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Exhibition

Annibale Carracci. The frescoes from the Herrera Chapel

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 3/8/2022 - 6/12/2022

This exhibition, which is benefiting from the sponsorship of the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado and the collaboration of the City Council of Madrid for its showing at the Prado, reunites until June 12, a group of exceptionally important wall paintings (last seen together in 1833) which can be considered the great unknown work in Annibale Carracci’s oeuvre: the surviving frescoes from the chapel of Juan Enríquez de Herrera’s family in the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome.

The recent restoration of the seven frescoes housed in the Prado and the collaboration of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and the Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica Palazzo Barberini in Rome have allowed these works to be studied, researched and reassessed.

The special installation for their display in the exhibition allows visitors to appreciate the original location of the works at different heights in the chapel and what the decorative scheme as a whole would have looked like.

Curated at the Prado by Andrés Úbeda, Associate Director of Curatorship at the Museo Nacional del Prado, the exhibition will open to the public on March 8 and will travel to the MNAC in July, then finally to the Palazzo Barberini in November.

In the early years of the 17th century Annibale Carracci (Bologna, 1560 - Rome, 1609) accepted the commission from Juan Enríquez de Herrera to paint frescoes in his family chapel in San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome. Carracci devised the entire scheme and painted some of the frescoes prior to 1605 when he became seriously ill, which obliged him to cease working on the project and entrust the execution of the paintings to Francesco Albani.

Despite the fact that this was the most important commission which Carracci received in the final phase of his career, these frescoes - which depict scenes from the life of Saint Didacus of Alcalá, an Andalusian Franciscan who died in 1463 - are almost unknown to the general public in their entirety, partly due to the fact that they were separated from each other.

Following the removal of the frescoes from the chapel walls due to the deterioration of the church, of the 19 surviving fragments only 16 reached Spain (7 are in the Museo Nacional del Prado and 9 entered the Royal Catalan Fine Arts Academy of Saint George from where they were sent on long-term deposit to the MNAC), while the remaining 3 were deposited in the church of Santa Maria in Monserrato in Rome where it has not been possible to locate them. The altar painting was also sent to that church, where it remains today.

The group in the Museo Nacional del Prado comprises seven frescoes. The first are the four trapeze-shaped canvases that decorated the chapel ceiling and which depict episodes from the life of the titular saint: Saint Didacus receiving Alms, The miraculous Meal, Saint Didacus saves the Boy who fell asleep in the Oven and Saint Didacus receives the Franciscan Habit. The Prado also houses three of the ovals from the pendentives: Saint Lawrence, Saint Francis and Saint James the Greater. These works are now being exhibited for the first time since their recent restoration.

The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) in Barcelona houses nine more murals (on deposit from the Royal Catalan Fine Arts Academy of Saint George which they entered on 9 August 1851). These are the two that were located on the exterior of the chapel above its doorway, depicting The Assumption of the Virgin, and The Apostles around the Virgin’s empty Tomb, plus a further four that had been removed from the chapel’s side walls: The Preaching of Saint Didacus, Saint Didacus heals the blind Youth, The Apparition of Saint Didacus above his Tomb, and The Miracle of the Roses. In addition, the MNAC has three other frescoes: God the Father, removed from the circular cover of the roof lantern; Saint Peter; and Saint Paul, the two saints that flanked the altar painting on the end wall of the chapel.

The altar painting, which is an oil on panel, depicts Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding for Diego Enríquez de Herrera. It is now in the church of Santa Maria in Monserrato in Rome.

These paintings are shown in the exhibition alongside related drawings, prints that depict lost fragments, and books of funeral services of Spanish monarchs which include images of the interior of the church’s interior.

Curator:
Andrés Úbeda, Associate Director of Curatorship at the Museo Nacional del Prado

Access

Room C. Jerónimos Building

Sponsored by:
With the collaboration of:

Multimedia

Exhibition

The exhibition

The church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli [Saint James of the Spaniards] was one of the places of greatest religious, symbolic and representative importance for the Spanish monarchy in Rome from the mid-1500s to the 1700s, when it began to fall into decline.

In the early 1600s, Juan Enríquez de Herrera (c. 1539−1610), a Spanish banker from Palencia, had a chapel built there dedicated to Saint Didacus [Diego] of Alcalá, a 15th-century Franciscan monk canonised in 1588, to whom Herrera had prayed to cure his sick son. The construction of the chapel lasted from 1602 to 1606, during which time the fresco paintings were also executed. They were commissioned from Annibale Carracci (1560−1609), who had just decorated the gallery in the Farnese palace with great success.

