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The Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory
Machuca, Pedro
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Machuca, Pedro

Toledo, 1490 - Granada, 1550

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The Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory

1517. Oil on poplar panel. Room 052B

This work is a curious version of the Virgin of the Milk, a symbol of Mary’s compassion that serves, in this case, to comfort the souls in Purgatory. The subject, and especially its derivation here as The Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory -a mainly Italian avocation that is actually a Christianized version of the story of Juno and the Milky Way- was considered indecorous after the Counterreformation and was less frequently painted in the late 16th century.

This is the only signed work by Pedro Machuca, who dated it in 1517, just three years before returning to Spain. It is also the first known painting by this architect and painter who learned his trade in the circles of two of the greatest Renaissance painters: Raphael and Michelangelo. Machuca has been identified as the Petro Spagnolo mentioned by Michelangelo in a letter dated 1515, and his training in the Urbino workshop seems to be proven. There, he would have taken part in several of his teachers’s decorative projects in 1515 and 1516. Machuca’s presence has been attributed, precisely, on the basis of the stylistic proximity of this Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory. While Italian innovations reached Spain mainly by indirect means -mostly through prints- Machuca represents direct contact with the two principle sources of creation in Renaissance, without ignoring the provincial contributions of other painters who arrived in Rome in the early 16th century. Along with the chosen subject, both the pictorial technique and the powerful drawing and perception of color reveal the variety of stimuli that this artist from Toledo received during his years in Italy. Michelangelo’s influence is visible in his powerful contraposto of Mary, which is very close in form to the sibyls at the Sistine Chapel. His choice of colors reflects the same influence, although it is nuanced by his contact with Raphael. The composition also reflects Michelangelo’s influence, with an interest in blurred chiaroscuros and a concern for nocturnal effects visible in the souls in Purgatory. Other influences have been detected in the expressivity of the faces of the angels and of the figures in Purgatory, which have been linked to both Leonardo da Vinci and Rosso or Beccafumi.

This painting was acquired by the Spanish government in 1935 after it appeared in Spoleto, in the region of Perugia (Text drawn from Ruiz, L.: El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento. Guía, Museo del Prado, 2001, p. 38).


Technical data

Inventory number
Machuca, Pedro
The Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory
Poplar panel
Height: 167 cm.; Width: 135 cm.
Pompei Collection, Spoleto, Italy, 1935.

Bibliography +

Trens, Manuel, María: iconografía de la Virgen en el arte español, Plus-Ultra, Madrid, 1946, pp. 479/ lám.286.

Davies, D., Paintings and Drawings on the Backs of National Gallery Pict..., The Trustees, 1946, pp. lám 13.

Ars hispaniae: historia universal del arte hispánico, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1955, pp. 225/ lám.234.

Griseri, Andreina, Perino, Machuca, Campaña, Paragone, 87, 1957, pp. 13-21.

Carlos V y su ambiente: exposición-homenaje en el IV Centenario de su muerte (1558-1958), Ministerio de Educación Nacional, Toledo, 1958, pp. 86.

Griseri, Andreina, Nuove schede di manierismo iberico, Paragone, 113, 1959, pp. 33-70.

Gonçalves, Flavio, Os painéis do Purgatório e as origens das 'alminhas' populares, Boletim da biblioteca pública municipal de Matosinhos, 6, 1959, pp. 1-37.

Griseri, Andreina, Berruguete e MAchuca dopo il viaggio italiano, Paragone, 179, 1964, pp. 3-19 [17].


Longhi, Roberto, Ancora sul Machuca, Paragone, 231, 1969, pp. 34-39.

Post, Chandler Rathfon, A History of Spanish Painting, Harvard University Press, Cambridge. Nueva York, 1970, pp. 263/ lám.97.

Santa Teresa y su tiempo, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Dirección Gener, Madrid, 1970, pp. 110.

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

Kalby, Luigi G., L' arrivo della maniera a Napoli e Agostino Tesauro, Bolletino di storia dell' arte del centro studi per i nuclei antichi e documenti artistici della Campania meridionale., 1, 1973.

Previtali, Giovanni, La pittura del Cinquecento a Napoli en el vicereame, Einaudi, Turin, 1978, pp. il.24,25.

Longhi, Roberto, Edizione delle Opere Complete di Roberto Longhi., Sansoni, Florencia, 1979, pp. lám.94.

