Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 184



182
Onofre Falcó, a Spanish Renaissance master
Onofre Falcó, a Spanish Renaissance master
a cleric’s. In the lower part of the altarpiece
just above the altar itself he painted the Last
Supper of Christ our Lord with his Apostles
which served to cover the tabernacle.13
In his study of 1995 Bassegoda correctly identified
the painter named in the above text as “Falcó” with
Onofre Falcó, an artist documented as paying tax on
his pictorial activities in Valencia in the so-called “taches
reials”.14 The proposal to identify the Anonymous
Master of Saint Stephen with Onofre Falcó was
subsequently adopted by Benito in the exhibitions on
Joan de Joanes of 2000.15
The panel of the Ordination of Saint Stephen is the first
in the cycle of scenes on the life of the first Christian
martyr, following the account in the Acts of the
Apostles 6: 1-7:
Other works which Benito attributed to this Valencian
painter include various panels in the Museo de Bellas
Artes de Valencia: the Fall of the Rebel Angels; Saint Paul
and Saint Dionysius the Areopagite; the Martyrdom of Saint
Dionysius and his Companions Rusticus and Eleuterius; a
Crucifixion; The Death of the Virgin (the Virgin surrounded
by the Apostles); and a Virgin and Child with Angels.11
Figs. 4a & b / Vicent Macip,
Christ on the Road to
Calvary, oil on panel, 93
x 80 cm, Madrid, Private
Collection and Onofre
Falcó, Procession to Mount
Gargano, oil on panel, 108
x 109 cm, Pau, Musée des
Beaux-Arts.
The correct identification of the artist called
Vicente Requena the Elder by Benito, emerged
with Bonaventura Bassegoda’s publication of an
unpublished text written by the canon, theoretician,
and painter, Vicente Vitoria (Denia, 1650 – Rome,
1709), which included a biography of the Valencian
Renaissance painter Joan de Joanes.12 A passage
in Vitoria’s manuscript, now in the library of the
Palazzo Corsini in Rome, provides the crucial piece
of information permitting the identification of the socalled Anonymous Master of Saint Stephen:
When the Duke of Calabria was in Valencia
he ordered that the principal altar in the
parish church of Saint Stephen should be
painted with the acts and martyrdom of this
saint, one part was entrusted to a painter
named Falcó and the other to Juanes but
when each had completed an episode the
Duke wanted to see them, and he said that
Falcó had flown very high but that Juanes
was a greater eagle, and he wanted him
to do all the rest of them, and Falcó’s was
installed in the upper part of the altar on
the left side. For the final episode painted
by Juanes for this altar, which is the Burial
of Saint Stephen, the Duke wanted the
artist to depict himself, and in order to
obey that great lord by whom he was so
esteemed, Juanes portrayed himself as an
old man wearing a collar slightly larger than
And in those days, when the number of
the disciples was multiplied, there arose
a murmuring of the Grecians against
the Hebrews, because their widows were
neglected in the daily ministration. / Then
the twelve called the multitude of the
disciples unto them, and said, “It is not reason
that we should leave the word of God, and
serve tables. / Wherefore, brethren, look ye
out among you seven men of honest report,
full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom
we may appoint over this business. / But
we will give ourselves continually to prayer,
and to the ministry of the word.” / And the
saying pleased the whole multitude: and they
chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the
Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and
Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and
Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch. / Whom they
set before the apostles: and when they had
prayed, they laid their hands on them. / And
the word of God increased; and the number
183
of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem
greatly; and a great company of the priests
were obedient to the faith.”
Wearing a dalmatic, Stephen is shown kneeling as
Saint Peter places his hands on him, seated on a throne
with the other deacons. Benito suggested that the
young man looking directly at the viewer was possibly
a self-portrait of the painter.16 In the background Saint
Stephen is depicted with a halo attending to widows
and orphans.
As observed, the Agony in the Garden and the Crowning
with Thorns still in San Esteban share stylistic traits
with the Ordination of Saint Stephen. In his depiction of
the garden of Gethsemane, Onofre Falcó followed
the account in the Gospel of Saint Luke, showing the
kneeling Christ comforted in his suffering by an angel
bearing a chalice, the symbol of the Passion. Behind
Christ in the middle-ground are the sleeping Peter
and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, as the
Gospel accounts record (Matthew 26: 36-46; Mark 14;
32-42; and Luke 22; 39-46). The angel, who appears
enveloped in a ray of light, partly illuminates the scene
with dramatic contrasts. In a display of painterly
bravura, Falcó locates Judas in the background at the
entrance to the orchard, accompanied by the armed
corps of temple guards bearing torches.
The episode of the crowning with thorns recounted
in the Gospels (Matthew 27: 27-30; Mark 15: 17-20;
and John 19: 2) completed the predella of the San
Esteban Altarpiece. The seated Christ, with hands bound,
occupies the centre of the composition. Three torturers
accompanied by armed soldiers carry out their work,
forcing the Crown of Thorns on Christ’s head with the
help of sticks. Behind the balustrade the landscape with
classical ruins is characteristic of Falcó and also occurs
in numerous works by Joan de Joanes. Both painters
studied Roman archaeology through guidebooks, prints,
and drawings.

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