From the start, Carracci was aided by one of the painters of his circle, Francesco Albani (1578−1660). Their collaboration was disrupted in late 1604 or early 1605 when the master painter fell seriously ill and was unable to continue. At this point Albani became responsible for the paintings, under Carracci’s supervision.

In 1833, as a result of the church’s deterioration, Pellegrino Succi was entrusted with removing the frescoes. Sculptor Antonio Solá was in charge of the whole operation and in 1850 he finally succeeded in shipping sixteen paintings from the port of Civitavecchia to Barcelona, where nine of them remained; the other seven travelled to Madrid. The altar painting was deposited in the church of Santa Maria di Monserrato in Rome, where it still remains. This is the first time since then that the paintings have been reunited.

Exterior views of the of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli

Exterior views of the of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli
Piazza Navona
Gaspar Van Wittel
Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 216 cm
1699
Madrid, Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza on deposit at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

There are a great many views of the exterior of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli. An example is Gaspar van Wittel’s oil painting on display in this exhibition, which shows the appearance of Rome’s Piazza Navona in 1699, with the façade of the church on the far right. In contrast, visual records of its interior are extremely rare. The prints found in books on funeral rites of kings of Spain depicting the ephemeral decorations erected in the church when monarchs died are unquestionably the most descriptive and reliable. One, published in 1725 to mark the death of Louis I, shows the entrance to the chapel and one of its walls, with a brief depiction of part of the paintings, as well as Stefano Fuccari’s decorative plasterwork and the plaster sculptures by Ambrogio Buonvicino.

In the floorplans reproduced in these books, the Herrera chapel is the second from the west end of the church on the Gospel side.

The evocation of the view of the Herrera chapel and the exterior frescoes

The evocation of the view of the Herrera chapel and the exterior frescoes
The Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin
Francesco Albani
Mural painting transferred to canvas, 193 x 272.5 cm
1604-5
Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

The exhibition evokes a visit to the Herrera chapel, which is now destroyed. Outside the chapel, above the entrance arch, were two paintings – those on show in this room. The next room takes visitors inside the chapel and displays the frescoes that were positioned at eye level. The following rooms progressively go up a level, ending with the painting on the lantern of the vault, on view in the last room. Alongside the paintings is a selection of the known preparatory drawings in which Annibale Carracci and Francesco Albani worked out the ideas they subsequently used in the frescoes. The prints made by Simon Guillain reproducing the three fragments that were lost after the removal of the frescoes are also included.

This room shows the two frescoes that were located on the outside of the chapel. Carracci had previously started on the decoration of the interior, which was interrupted for reasons that are unclear. After completing these two scenes, he returned to the frescoes inside the chapel and worked on them until they were finished. The reason for this stopping and starting is unknown; it may have been due to the difficulty of working in an enclosed space taken up by scaffolding or to the presence of other trades who did not leave enough room, besides producing dirt and excess moisture in its small interior.

Fresco painters commonly worked from the top down to avoid dripping onto an already finished surface. In the chapel’s exterior, Carracci and Albani therefore started with the higher fresco, the Assumption of the Virgin, and continued with the Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin.

While working on the Assumption, Annibale became violently ill and was unable to continue. Responsibility for the fresco of the apostles therefore passed to Albani, who took charge of the project. These are two of the most beautiful paintings of the whole ensemble, and the Apostles around the Tomb is also the most colourful, possibly because of its location in the chapel’s exterior.

The paintings that decorated the lower part of the chapel

The paintings that decorated the lower part of the chapel
Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding on behalf of Diego Enríquez de Herrera
Annibale Carracci and workshop
Oil on panel, 252 x 161 cm
c. 1606
Rome, Iglesia Nacional Española de Santiago y Montserrat

This room shows the paintings that decorated the lower part of the chapel’s inside walls. The sides display two of Saint Didacus’s miracles: the Healing of a Young Blind Man and the Miracle of the Roses, both painted entirely by Albani after he took charge due to Carracci’s illness. On the altar hung the oil painting of Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding on behalf of Diego Enríquez de Herrera, whose attribution is highly controversial, and on either side were Saint Peter and Saint Paul, frescoes commonly ascribed to Albani or Giovanni Lanfranco.

