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The Virgin interceding for Humanity
Cano, Alonso
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Cano, Alonso

Granada, 1601 - Granada, 1667

Cano, Alonso See author's file

The Virgin interceding for Humanity

Ca. 1665. Grey-brown wash, Pencil, Pencil ground on yellow laid paper.
Not on display

Among the works in Antonio Palomino’s collection were a series of small composition drawings by Alonso Cano. These fall within an important decorative programme for the convent of Santa Cruz la Real de Granada and narrate the life of Saint Dominic. A text by Palomino constitutes the first reference to Cano’s drawings: ‘And at that time, he produced all the drawings for the paintings in the cloister of the convent of Santa Cruz la Real, of the Dominican Order, of the Life of their Glorious Patriarch, which I have in my possession. However, the paintings in said cloister were executed based on Cano’s drawings by someone from the castle and have deteriorated over time.’ This passage has permitted the attribution to Cano of 15 drawings of Dominican themes, all of which have arched tops and similar, although not exact, dimensions. In addition, other direct copies of Cano’s drawings exist and were produced by another hand. In several instances, these copies bear witness to compositions for which the signed drawings have been lost. Considered altogether, these two groups of drawings reveal the scope of the iconographic programme designed by Cano that was intended to adorn the main cloister of the convent of Santa Cruz la Real.

The commission for these drawings must have been very important to Cano given that the convent of Santa Cruz la Real – founded by Ferdinand and Isabella to commemorate the 1492 victory over the Muslim rulers of Granada – was one of the most prestigious religious centres in Andalusia.

This drawing, which belongs to this series, depicts an ecstatic vision that Voragine attributed to Saint Dominic and that was reiterated in successive versions of the Dominican legend. When Saint Dominic travelled to Rome to obtain the pope’s authorisation to establish the Order, he had a vision in which Christ was in the firmament about to throw the three spears he held in his hand against the Earth. The Virgin then appeared and asked him what he was about to do, to which Jesus responded: ‘I am going to destroy the Earth with these three spears, because it is corrupted by the three vices: Pride, Lust and Greed.’ The Virgin pleaded him to temper his feelings of justice with compassion, forgiveness and mercy for humanity (symbolised by the globe) and presented Saint Dominic and Saint Francis as the two faithful servants who would change the course of humanity. Thanks to her intervention, Christ accepted the efforts of the saints. This episode also provides the basis for the friendly collaborative relationship between these two great saints and their orders, at least during the early period.

Cano depicts Christ in the upper-middle register of the composition. The Virgin appears to the left, kneeling on a cloud with her back to the viewer and gazing in the direction of her Son. The two saints, situated in the lower-right register of the drawing, flank and protect the world. The reading of this image (whether drawn or painted) probably elicited various interpretations among the Dominican public.

Cano gives his figures a static pose based on the underlying geometry of the work. Although the perspective structure of this drawing is rather sparse, there are marked intervals on the lower border of the drawing and the figures are positioned at an angle to each other. In addition, the Virgin’s gesture as she implores her Son to entrust Saint Dominic and Saint Francis with the restoration of humanity to his Kingdom may be related to one of the modes of prayer recommended by Saint Dominic.

A private collection in Barcelona once included a copy of this drawing with a more schematic appearance and a simpler pen and ink wash technique; another one belongs to a private collection in Paris.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Santander, Fundación Marcelino Botín, 2009, p.327-361; nº 72


Technical data

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Inventory number
Cano, Alonso
The Virgin interceding for Humanity
Ca. 1665
Grey-brown wash; Pencil; Pencil ground
Yellow laid paper
Height: 147 mm; Width: 127 mm
Serie Santo Domingo, Granada
Antonio Palomino Collection; Lefort Collection; Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Sánchez Cantón, Francisco Javier, Dibujos Españoles.Vol. IV. Alonso Cano, IV, Hauser y Menet, Madrid, 1930, pp. 326.

Martinez Chumillas, Manuel, Alonso Cano: estudio monográfico de la obra del insigne que fue de la catedral de Granada, Carlos Jaime, Madrid, 1949, pp. 196 y 199 / lám. 142.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano's drawings, The Art bulletin, 34, 1952, pp. 231, nº XXI.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Catálogo de Dibujos. Vol.I. Dibujos españoles siglos XV-XVII, Madrid, 1972, pp. 56.

Wethey, H.E., Los Dibujos de Alonso Cano.Separata, Universidad de Granada, Granada, 1979, pp. 552.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano: pintor, escultor y arquitecto, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1983, pp. 161, nº 24.

Véliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano's Drawings and Related Works, Courtald Institute-London Univ., Londres, 1998, pp. nº 60.

Alonso Cano dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 174, nº 62.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 2009, pp. 327-361; nº 72.

Larios Larios, Juan Miguel, Santa Cruz la Real según la crónica de Fray Francisco Páramo, Comares, Granada, 2009, pp. 106, 108.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 163.

Displayed objects +

Orb / Sphere

Update date: 20-08-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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