Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 78

A LO NSO CA NO / A new Dead Christ on the Cross
The Cross has a curved crossbeam and is situated on a
small mound with a skull at its foot. The background
includes a landscape with a very low horizon, in which
buildings can be glimpsed, although these are in ochre,
almost reddish, tones, very far from those used by
Velázquez in his smaller first version.
c) Dead Christ on the Cross (fig. 12) (Madrid, Museo Nacional
del Prado): loosely dated by the museum to the period
1635-1665, the painting entered the collection in 1998
in lieu of tax from José Palacio Carvajal.54 It represents
the dead Christ, although the wound in his side is
hardly visible. The composition has three nails with the
right foot placed over the left. The head is only just on
the crossbeam, vertically inclined and resplendent with
more visible rays than in the Real Academia painting,
although the fingers are similarly positioned. The
close-fitting loincloth exposes the cord at the right and
falls on both sides, disappearing into the surrounding
gloom. The Cross is smooth and the lettering of the
titulus is similar to the version in the Real Academia. This
painting also has a landscape background, lighter than
the previous one although still in brownish tones. The
presence of two trees, the fine trunks of which cross, is
noteworthy, similar to the manner of Annibale Carracci
with little leaves of great transparency.
d) Dead Christ on the Cross (see fig. 1) (Private Collection):
Recently discovered in a Private Collection in Madrid,
this work is published here for the first time.
The composition includes four nails, the feet in parallel,
and a vertical body in which the right leg is slightly
turned inwards. The head is inclined slightly to the
viewer’s left, beneath the crossbeam and resplendent,
similar to the Christ by Velázquez formerly in San
Plácido. The folded thumbs rest on the second finger
of each hand, as in the other works by Cano. The end
of the loincloth is more visible on the left side, where
the cord is exposed. The Cross is smooth and extends
further beneath the ledge than in the Real Academia
work. The titulus, with the acronym INRI, is less oblong
than the others. Again there is a landscape background,
perhaps closer in its chromatic bands and tonality to
the small Christ by Velázquez, with mountain peaks
descending from right to left; on the right there are small
golden trees similar to those in the Prado canvas.
Fig. 12 / Alonso Cano,
Dead Christ on the Cross,
oil on canvas, 130 x 90 cm,
Madrid, Museo Nacional
del Prado.
e) Dead Christ on the Cross (121 x 88 cm.; 1 ½ x 1 vara;
Granada, Academia de Bellas Artes). This work was
dated by Wethey to 1652, that is to say at the beginning
A LON SO CA N O / A new Dead Christ on the Cross
of Cano’s period in Granada following his departure
from court.55 The composition displays three nails
with the right foot placed over the left. The head,
resplendent, is inclined slightly to the left and barely
rises above the crossbeam. The loincloth covers very
little and the ends hang down on both sides. The Cross
is smooth with the titulus bearing the acronym. The
landscape presents little trees with crossed trunks,
resembling the Prado canvas.
Other Crucifixions attributed to Cano that are not by
his hand, in my opinion, include the Living Christ from
the Augustine convent of Corpus Christi in Granada
(185 x 122 cm; 2¼ x 1½ varas). Dated to 1653-1657,
it is probably mentioned by name three times in the
convent’s accounts and must have been retouched at
an early date. 56
Finally, two sculpted crucifixes by Cano are also
relevant to this discussion. The 1692 inventory of the
daughter-in-law of the influential Castilian councillor
José González, whose portrait Cano painted ca. 1640,
mentions a small carved crucifix with an ebony cross,
silver ends, a titulus and small stepped ledge made of
black pear wood. It is the only documented sculpture
from Cano’s first period at court.57
The so-called Cristo de Lécaroz (fig. 13) is of great
importance. This is now in the Capuchin convent of
San Antonio in Pamplona. Made of wood, it measures
185 x 155 cm (2 ¼ x c. 2 varas) although Wethey gave
its height as 212 cm.58 The work was originally placed
in the chapel on the epistle side of the Benedictine
monastic church of Montserrat in Madrid. It seems
that Cano had started it before leaving for Granada
in 1652, finishing it in early 1658.59 The sculpture had
entered the Real Academia de San Fernando by 1813,
was removed in 1824 on account of the ecclesiastical
confiscations, and then returned in 1837. In 1891,
having been mistaken for another work of little value, it
was sent to the missionary college in Lecároz.60 In 2002
it was moved to its present home. It features three nails
with the right foot resting on top – like all the other
examples by Cano with this number of nails – and
a loincloth similar to the version in the Academia in
Granada. Hanging beneath the crossbeam, the head
is inclined as in the work newly presented here, even if
the face is somewhat more visible.
It is not easy to date the above-mentioned works by
Alonso Cano, excepting the sculpture from Lecároz.


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