The problems of attribution posed by this ensemble stem from two causes. Firstly, their condition has prevented a satisfactory formal analysis from being conducted. In addition, the way Carracci’s studio worked makes it difficult to identify the various hands. Indeed, in the Herrera chapel, the conception was the sole responsibility of Annibale, who shared the execution with painters he trusted. Raphael was the role model, both in formal aspects and in Carracci’s reliance on the most skilled young artists in his workshop to meet the growing demand for his works. We know of only one disappointed client – precisely Juan Enríquez

The paintings of the two lunettes and oval pendentives in the chapel

The paintings of the two lunettes and oval pendentives in the chapel
Saint Lawrence
Annibale Carracci
Mural painting transferred to canvas 152.2 x 104 cm
1604-5
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

This room contains the paintings in the chapel’s two lunettes and the ovals decorating the pendentives. The first two, Saint Didacus preaching and the Apparition of Saint Didacus at his Tomb, are commonly attributed to two painters in Carracci’s circle: Sisto Badalocchio and Giovanni Lanfranco, respectively. The elongated, svelte proportions of the foreground figures, a signature feature of Lanfranco, appear to confirm his involvement. Badalocchio’s authorship is reported in 17th-century written sources, which tell of his evident lack of skill in fresco painting. Albani would have retouched Badalocchio’s work in secco – after the plaster dried – to conceal its flaws. The state of the paintings prevents us from confirming the truth of this account.

Carracci’s hand can be seen in two of the ovals, Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence, which are among the most beautiful paintings in the group. That of Saint James was unquestionably executed by Albani, as evidenced by the characteristic physical type. The fourth oval – now lost – depicting Saint John the Evangelist is illustrated by a print.

The collaboration between Carracci and Albani

The collaboration between Carracci and Albani
Saint Didacus receiving Alms
Annibale Carracci y Francesco Albani
Mural painting transferred to canvas, 126 x 222 cm
1604-5
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

This room displays four paintings that were the product of collaboration between Carracci and Albani. We know that they were each executed one half at a time, in two working sessions marked by a vertical seam detected in the plaster during restoration. Albani may have begun all four scenes. In the two with outdoor settings, he started with the sky and continued, in successive planes, with the landscape, the buildings and the vegetation closest to the figures. In the indoor scenes, he painted the elements required to develop the composition – the altar, the oven, the chapel, the niche, the staircase, etc. – and the architectural backgrounds with the aid of sharply incised lines. Carracci may have done the trickiest parts, such as the heads and hands of the main figures, and ended by going over the whole painting.

The first of these frescoes to be removed, beginning in 1833, must have been Saint Didacus saves the Boy Asleep in the Oven, which was transferred from a concave to a flat surface. The aim was to display the work hung on a wall, as if it were an easel painting. Following the poor results of this experiment, which caused the lower corners of the work to break, it was decided to preserve the curvature of the rest. 

The decoration of the interior of the lantern

The decoration of the interior of the lantern
Saint Didacus of Alcalá and the Miracle of the Roses
Francisco de Zurbarán
Oil on canvas, 93 x 99 cm
c. 1658
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

The figure of the Everlasting Father decorated the lantern ceiling. It was the first fresco to be executed and, as it was a narrow space, Carracci let Albani take his place. It still preserves the original wooden structure devised after the fresco was removed to hold the back of the painting in place, keep its new canvas support rigid, and prevent any warping of the picture surface.

The Herrera chapel frescoes must have been painted in a very short time. Those housed in the Museo del Prado each required two days’ work. If we add the lost oval, this gives a total of sixteen days’ work – slightly more assuming that the collaboration between Annibale and Albani must necessarily have slowed down their progress. The Assumption took five days; the Apostles around the Tomb, eight; and the Miracle of the Roses, six.

The Herrera chapel was the most important late commission of Annibale Carracci, who took on no more large-scale assignments after falling seriously ill while working on it. He died on 15 July 1609, barely three years after these paintings were completed.

Artworks

Piazza Navona
1

Piazza Navona

Gaspar van Wittel

Oil on canvas, 96.5 x 216 cm

1699

Madrid, Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza on deposit at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

2

Floor plan of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome in Exequies held in Rome for His Catholic Majesty Louis the Fists…

Giovanni Maria Salvioni, Antonio Canevari (Draftsman) and Filippo Vasconi (Engraver)

Intaglio engraving, 614 x 492 mm

1725

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España

3

Floor plan of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome featuring the bier erected at its crossing for the funerary rites, in Account of the exequies held in Rome for His Catholic Majesty Philip V…

Giovanni Maria Salvioni, Ferdinando Fuga (draftsman) y Giovanni Petroschi (engraver)

Intaglio print, 660 x 410 mm

1746

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España

4

Cross-section of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome, in Account of the exequies held by the Spanish in their church of San Giacomo in Rome in memory of King Charles III on the orders of his son King Charles IV…

