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1963, pp. 391, n. 3018.

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. 309, n. 1.

Ars Hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispánico, XV, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1971, pp. 34.

Spear, R. E., Caravaggio and his followers, Harper & Row, New York, 1971, pp. 123.

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

El Toledo de Domyco Theotocopuly: El Greco, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas, Madrid, 1982, pp. 175, n. 142.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 390.

Serrera, J. M., Juan Bautista Maíno: Notas sobre el retablo de las Cuatro Pascuas, Boletín del Museo del Prado, X, 1989, pp. 35-41.

Nicolson, Benedict, Caravaggism in Europe, I, Umberto Allemandi & C., Turin, 1990, pp. il. 473.

Pruvost-Beaurain, C., Marie: les grands imagiers racontent sa vie, Gautier- Languereau, Paris, 1990, pp. 69.

Ayala Mallory, Nina, Del Greco a Murillo: la pintura española del Siglo de Oro, 1, Alianza, Madrid, 1991, pp. 74, il. 59.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (II). Museo de la Trinidad, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1991.

Boitani, M. C., Juan Bautista Maino, Fratelli Palombi Editori, [S.L.], 1995, pp. 141-142.

Ruíz Gómez, L. En: Seipel, W., Der Turmbau Zu Babel. Ursprung and Vielfalt Von Sprache Und Scrift, Skira, Milano, 2003, pp. 172, n. 1148.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Museo de la Trinidad en el Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2004, pp. 122.

Ruíz Gómez, L, Juan Bautista Maíno, 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2009, pp. 128-131, n. 16.

El Greco's Pentecost in a new context, Meadows Museum, Southern Methodis, Dallas, 2010, pp. 59-69.

Gayo, Mª D.; Jover de Celis, M., 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.

Ruíz Gómez, L., Algunas notas después de la exposición Juna Bautista Maíno (1581-1649) en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXIX, 2011, pp. 78-96 [80].

Papi, Gianni, Antologia di artisti 'Un San Matteo e l' angelo' di Juan Bautista Maino, Paragone, LXVII, 2016, pp. 61-64 [63 l.54].

Papi, Gianni, Borgianni and Maíno: new discoveries, Artur Ramon Art, 2017, pp. 57.

Other inventories +

Inv. Museo de la Trinidad, Pintura. Núm. 200.
200. / La venida del espiritu santo sobre los apostoles en primer termino y á la izqª del espectador esta sn Pedro sentado fs de tamª nat.l y cuerpo entero compro al 196. / Autor Maino (sin firmar) / Rdo alto 2,95; ancho 1,74. / Fdo rdo y sin marco y colgdo en la g p. / Nº 4 / E.P.

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 200.
ESCUELA TOLEDANA. [...] FRAY JUAN BAUTISTA MAYNO.[...] 200. La Venida del Espíritu Santo. / Lienzo. - Al. 2,95.- An. 1,74. - Fig. t. n. / Firmado, Juan Bautista Mayno. / La Vírgen de rodillas, y rodeada de los Apóstoles. A la izquierda uno de ellos escribiendo en un libro que tiene en las rodillas.

Exhibitions +

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
13.06.2018 - 14.10.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
24.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

Museo de la Trinidad
19.07.2004 - 03.10.2004

Tower of Babel. The Origin and Diversity of Spoken and Written Language. The Evolution of Human Communication
05.04.2003 - 05.10.2003

Displayed objects +




Pince nez: Anteojos binoculares autoportantes ajustables mediante un puente de pinza, de montura fina.


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

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