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Coello, Claudio

Madrid (Spain), 1642 - Madrid (Spain), 1693

One of the leading representatives of Madrid’s baroque school, he was born to a Portuguese family settled in that city. His father, a bronze worker by profession, sent him to Francisco Rizi’s studio to learn to draw. During that period, he exhaustively studied his teacher’s drawings and may even have aided him on some commissions for theater sets. Through Rizi and his friendship with painter Juan Carreño de Miranda, he gained access to the collections of painting at Madrid’s Alcázar Palace, where he diligently copied the works of earlier masters, as well as those of his contemporaries, including Titian, Vernonese, Bassano, Giordano, Van Dyck and Rubens, whose works provided him with inspiration on more than one occasion. Coello’s first documented commission for a large-scale work consisted of paintings (ca. 1666, now destroyed) for the main altarpiece at the church of Santa Cruz in Madrid. By then, he had already made quite accomplished pieces that reveal his deep knowledge of Flemish and Venetian paintings, including Susanna and the Elders (1663, Museo Ferré de Ponce, Puerto Rico) or The Triumph of Saint Augustine (Museo del Prado). His great opportunity came, however, in 1668, when he made a series of paintings for the church of San Plácido in Madrid, where his teacher, Francisco Rizi, had already worked. Coello’s central panel, an Annuciation, reveals his lavish sense of staging and his taste for dynamic, brilliantly colored and expansive compositions. From then until 1683, he undertook numerous commissions for churches in Madrid. In the 1670s he began making frescoes, and there he gave free rein to his taste for trompe l’oeil architecture along the lines of Mitelli and Colonna. Outstanding examples of frescoes that he made with the collaboration of José Jiménez Donoso are those at the Casa de la Panadería in Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, and the ones destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, which were at the Colegio Imperial de los Jesuitas (now the Cathedral of San Isidro) in that same city. Coello began working for the royal family in 1679, participating in the decoration of triumphal arches to celebrate the arrival in Madrid of Charles II’s first wife, Marie Louise of Orléans. Four years later, in March 1683, he was appointed the King’s Painter by royal decree. He then expanded his approach, adding portraiture to a repertoire previously dominated by religious subjects that clearly mirror Counterreformation sensibilities. His most extensive surviving cycle of frescoes is from that time and was made for the Collegiate church of Santo Tomás de Villanueva in Zaragoza (1684, also known as la Mantería) in collaboration with Sebastián Muñoz. The following year, 1685, marked a turning point in his career, as he began work on the altarpiece for the sacristy at El Escorial, painting a Sacred Form that his teacher, Rizi, had been unable to take on before his death. Over the following five years, Coello worked intermittently on this work that includes likenesses of leading figures from the court. The monarch, Charles II, kneels in prayer before the Sacred Form, which is an axial element in the iconographic program of the basilica at El Escorial. This was Coello’s most ambitious work, and it contains a sense of space and an atmosphere worthy of Velázquez, with all the theatrical language and trompe l’oeil effects that characterize baroque painting. Its success led to the artist’s appointment to the post of chamber painter, which became available following the deaths of Rizi and Carreño. Coello painted fewer works in his final years, dedicating more time to the supervision of the royal collections, the restoration of its works and the appraisal of painting collections. Finally, Italian painter Luca Giordano’s arrival in Madrid to take over the huge project of decorating El Escorial definitively marked Coello’s definitive displacement. While his style did not change substantially over the course of his career, Coello’s figures gained solidity as his modeling became more sculptural. His architectural backgrounds also evolved from an early complexity towards more straightforward and powerful structures (González Escribano, R. in: E.M.N.P., Madrid, 2006, vol. III, pp. 741-743).

His portrait by Ramón Barba is catalogued at the Museo del Prado as E00846.

Artworks (18)

San Francisco de Asís
Oil on canvas, Second half of the XVII century
Coello, Claudio
Saint Anthony of Padua
Oil on canvas, Second half of the XVII century
Coello, Claudio
The Immaculate Conception
Oil on canvas, Second half of the XVII century
Coello, Claudio
The Virgin and Child adored by Saint Louis, King of France
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1665
Coello, Claudio
Jesús niño, en la puerta del Templo
Oil on canvas, 1660
Coello, Claudio
The Triumph of Saint Augustine
Oil on canvas, 1664
Coello, Claudio
The Virgin and Child between the Theological Virtues and Saints
Oil on canvas, 1669
Coello, Claudio
Saint Dominic of Guzmán
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1685
Coello, Claudio
Santa Rosa de Lima
Oil on canvas, 1683
Coello, Claudio

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