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The Recapture of Bahía de Todos los Santos
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
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Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista

Pastrana, Guadalajara, 1581 - Madrid, 1649

The Recapture of Bahía de Todos los Santos

1634 - 1635. Oil on canvas, 309 x 381 cm.

The Recapture of Bahía de Todos los Santos was commissioned from Maíno towards the end of 1634. The artist was still working on it on 24 March 1635, date on which he received the first 18,600 maravedíes on account, corresponding to an order of payment from the Chief Notary of the Council of Aragon, Jerónimo de Villanueva (died 1653). Maíno completed the painting and delivered it on 16 June 1635, when he received the 200 ducats at which it was valued, money that came from the private expenditure of Philip IV. The canvas was intended to decorate the Hall of Realms in the Palacio del Buen Retiro, together with a further eleven works that were commissioned from various painters to commemorate the land and naval victories of the Spanish forces during the first part of the Thirty Years War, from 1621 to 1630.

It would seem that the decision to decorate the Hall of Realms with battle paintings that exalted the power of the Spanish monarchy originated with the Count-Duke of Olivares. In 1634, during a meeting of the Council of State, he had expressed his concern for the lack of interest in the history of Spain to a number of those present: he considered that Spanish writers should be encouraged to chronicle the history of this great monarchy, in the light of the scant interest that they had previously shown for this literary genre and the resulting damage to Spain’s fame and prestige. It can therefore be assumed that it was Olivares who decided on the commission for this cycle of paintings, envisaging it as a painted account of events, although it was Philip IV who funded the project financially with money available for his private expenses, managed by his secretary, the chief notary of Aragon. The twelve victories represented may have been selected by the Count-Duke’s advisors on historical subjects, such as his librarian Francisco de Rioja (1583-1659), who is known to have been involved in the decorative programme of one of the hermitages in the gardens of the Buen Retiro. Another issue was the choice of painters, a decision that Olivares left in the hands of the artists whom he trusted and who were most closely involved with the court, namely Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), Juan Bautista Maíno and Giovanni Battista Crescenzi (1577-1635). It was, however, the chief notary of Aragon, Jerónimo de Villanueva, who ensured that the group of works was completed and installed in the Hall of Realms on time.

The recapture from the Dutch of the city of San Salvador de Bahía de Todos los Santos was one of the most glorious feats of arms in the eventful year of 1625, which also saw the surrender of the city of Breda, the rescue of Genoa from the French siege and the defeat of the English at Cadiz. This was noted by the Count-Duke in a letter of 26 June to Philip IV: Your Majesty will find, through the mercy of God, that with all the nearly completed effort of this victorious year, this conspiring has not even resulted in the capture of a fortress from you and that in the midst of your greatest endeavours and achievements, your Majesty has taken Breda from under the very noses of all, and in Brazil, two thousand leagues away from here, you have recaptured the bay of Todos los Santos with great honours, without having lost more than 220 men in both undertakings.

Once it had been decided which events from the Thirty Years War were to be painted for the Hall of Reams in the Buen Retiro, it is very likely that Maíno opted for the subject of the recapture of Bahía, as this was a subject closely related to Portugal. San Salvador had been a Portuguese colony, at which time it was the capital of Brazil, before it became part of the Spanish empire in 1581. Maíno’s mother, Ana de Figueredo, was Portuguese, born in Lisbon, and both she and her son would have been interested in the fate of former Portuguese colonies, in one of which they seem to have had business interests.

Maíno chose not to adhere completely to the traditional formulas used for battle paintings. As a result, and in contrast to the earlier prints and paintings of the subject, he did not depict a panorama of the naval and land battles that were involved in the city’s recapture. In this, his composition differs from most of those executed by other artists for the Hall of Realms, including Vicente Carducho (ca. 1577-1638), Eugenio Cajés (1574-1634) and Jusepe Leonardo (1601-1652), whose compositions and the details within them were largely inspired by the battle prints of Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630). The only comparable element between Maíno’s representation and the works of these other artists is the epic exaltation of the great hero and victor of the event, Don Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo. It is only Maíno, however, who presents him sharing the glory of the victory with King Philip IV and the Count-Duke of Olivares.

