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Carvajal, Luis de

Toledo (Spain), 1556 - Madrid (Spain), 1607

Born in Toledo in 1556, he was the half-brother of sculptor Juan Bautista Monegro and a disciple of painter Juan Villoldo, who had trained with Alonso Berruguete. He completed his training in Italy, where his presence at the Academy of San Lucas in Rome was documented in 1577. He returned to Toledo that same year and began receiving important commissions. In 1578 he painted a likeness of Archbishop Bartolomé de Carranza for Toledo Cathedral's chapter hall and the following year he began work at El Escorial. This was probably thanks to a recommendation by his brother, who had been employed at the monastery since 1572. Carvajal was involved in those decorations until at least 1590 and made the two triptychs for the rooms in the Cloister of the Evangelists as well as ten canvases of pairs of saints for the basilica altars. His work in El Escorial and his interest in the court led him to Madrid, where he was active by at least 1583. From then on he made important pieces for the capital, although he continued to receive commissions from Toledo as well. In 1591 he began the main altarpiece for Toledo's church of la Concepción Francisca, and in 1597 he painted "The Penitent Mary Magdalene" (Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo). In 1598 he collaborated with Fabricio Castello on the tumulus erected at the monastery of Santo Domingo for the funeral of Philip II. The following year, he worked on the triumphal arches for the arrival in Madrid of Philip III's wife, Margaret of Austria. In 1600, he completed the altarpiece at los Mínimos in Toledo and two years later he was contracted to paint the altarpiece for the main chapel at the church of San Pablo in Madrid. In 1603 he was commissioned to paint part of a retable for the church of Santa María de Ocaña, and in 1604, he made four canvases for the Augustin monastery of El Madrigal (Avila) and two paintings for the altarpiece at the monastery of San Felipe in Madrid. He died in 1607 while working on two frescoes at the El Pardo Palace. His style combines a variety of influences. His plasticity and his compact, tight modeling of his figures came from his brother, while the Toledo school influenced his taste for sober, tranquil compositions conceived with great clarity. These are exemplified by the pairs of saints he painted for the basilica of El Escorial. And Juan de Borgoña's influence on painting in Toledo is reflected in the elegance of some of Carvajal's figures, especially the female ones, and in his mastery of drawing. He returned from Italy with a taste for late Roman mannerism that was reinforced by his contact with Italian artists working alongside him in El Escorial -mainly Cambiaso and Zuccaro- and this is visible in his triptychs for the Cloister of the Evangelists, as well as in the complexity of his compositions, his rhetorical interpretations of scenes and the breadth of his celestial backgrounds. He was also influenced by Jacopo Bassano and Titian, whose works he copied. Carvajal gradually drew away from Roman mannerism as his taste for contrasted light emerged in a move towards naturalism that made him one of the most important figures to establish the bases for the posterior emergence of baroque realism. Beginning in 1590 he also displayed an inclination to soften his forms with looser and more paint-laden brushstrokes that may reflect the influence of Navarrete and Valencian painting. His works from the period after El Escorial, for example his "Saint Blas" for the church of Yepes, also show the influence of El Greco (Sánchez del Peral, J.R., Enciclopedia, 2006, vol. II, p. 663).

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