Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 13

The Portrait of Vincenzo Astanagi, which completed Frick’s “Galerie
Espagnole,” clearly meant a great deal to him because it features
alongside the great Velázquez in Gerald Kelly’s Portrait of Henry
Clay Frick in the West Gallery (Pittsburgh, Frick Historical Museum)
(fig. 2). Although we have no examples of paintings by Velázquez
or Goya in the current catalogue, we are proud to be able to
include a miniature portrait by El Greco (cat. no. 16), as well as
the powerfully moving Ecce Homo (cat. no. 3) by Luis Morales, an
artist whose work shares El Greco’s spiritual intensity, but whose
importance has only more recently been recognized. Although
the Prado mounted a Morales retrospective exhibition in 1917,
it was not until after the Second World War that he started to
enjoy recognition outside Spain, and in this respect the wonderful
Madonna and Child (fig. 3), sold by Colnaghi to the Ashmolean
Museum in 1954, represents a significant early milestone in
the artist’s rediscovery. The picture characteristically combines
spiritual intensity with the homely realism of the Virgin’s gypsy
dress and hat (alluding to the Flight into Egypt where gypsies
were believed to have originated) and the tender gesture of the
Christ child touching her breast.
Fig. 2. Gerald Festus Kelly, Portrait of Henry Clay Frick in the West Gallery, 1925,
oil on canvas, Pittsburgh, Frick Art and Historical Center.
Two other important Spanish artists represented in the current
catalogue are Zurbarán and Ribera. The greatness of Zurbarán
has long been recognized, and Colnaghi has handled some
notable examples of his work in the past, such as the austerely
powerful Saint John Chrysostom and Fray Luis de Granada of 1651
(sold by Colnaghi in the 1980s), a work thoroughly imbued with
the spirit of the Spanish Counter-Reformation. The masterly
Magnificat Anima Mea (cat. no. 11) in the current collection shows
the sweetness which was another aspect of seventeenth-century
devotional painting. By contrast, Ribera’s work has a tough realism
that appeals to the modern viewer perhaps precisely because
it seems more in tune with contemporary sensibilities than the
“mellow” qualities that nineteenth-century collectors, such as the
4th Marquess of Hertford, found in the work of Murillo.
In 1675 Joachim Sandrart described Ribera as a painter of
“fearful, cruel scenes, old unclad bodies with wrinkled skin, fierce
aged faces, all depicted in truly lifelike fashion with great power
and impressive results”; it is these powerfully ascetic qualities,
found in the two paintings of saints (cat. nos. 20 & 21) and A
Philosopher Holding a Mirror (cat. no. 19) in the current catalogue,
which speak so strongly to the modern sensibility.
Fig. 3. Luis de Morales,
called “El Divino”,
The Virgin and Child,
ca. 1567, oil and
tempera on panel,
43 x 29 cm, Oxford,
The Ashmolean


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