Marco Pagliarini, Giuseppe Pannini (draftsman) and Giovanni Volpato (engraver)

Intaglio print, 285 x 566 mm

1789

Madrid, Biblioteca del Museo Nacional del Prado

5

Cross-section of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome, in Account of the exequies held in Rome for His Catholic Majesty Philip V…

Giovanni Maria Salvioni, Ferdinando Fuga (draftsman) and Giovanni Petroschi (engraver)

Intaglio print, 410 x 650 mm

1746

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España

6

Cross-section of the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome, in Juan Gaspar de Cañas Truxillo, Exequies held in Rome for His Catholic Majesty Louis the Fists…

Giovanni Maria Salvioni, Antonio Canevari (draftsman) and Filippo Vasconi (engraver)

Intaglio print, 440 x 690 mm

1725

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España

7

Assumption of the Virgin

Annibale Carracci and Francesco Albani

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 208 x 243 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

The Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin
8

The Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin

Francesco Albani

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 193 x 272.5 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

9

Study of an Apostle for the Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin

Annibale Carracci’s Workshop

Black chalk, heightened with white, 307 x 203 mm

c. 1605

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

10

Study for Saint John the Evangelist for the Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, heightened with white, 339 x 270 mm

c. 1605

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

11

Study of Two Apostles for the Apostles around the Empty Tomb of the Virgin

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, heightened with white, 448 x 303 mm

c. 1605

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

12

Healing of a Young Blind Man

Francesco Albani

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 301.5 x 252.7 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

13

Miracle of the Roses

Francesco Albani

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 301.2 x 252.3 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

14

Saint Peter

Francesco Albani or Giovanni Lanfranco

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 235 x 82.5 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

15

Saint Paul

Francesco Albani or Giovanni Lanfranco

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 235 x 83.3 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding on behalf of Diego Enríquez de Herrera
16

Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding on behalf of Diego Enríquez de Herrera

Annibale Carracci and workshop

Oil on panel, 252 x 161 cm

c. 1606

Rome, Iglesia Nacional Española de Santiago y Montserrat

17

Compositional study for Saint Didacus of Alcalá interceding on behalf of Diego Enríquez de Herrera

Francesco Albani, attributed here to an assistant or imitator of Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, pen and brown and grey wash, 407 x 267 mm

17th century

Stockholm (Sweden), Nationalmuseum

18

Study for Saint Paul

Annibale Carracci’s Workshop

Black chalk, heightened with white, 5.3 x 230 mm

c. 1605

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

22

Saint Didacus preaching

Sisto Badalocchio

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 203.7 x 375.5 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

23

Apparition of Saint Didacus at his Tomb

Giovanni Lanfranco

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 204.3 x 37.5 cm

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

24

Saint John the Evangelist

Copy after the fresco by Francesco Albani

Red chalk and brown ink, 226 x 172 mm

17th century

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

25

Study for Saint Lawrence

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, heightened with white, 327 x 229 mm

1604-5

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

26

Study for kneeling pilgrim viewed from behind for the Apparition of Saint Didacus at his Tomb

Attributed to Giovanni Lanfranco

Black chalk, heightened with white, 345 x 224 mm

c. 1605

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

27

Saint John the Evangelist

Simon Guillain (engraver)

Etching after the fresco by Annibale Carracci, 173 x 173 mm

1646

Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España

28

Saint Didacus receiving the Franciscan Habit and Apotheosis of Saint Lawrence, en Historical notice of some notable pictures in the National Museum of Paintings in El Arte en España, vol III, pp. 167-173

Gregorio Cruzada Villaamil

29.5 x 22 x 4.5 cm

1864

Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado. Biblioteca

33

Study for the man giving alm for Saint Didacus receiving Alms

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, 391 x 234 mm

1590-95

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

34

Study for the father superior for Saint Didacus receiving the Franciscan Habit

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, heightened with white, 340 x 203 mm

1604-5

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

35

Study for Franciscan monk for Saint Didacus saving the Boy Asleep in the Oven

Annibale Carracci

Black chalk, heightened with white, 340 x 203 mm

1604-5

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

36

Study for an angel

Annibale Carracci’s Workshop

Black chalk, heightened with white, 333 x 432 mm

1604-5

United Kingdom, Lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

37

Everlasting Father

Francesco Albani

Mural painting transferred to canvas, 205 cm diameter x 56 cm deep

1604-5

Barcelona, Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya, deposit of the Reial Acadèmia Catalana de Belles Arts de Sant Jordi

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