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The first mythological painting by the artist in the Museo del Prado

The Museo Nacional del Prado is presenting its latest acquisition: The Goddess Juno by Alonso Cano Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The collection of works by Alonso del Cano in the Prado, comprising 19 paintings and more than 30 drawings, the majority on religious subjects, has now increased with this new acquisition. The painting is exceptional in the context of Spanish art of its time given that mythology was a relatively rare genre in comparison to the works of other types produced by most Spanish painters of this period.

First presented at a conference in 1997, the painting can be associated with a Pallas recorded in 1657 in the inventory of the possessions of Margarita Cajés, daughter of the painter Eugenio Cajés, from whose widower it was purchased by Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante, a follower of Alonso Cano.

Its display at the Museum is accompanied by a drawing by Cano of a reclining female nude which offers another outstanding example of the degree to which the artist was aware of the great tradition of mythological painting while offering his own interpretation of it.

The Museo Nacional del Prado is presenting its latest acquisition: The Goddess Juno by Alonso Cano

Javier Portús, Chief Curator of Spanish Painting until 1800 of the Museo Nacional del Prado and Andrés Úbeda, Deputy Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado next to the painting. Photo © Museo Nacional del Prado.

The Museo Nacional del Prado has acquired the painting The Goddess Juno, an example of Spanish Baroque painting of exceptional quality and rarity by the Granada-born artist Alonso Cano, for 270,000 Euros.

The painting represents a significant addition to the Prado’s collection as an original work by Alonso Cano of outstanding quality and one which reveals many of the characteristics that would make the artist a key figure in the history of Spanish Baroque painting. The subject matter and approach to it make this painting exceptional in the context of Spanish art of its time as mythological subjects were relatively uncommon in comparison to religious compositions, still lifes and portraits, not just within Cano’s oeuvre but with regard to the majority of his Spanish contemporaries.

Both the mythological theme and the depiction of areas of bare, female flesh that were normally concealed are unusual in Spanish painting of this period. While inventories record that Cano produced other mythological works, only two are known in the present day.

Following its presentation at a conference in 1997 the painting was published by A. E. Pérez Sánchez in “Alonso Cano as a painter” in Figuras y imágenes del barroco. Estudios sobre el barroco español y sobre la obra de Alonso Cano, Madrid, 1999 (pp. 223-24). It was subsequently included in the exhibitions on the artist held in Madrid and Granada in 2002, with entries by B. Navarrete.

The work’s quality and uniqueness were evident on those occasions. The attribution to Cano is based on documentary evidence and on comparison with other securely attributed paintings: Juno’s face reflects a typology to be seen in works such as The Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua in the Pinakothek in Munich; while both the lightly painted landscape and the careful study of the folds of the drapery and their shadows and the expert combination of cool and warm tones reflect the artist’s habitual approach in his pictorial output. Similarly, the remarkable formal correctness and the way in which the figure dominates the space reflect the fact that Cano was one of the finest Spanish artists of his day in terms of composition and draughtsmanship.

Juno is now thought to be the painting referred to as Pallas in the inventory of the possessions of Margarita Cajés, daughter of the painter Eugenio (Requena, J. L., “Nuevas aportaciones a la Juno de Alonso Cano”, Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, vol. 18-19, 2005-06, pp. 77-83). The inventory states the painting to be by Cano and to measure half a vara wide by a vara and a sixth high, which is the size of the present work. It reappears in 1665 (now described as “a goddess” and with similar dimensions) in the posthumous sale of Margarita’s widower from where it was purchased by Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante. Escalante was inspired by the painting for his work Saint Joseph and the Christ Child now in the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias.

The painting’s subject, stylistic characteristics and the fact that it is mentioned in a Madrid inventory of 1657 suggest that it can be dated to between 1638 and 1652, the period when Cano was in the capital working on the decoration of the Alcázar.

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