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The Virgin Mary, the Infant Christ and the Holy Spirit with Angels in the background
Esquivel, Antonio María
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Esquivel, Antonio María

Sevilla (Spain), 1806 - Madrid (Spain), 1857

Esquivel, Antonio María See author's file

The Virgin Mary, the Infant Christ and the Holy Spirit with Angels in the background

1856. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

Antonio María Esquivel´s work provides, undoubtedly, the best example of the unique symbiosis achieved in Spanish religious painting from the romantic period, combining the powerful tradition of Andalusian Baroque with the stylistic refinement of orthodox classicism defended by academic purists. Esquivel spent much of his career producing a noteworthy number of religious paintings, both for private devotions and, above all, to achieve an element of prestige and renown in the public competitions to which he submitted these paintings. He made himself the foremost representative of this genre in Spanish romantic painting. This canvas was executed by Esquivel only one year before his death at the age of 51, with the intention of presenting it in the first National Exhibition of Fine Arts held in Spain in 1856. There was, it would seem, a clear intention on Esquivel´s part to make this painting a final summation of his prolific trajectory as a painter of religious subjects, and to provide the other artists who took part in the contest, along with critics and visiting public, with a virtuosic display of his most refined style. Indeed, the sensibility that identifies Esquivel with the Seville school and as Murillo´s direct heir -whose religious oeuvre provided the style of choice for devout clientele continuously until the nineteenth century - emerges in this painting both in the iconography as well as in the use of a rich, warm palette, particularly eloquent in the interpretation of the Virgin´s clothing and of the glory in the background, which is filled with little angels. Esquivel also reveals the profound imprint of his academic training in the most emblematic archetypes of classical statuary - more so than any other contemporary Spanish painter. Thus, in this case, he interprets the figure of the Mother of Christ with the monumental severity of the seated Roman goddess Ceres: delicately sculpting the small folds in her robes, which reveal her anatomy, as in the most widely disseminated sculptural models of the pagan goddess. The Virgin´s solemn, imposing presence is underscored by the serene lack of expression on her face, whose features reflect the strictest classical canons, as do details such as the sandals, the stone bench upon which the Christ Child stands and the statuesque frontality with which even the Child´s anatomy is represented. With the greatest of care, Esquivel offers a distillation of the refined technique he had achieved in those years. He has made the painting a veritable exercise in pure academic skill through the treatment of volume of the undulating draperies, the subtle gradation of the colours -especially refined in the Child´s white loincloth or the blue mantle that covers His mother´s legs- and the use of chiaroscuro with a particularly delicate execution, something that was particulary challenging in the representation of hands and faces. Esquivel´s keen mastery is perceptible in the illumination of the figures, such as the highlight in the shadow of the Virgin´s chin or the space between her neck and the mantle that covers her head. The painting is preserved in its original frame, designed by the artist himself and found to this day on a great number of his works (Díez, J. L.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 251).


Technical data

Inventory number
Esquivel, Antonio María
The Virgin Mary, the Infant Christ and the Holy Spirit with Angels in the background
Height: 173.2 cm; Width: 114.5 cm
Acquired for the Museo de la Trinidad, 1856.

Bibliography +

Pantorba, B., Antonio Maria Esquivel, Arte Español, XXII, 1959, pp. 155-179 [168].

Ossorio y Bernard, M., Galería biográfica de artistas españoles del Siglo XIX, Giner, Madrid, 1975, pp. 206.

Espinós, A.; Orihuela, M. y Royo Villanova, M. [et al.], El ''Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Murcia y Albacete. Murcia. Museo, Sección de Bellas Artes, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VI, 1985, pp. 167.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Díez, J. L., El Romanticismo académico en la pintura religosa isabelina. En: El arte de la era romántica, Fund. Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 2012, pp. 275-303.

Finaldi, G.; Portús J., Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2012, pp. 251,253, nº94.

Díez, José Luis (dir.), Pintura del Siglo XIX en el Museo del Prado: catálogo general, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 175.

G.Navarro, C, Antonio Mª de Esquivel y Suárez de Urbina. La Virgen Maria, el niño Jesús y el Espíritu Santo con ángeles al fondo' En:, Murillo y su estela en Sevilla, ICAS, Instituto de la Cultura y las Artes de Sevilla, Sevilla, 2017, pp. 282-283 n.57.

Martínez Plaza, P.J., Nuevas lecturas sobre la pintura religiosa de Antonio María Esquivel (1806-1857), sus fuentes y su fortuna crítica, De Arte. Revista de Historia del Arte, 2020, pp. 129-145.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo de la Trinidad, 1865. Núm. 18.
GALERIA DE CUADROS CONTEMPORÁNEOS. / ESQUIVEL (D. Antonio María). [...] 18. La Vírgen María, el niño Jesus y el Espíritu Santo con ángeles en el fondo. / Lienzo. - Al. 1,72. - An. 1,13 1/2. / Adquirido por Real órden de 7 de Agosto de 1856 en la cantidad de 7.000 rs.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 18.
18 / Autor Don Antonio María Esquivel / La Virgen Maria, el niño Jesús y el Espíritu Santo con / ángeles en el fondo. / Con marco con moldura de pasta dorada / Alto 1,72; ancho 1,135 por la luz del marco. [Nota en margen izquierdo] Adquirido por / Real Ord. De 7 de / Agosto de 1856 en / la cantidad de / 7.000 rs. Figuro / en la Exposicion / de dicho año.

Inscriptions +

A. Esquivel /1856
Signed and dated. Front, lower left corner

T. 18
Inscribed in yellow. Front, lower right corner

Exhibitions +

Antonio María Esquivel (1806-1857), his religious paintings
09.07.2018 - 21.04.2019

Murillo y su Estela en Sevilla
05.12.2017 - 08.04.2018

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

Displayed objects +


Update date: 28-01-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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