From the above it would seem that Maíno did not consult prints with the exact topographical appearance of the city or historical accounts that related the course of the combat. However, what is quite clear is that he bore in mind Lope de Vega’s play El Brasil restituido, completed by that author on 29 October 1625, three days after obtaining a license for the performance that took place in the Alcázar. Maíno might have even been present at that performance.

Thus, Maíno’s composition is not an exact reproduction of the real events that took place and is largely invented. The viewpoint seems to be looking from south to north with the island of Itaparique in the background and the hills of Brotas as the setting for the action. In the wide sweep of Bahía de Todos los Santos, the ships of the combined Hispano-Portuguese fleet are approaching fast, prominent among which are two galleys with their sails furled and with flags and pennants flying. Maíno may have intended to depict the flagships of the two fleets as they fly the flags of the two kingdoms, Spain and Portugal. Some small disembarking vessels have reached the beach, on which a number of soldiers land, received by two, barely clothed natives, one of whom wears a feathered headdress, the only hint on the painter’s part that the action takes place in South America.

The city of San Salvador is concealed by a vertical rock in front of which stands the canopy surmounting the tapestry with the portraits of Philip IV and the Count-Duke of Olivares, producing the sensation that the viewer is looking at a theatrical set. In the foreground, on stage, we see a series of figures acting out the events, separated from the middle-ground by various rocky outcrops arranged like the wings, on which more figures are perched, contemplating and commenting on the action. On the right and further back into the pictorial space are the soldiers of the Dutch contingent, seen begging the clemency of Philip IV, whose portrait is shown to them by Don Fadrique de Toledo from where he is standing on a carpeted dais. Closing the composition at the rear is the marine view that serves to emphasise the effect of a theatrical set. Here Maíno used a more muted, diffuse light than in other works by his hand, resulting in less pronounced contrasts of light and dark and a more uniform type of illumination that Tormo attributed to the influence of Velázquez. However, characteristic features of Maíno’s style include the precision of the draughtsmanship, the crisp outlines of the figures and the brilliant colours, used in a wide variety of tones and shades that recall Caravaggio’s least tenebrist style, as in the Rest on the Flight into Egypt in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome.

In the foreground on the left is a group of twelve people, of which the principal character is the soldier wounded in the breast, who seems to be an harquebusier to judge from the detail of the shoulderbag next to him on the ground. He is carefully tended by a woman who staunches the blood with a cloth while his head is supported by a figure in non-military dress. A young boy watches the scene from above, leaning on a rock, while three other characters in secular dress to the left seem to be commenting on the episode. In front of them, to our left, a young woman brings a bundle of clothes for the wounded man. Finally, another young woman, seated in profile in the left foreground, observes the wounded man with a compassionate gaze. She is holding a small child on her lap, whose three small brothers are standing behind their mother, weeping and hugging each other in a beautiful and delicate group. The figure of the woman with her exquisitely curved neck reflects the influence of works by Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) which Maíno could have seen in Italy, for example the Virgin handing the Infant Christ to Saint Francesca Romana.

The military glory of the victorious general occupies the right half of the composition, in which Don Fadrique Álvarez de Toledo, admiral-in-chief of the conquering expedition, appears in the act of pardoning the defeated Dutch troops who plead for clemency, kneeling before him and raising their arms. Depicted standing, Don Fadrique wears a green doublet and hose embroidered with gold thread, with a red sash indicating his rank as commander. He holds in his left hand a staff of office and his hat, which he has removed in the presence of the King’s portrait, pointing it out to the Dutch with his right hand. No such episode appears in accounts of the recapture of Bahía, although these texts do refer to the generous terms of surrender under which the Dutch were repatriated by the Spanish commander. Maíno thus seems to have invented the scene derived from the episode in Lope de Vega’s play, of which it appears to be a sort of ekphrasis. For his part, Lope seems to have come up with this unusual scene that ends the third act of his play with the intention of emphasising Philip IV’s generosity.

