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The Óscar Alzaga Donation

Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid 11/7/2017 - 5/6/2018

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The outstanding quality of the Óscar Alzaga Villaamil donation makes it a significant addition to the Museo Nacional del Prado’s collection.

The donation comprises 7 paintings encompassing a broad chronological span, from the late 16th to the mid-19th centuries, by artists from Spain, Italy and Bohemia. All of them were painted in Spain with the exception of the Ligozzi, but four were acquired abroad by the donor, for which reason their entry into the Prado’s collection represents an important enrichment of Spain’s national artistic heritage.

For the first time, the Museo Nacional del Prado is exhibiting the 6 paintings that entered its collections last March thanks to the generous donation made by Óscar Alzaga Villaamil, which also included a financial contribution that has been used to acquire the Portrait of Manuela Isidra Téllez-Girón by Agustín Esteve, also included in this exhibition.

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Room 60. Villanueva Building

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Exhibition

The Donation

The donation enriches the Museum’s holdings and allows it to complete the artistic profiles of the artists who painted them, filling in gaps in the collection. Allegory of the Redemption by Jacopo Ligozzi (1547-1626) depicts the Triumph of Christ over Death and is the first allegorical work by this Medici court artist to enter the Prado’s collection. An exquisite, small-scale Saint John the Baptist by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), the great Bohemian artist and court painter to Charles III, further enriches the Museum’s extensive holdings of Mengs’s work. Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble by Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560-1627) provides an example of a religious painting that complements the artist’s better-known activities as a still-life painter.

The Prado’s holdings of Spanish devotional painting are also enriched with The Immaculate Conception by Antonio del Castillo (1616-1668), in a unique interpretation of a key subject in Andalusian painting, and with Saint Jerome by Francisco de Herrera the Elder (ca.1590-ca.1654). The donation is completed by a spectacular Romantic landscape by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-1870). Following its inclusion in the Museum’s exhibition The Challenge of White. Goya and Esteve, portraitists to the Osuna Family, the final work on display here is Manuela Isidra Téllez-Girón, future Duchess of Abrantes by Augustín Esteve, acquired with funds from the Óscar Alzaga donation.

The publication that accompanies this exhibition includes an introductory text by Manuela Mena, Chief Curator of 18th-century Paintings and Goya at the Museo del Prado. The entries on the works are written by the Museum’s curators in the relevant fields: Virginia Albarrán (Agustín Esteve); Javier Barón (Eugenio Lucas Velázquez); Miguel Falomir (Jacopo Ligozzi); Gudrun Maurer (Anton Raphael Mengs); Javier Portús (Antonio del Castillo); and Leticia Ruiz (Juan Sánchez Cotán and Francisco de Herrera the Elder).

Allegory of the Redemption

Allegory of the Redemption
Allegory of the Redemption
Jacopo Ligozzi
Oil on panel. 48.2 x 31.7 cm
Ca.1587

This painting, probably commissioned from the artist by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francesco I de’Medici, for the Tribuna degli Uffizi, has an unusual and intriguing iconography. It decpits the allegorical figures of Time and Death on either side of the redeeming cross and the Virgin weeping over the dead Christ, who is depicted in pronounced foreshortening. 

Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble

Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble
Saint Ildefonso receiving the Chasuble
Juan Sánchez Cotán
Oil on canvas. 156 x 118 cm
Ca.1600

The Alzaga donation has increased the Museum’s holdings of the Carthusian monk Juan Sánchez Cotán with a rare painting on a religious subject. With its idealised figures, concise line, use of costly pigments and precise, highly finished brushwork, it also includes the portrait of a female figure, seemingly a donor, in the lower part.

This subject had a long tradition in Toledan painting. It shows Saint Ildefonso (607-667), a staunch defender of the Virgin’s virginity, receiving a chasuble from her.

Saint Jerome

Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome
Francisco de Herrera the Elder
Oil on canvas. 143 x 100 cm
Ca.1640-45

With its evident force and marked expressivity, this composition is characteristic of Francisco de Herrera the Elder. It joins an important work by the artist, Saint Bonaventure receiving the Habit from Saint Francis, already in the Prado’s collection.

Saint Jerome is seen in his retreat, studying and reading while listening to the trumpet of the Last Judgment. This is a characteristic work from Herrera’s mature period, which was characterised by a vigorous, energetic brushstroke and human types imbued with vitality and inner force. Also typical of the artist is the construction of the tunic, a fluid, almost monochrome area of paint with soft, luminous folds. 

The Immaculate Conception

The Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception
Antonio del Castillo
Oil on canvas, 192.5 x 131 cm
Ca.1650

One of the earliest and finest works by the Cordovan artist Antonio del Castillo, this Immaculate Conception enriches the Museum’s collection of Spanish devotional painting. The composition - which is structured through the three spherical motifs at the Virgin’s feet and through the triangle in the upper part that frames her face and draws the viewer’s attention to it – reveals the artist’s interest in geometry and the play of symmetry. 

The youthful Saint John the Baptist in the Desert

The youthful Saint John the Baptist in the Desert
The youthful Saint John the Baptist in the Desert
Anton Raphael Mengs
Oil on panel. 33.8 x 44.8 cm
Ca.1753-54

This type of intimate painting, which fuses religiosity with the classical beauty of the nude, is uncommon in Mengs’s oeuvre. Painted with remarkable delicacy, probably from life, the artist captures the artless fascination with which the saint presents to the world the message of the Redeemer’s arrival, inscribed on the scroll. The figure’s soft luminosity reveals the influence of Correggio (1493-1534), which was decisive for the early years of Mengs’s Roman period.   

Manuela Isidra Téllez-Girón, future Duchess of Abrantes

Manuela Isidra Téllez-Girón, future Duchess of Abrantes
Manuela Isidra Téllez-Girón, future Duchess of Abrantes
Agustín Esteve y Marqués
Oil on canvas. 110.5 x 86 cm
1797

Augustín Esteve, a highly regarded portraitist in the second half of the 18th century who worked for the Osuna ducal family almost as their official “court” painter, here combines the influence of Velázquez’s indefinite spaces with Murillo’s grace and chromatic harmony and Goya’s loose but precise technique.

Considered Esteve’s finest portrait, this canvas is notable for its expressiveness, the skilled depiction of the transparency of the gown using very little pigment and the work’s iconographic originality within the context of 18th-century child portraits. 

Landscape

Landscape
Landscape
Eugenio Lucas Velázquez
Oil on canvas. 119.4 x 168.8 cm
1852

This previously unpublished work is undoubtedly one of the finest and most monumental by the artist, depicting a strikingly wild and solitary mountain range. The depth within the panoramic view, the energy and variety of the brushstrokes and the use of light achieve a sensation of grandeur through the numerous different planes filled with a range of topographical features, all of them imaginary.

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