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Machuca, Pedro

Toledo, h.1490 - Granada, 1550

His stay in Italy was already documented in 1517, when he signed The Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory (Museo del Prado). This work's style has led him to be related with Raphael's workshop, especially with some of his frescoes for the vatican stanze. Various contemporaneous references to a Petro Spagnolo have also linked him to Michelangelo and to other temporary creations in Rome in 1515. Machuca returned to Spain in 1520, where documents show he was involved the production of paintings in the Royal Chapel at Granada Cathedral in 1521, alongside Jacopo Torni. As hidalgo, Machuca was a page to Luis Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis of Mondéjar and governor of the Alhambra. That is probably how he became master builder for the Palace of Charles V at the Alhambra. He held that post from 1527 until his death, when he was replaced by his son, Luis Machuca. This occupation did not hinder his activities as a painter, however, and he made work for Toledo Cathedral, the monastery of Uclés (Cuenca) and in the province of Granada. His career as an artist is linked to the early mannerism with which he had direct contact in Italy. That is the tradition he absorbed and applied to both his architectural design and his paintings. His best-known and valued paintings are two at the Museo del Prado. In his previously mentioned Virgin and the Souls of Purgatory, the Virgin's figure is presented with a monumentality and contraposto clearly drawn from Michelangelo, but with a blurring and gracefulness closer to masters such as Raphael and Leonardo. The latter has also been linked to the expressionism of the candidates for purification, whose movement reflects an authentically Leonardesque furor. This panel came to light in Spoleto and was acquired by the Spanish government in 1935. The second work by Machuca at the Museo del Prado is a Descent from the Cross, which was attributed to him by Roberto Longhi. It bears no date, but is though to be from his Italian period, around 1520. Along with an ornamented Renaissance frame from 1547, this work stands out for its meticulous drawing, the tension of the figures and their expressions, and the contraction of the space, which turns into a night scene. This oil painting belonged to the Bourgeois Frères Collection until 1870. It appeared on the art market in October 1904, where it was sold at auction in Cologne. There, it was attributed to Lotto. It later belonged to the Hátvany Collection in Budapest and the Dimitri Angelopoulo Collection in Paris. Finally, in 1961, it was acquired in London by the Museo del Prado's trust. The Musée du Louvre has a preparatory drawing with variants, which was published by Andreina Griseri.

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