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The Virgin presenting the Rosary to Saint Dominic
Cano, Alonso
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Cano, Alonso

Granada, 1601 - Granada, 1667

Cano, Alonso See author's file

The Virgin presenting the Rosary to Saint Dominic

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

In the upper right register, the Virgin is kneeling on a cloud and holding the Christ Child. From her hand hangs a rosary that Saint Dominic (standing to the left) and the Pope (kneeling at the centre in front of a kneeling king) both grasp. In the upper left register, a small angel bathed in shadows swings three rosaries.

During the 15th century, Saint Dominic was erroneously credited with the invention of the devotion to the Rosary. The Dominicans had been in every way deeply identified with the prayer of the Rosary resulting in its association with the Order. From the 16th century onwards, the Rosary became one of the primary attributes of Saint Dominic, and scenes in which the Virgin offers the beads of the Holy Rosary to the saint started to proliferate. Pérez Sánchez suggests that the Pope could be Saint Pius V (1504–1572): a Dominican friar with a distinguished career in sacred teachings, who ascended in the ecclesiastical hierarchy until attaining the status of Pope in 1565. He was an ascetic who led an austere lifestyle, and throughout his papacy he was characterised by his personal devotion. In 1568, he reissued the papal bull In Cena Domini, which confirmed several papal protectorates over secular rulers. In this composition, perhaps the lesser importance conferred on the king reflects that development. It is possible that in the context of the convent of Santa Cruz la Real the monarch enjoyed certain additional significance. Another interpretation based on the kneeling figures together with Saint Dominic represent the Orthodox community, composed of both lay and clerical people who are united by devotion to the Holy Rosary.

Even though Wethey questioned at one point whether this drawing could truly be attributed to Cano, it is possible that his doubts were based on the fact that the ink wash produces more dramatic chiaroscuro than that found in many of Cano’s other surviving drawings.

This drawing narrates the life of Saint Dominic and belongs to a series included in an important decorative programme for the convent of Santa Cruz la Real in Granada. A text by Palomino contains the first reference to Cano’s drawings: ‘And at that time, he produced all the drawings for the paintings in the cloister of the royal convent of Santa Cruz, of the Dominican Order, of the Life of their Glorious Patriarch, which I hold 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 drawing has been lost. Considered altogether, these two groups of drawings reveal the magnitude 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.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Santander, Fundación Marcelino Botín, 2009, p.327-353; nº 69


Technical data

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Inventory number
Cano, Alonso
The Virgin presenting the Rosary to Saint Dominic
Ca. 1665
Grey-brown wash; Pencil; Pencil ground
Yellow laid paper
Height: 160 mm; Width: 117 mm
Serie Santo Domingo, Granada
Lefort Collection; Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Catalogue de la collection de dessins anciens de maîtres espagnols, flamands, français, hollandais et italiens, pièces rares de l'oeuvre de Goya: composant le cabinet de M. Paul Lefort, [s.n], París, 1869, pp. nº 35.

Sánchez Cantón, F.J., Dibujos Españoles. Vol. IV. Alonso Cano, Hauser y Menet, Madrid, 1930, pp. 331.

Martinez Chumillas, Manuel, Alonso Cano: estudio monográfico de la obra del insigne que fue de la catedral de Granada, Carlos Jaime, Madrid, 1949, pp. 200.

Wethey, Harold, Alonso Cano's drawings, The Art bulletin, 34, 1952, pp. 224.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Catálogo de Dibujos. Vol.I. Dibujos españoles siglos XV-XVII, Madrid, 1972, pp. 57.

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

Véliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano's Drawings and Related Works, Courtald Institute-London Univ., Londres, 1998, pp. nº 57.

Alonso Cano dibujos, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2001, pp. 172, nº 60.

Alonso Cano: espiritualidad y modernidad artística: [IV Centenario], Junta de Andalucía, Consejería de CulturaTf Editor, Sevilla, 2001, pp. 311.

Veliz, Zahira, Alonso Cano (1601-1667): dibujos, Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander, 2009, pp. 327-353; nº 69.

Larios Larios, Juan Miguel, Santa Cruz la Real según la crónica de Fray Francisco Páramo, Comares, Granada, 2009, pp. 102, 105.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 148.

Inscriptions +

alo cano
Inscribed in pen and ink. Front, lower right corner

Displayed objects +


Update date: 17-08-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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