For Maíno, the true protagonists of this part of the painting are Philip IV and the Count-Duke of Olivares, who are depicted on the tapestry behind Don Fadrique. They can be considered as such because it was the King, via the mouthpiece of Don Fadrique, who pardoned the defeated, while it was Olivares who rapidly and efficiently organised and prepared the joint Hispano-Portuguese land and naval force that would bring about the recapture of Bahía, the result of his strategy of the Union of Arms. Once again making exceptional use of allegory and mythology, Maíno expresses this concept in a tapestry in which Philip IV is jointly crowned as victorious monarch by Minerva, the pagan goddess of war, and by Olivares, whose right hand holds the sword of justice and the olive branch of peace. The recapture of Bahía in Brazil and the surrender of Breda in Holland brought the Count-Duke fame and reputation in the eyes of foreign powers, not only on account of the small number of casualties in both victories but also because they involved such chivalrous treatment of the defeated (Text drawn from Rodríguez G. de Ceballos, A.: Juan Bautista Maíno: 1581-1649, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2009, pp. 305-308).

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Technical data

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Inventory number
P00885
Author
Maíno, Fray Juan Bautista
Title
The Recapture of Bahía de Todos los Santos
Date
1634 - 1635
Technique
Oil
Support
Canvas
Dimension
High/Height: 309 cm.; Width: 381 cm.
Series
Serie de Batallas, Salón de Reinos, Palacio del Buen Retiro
Provenance
Royal Collection (Royal Palace of El Buen Retiro, Madrid, 1701, [n. 246]; El Buen Retiro Palace, 1794, n. 519).

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Other inventories +

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. [246].
[246] Ottra [pintura] del mismo tamaño [cuatro varas de largo y tres y media de alto] y marco [dorado] de la toma del Brasil por Don fadrique toledo de mano de Vn Religiosos dominico flamenco tassada en Ziento y Veintte doblones ... 7200

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 519.
Otra [pintura] de Fr. Eugenio de Cages flamcº. religioso dominico con la toma del Brasil, por Dn. Fadriqué de Toledo, del mismo tamaño [quatro varas de largo, y tres y media de alto] y marco [dorado] que los anteriores...6000

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 27.
Mayno (F.r. Juan Bautista) / 27. Alegoria / Reconquista de una provincia de Flandes. El Conde Duque de Olivares esta representado al lado de Felipe 4º como celoso sosten de su corona. La diosa palas corona de laurel al monarca catolico, y la heregia y la rebelion yacen a sus pies holladas. Un general enseña a un numeroso gentio el retrato del Rey, prometiendoles en el amparo y consuelo en la desolacion que le ha ocasionado la discordia. / Alto 11 pies, 1 pulg; ancho 13 pies 8 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 787.
Esta especie de voto, que desgraciadamente no llegó á cumplirse, está significado de la siguiente manera. Representa en primer término los males de la insurrección y guerra, un grupo en que se ve á un soldado flamenco, herido y echado en tierra, asistido por un paisano y varias mujeres, una de ellas con un niño en brazos y otros dos detras, abrazados. Hay gente que los mira y discurre al pareceer sobre las desgracias que al país afligen. Más lejos, en segundo término, levántase sobre un tarimon un dosel, al que sirven de remate y corona dos ángeles sosteniendo un escudo...

Exhibitions +

The Art of Power. The Royal Armoury and court portraiture
Madrid
09.03.2010 - 23.05.2010

Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649)
Madrid
20.10.2009 - 17.01.2010

El palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro
Madrid
06.07.2005 - 30.10.2005

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

Location +

Room 009A (On Display)

Expuesto
Update date: 15-09-2017 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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