Cannata, R., Aspetti Dell'Arte a Roma Prima e Dopo Raffaello, De Luca Editore, Roma, 1984, pp. 127/ lám.46.

Giusti, Paola, Forastieri e Regnicoli. La Pittura Moderna a Napoli Nel Prim, Elcta, Nápoles, 1985, pp. 43.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 382.

D' Aniello, Antonia, Agostino Tesauro. Madonna delle Grazie fra Sant' Andrea e Santa Luzia post dicembre 1517. In, Andrea Da Salerno Nel Rinascimento Meridionale, Centro Di, 1986, pp. 140-141.

Abbate, Francesco, Andrea Sabatini. Trittico. 1519. In, Andrea Da Salerno Nel Rinascimento Meridionale, Centro Di, 1986, pp. 140-141.

Dacos, Nicole, Pedro Machuca. In, Andrea Da Salerno Nel Rinascimento Meridionale, Centro Di, 1986, pp. 248-249.

Giusti, P., Pittura del Cinquecento a Napoli. 1510-1540 Forastieri e Reg, Electa Napoli, Napoles, 1988, pp. 38,43/ lám.31.

Brown, Jonathan, La Edad de Oro de la pintura en España, Nerea, Madrid, 1990, pp. 34/ lám.31.

Scaramella, Pierroberto, Le madonne del Purgatorio: iconografia e religioni in Campania tra rinascimento e controriforma, Marietti, Genoa, 1991.

Marías, Fernando, El siglo XVI: gótico y renacimiento, Silex, Madrid, 1992, pp. 104.

Cassani, Silvia, Pedro Machuca a Napoli : due nuovi dipinti per il Museo di Capodimonti, Electa Napoli, Napoli, 1992.

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. nº1677.

Brown, Jonathan, Painting in Spain 1500-1700, Yale University Press, Yale, 1998, pp. 32/ lám.43.

Cali, Maria, La Pittura del Cinquencento, Utet, Torino, 2000, pp. 127.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 38.

Goffen, Rona, Signatures: Inscribing identity in italian Renaissance art, Viator, 32, 2001, pp. 303-370.

Musée du Louvre. Département des arts graphiques, Inventaire général des dessins : école espagnole, XVIe-XVIII..., Reunion des musées nationaux, 2002, pp. nº 12.

Portús, Javier, La Colección de Pintura Española en el Museo del Prado, Edilupa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 182.

Burg, Tobias, Die signatur. Formen und Funktionen vom Mittelalter bis zum 17. Jahrundert,, Verlag, Berlin, 2007, pp. 321-322.

Avila, Ana, La Virgen con el Niño y las almas del Purgatorio de Pedro Machuca y su vinculación italiana., Archivo español de arte, LXXXV, 2012, pp. 125-146.

Agosti, Barbara, 'Artisti spagnoli e fonti italiane ' En:, Norma e capriccio. Spagnoli in Italia agli esordi della 'maniera moderna', Giunti, Firenze musei, Firenze, 2013, pp. 156-167 [165-166].

Bisceglia, Anna, 'Pedro Machuca: Madonna del Suffragio' En:, Norma e capriccio. Spagnoli in Italia agli esordi della 'maniera moderna', Giunti, Firenze musei, Firenze, 2013, pp. 294-295, n. V.2.

Bisceglia, Anna, 'Roma e gli spagnoli agli inizi del Cinquecento: La Sistina, Raffaello, le logge vaticane' En:, Norma e capriccio. Spagnoli in Italia agli esordi della 'maniera moderna', Giunti, Firenze musei, Firenze, 2013, pp. 106-119 [112-117].

Olszewski, Edward J., Parmigianino's Madonna of the long neck., American Philosophical Society, 2014, pp. 148 fg.4.30.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1677.
Autor, Machuca. / 1677. Asunto, la virgen y las animas del purgatorio. / Tabla, 167 x 135 cm. / Nº catalogo, 2579.</br>Adquirido en 1935 con cargo a la subvención.

Inscriptions +

Signed and dated. Back, central area

huella dactilar
Front, upper area


Exhibitions +

Norma e capriccio: spagnoli in Italia agli esordi della Maniera moderna
05.03.2013 - 26.05.2013

Location +

Room 052B (On Display)

Update date: 13-01-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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