Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 186

PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
Fig. 8 / Jacopo Bassano,
Adoration of the Shepherds,
1568, oil on canvas, 240 x
151 cm, Bassano, Museo
Fig. 9 / Pedro Orrente, Birth
of Christ from the altarpiece
of the Conception, oil on
canvas, 149 x 84 cm, Murcia,
Museo de Bellas Artes.
Fig. 10 / Paolo Veronese,
Adoration of the Magi,
1573, oil on canvas, 355.6 x
320 cm, London, National
The paintings presented here, of extremely high quality
and chromatic richness, are clearly indebted to Venetian
painting, not only to the work of Leandro Bassano, but
also of Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese. Both paintings
make use of an open, horizontal composition with a
paired setting of architectural fragments reused with
wooden beams to create an improvised shelter. In the
scene of the Adoration of the Shepherds, the seated Virgin,
who holds up with both hands the white cloth that
emphasizes the nudity of the Divine Infant, derives
from Bassanesque models, like Jacopo Bassano’s
Adoration of the Shepherds altarpiece now in Museo Civico
Bassano (fig. 8). A similar Virgin appears in Orrente’s
Birth of Christ from the altarpiece of the Conception for
the Franciscan monastery of the Concepción, now in
the Museo de Bellas Artes de Murcia (fig. 9). Next to
the manger, which has two chickens underneath it, is
a shepherd kneeling in adoration. He has a traditional
satchel on his back, a knife in his belt, and he shows
the soles of his bare feet. Another shepherd wearing a
red cap has a lamb on his shoulders, while beside him
a woman holds a wicker basket with swaddling clothes
for the new-born child. The standing Saint Joseph,
also wearing a hat, is shown leaning on a stick. As in all
of Orrente’s depictions of this episode, the ox and ass
are present, reflecting his fame as a painter of animals.
At the top of the composition is a cloud of glory in
which child angels hold a scroll with the text of the
hymn “Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae
voluntatis.” At the upper left, the angel announces to the
shepherds the good news of the Saviour’s birth.
The exotic, decorative elements characterizing the
companion to this panel, the Adoration of the Magi, recall
the pictorial language of Paolo Caliari (1528-1588),
known as Veronese. This artist’s two magnificent,
monumental altarpieces depicting the subject, one formerly
in Venice but now in the National Gallery (fig. 10), and one
still in situ in Vicenza, might have been seen by Orrente
during his Venetian sojourn. Like Veronese’s Holy
Family, Orrente’s sacred group is set within classical ruins
that have been transformed into a rustic shelter, where


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