Colnaghi Foundation Journal 01 - Page 37

An unpublished Vanitas painting by Andrés De Leito
Andrés De Leito was active in Madrid in the second half
of the seventeenth century during what is commonly
regarded as the “golden age” of Spanish painting.
Although very little documentary or biographical
information survives on the artist, the fact that he
regularly signed paintings allows us to locate De Leito
among the painters of the Madrid school and indicates
a demand for his work in a contemporary market. Like
several artists working in this milieu, he specialised in
Vanitas paintings, still lifes, and kitchen genre scenes. A
superb, recently discovered example of a Vanitas (fig. 1),
signed by De Leito, exhibits his originality in this genre
and constitutes a significant addition to his known oeuvre.
Before considering the painter’s various treatments of
the Vanitas theme, it is worth briefly outlining the existing
evidence of his life and career, as a full monograph on
the artist is still lacking in the literature. The very few
extant references to De Leito place his work between
1656 or 1659, and 1663, the year he drew up his will in
Madrid.1 Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez, in his Diccionario
historico of Spanish artists, recorded that De Leito was
living in the city around 1680,2 but this date is not
substantiated by other documents. The brief mention of
De Leito by the late Baroque Spanish painter and writer
on art, Antonio Palomino, in his biography of Mateo
Cerezo, may indicate that the biographer was unable to
obtain specific information on the artist. However, he
undoubtedly knew De Leito’s “small still lifes”, which
he praised alongside those of Cerezo.3
Fig. 1 / (overleaf) Andrés
De Leito, Vanitas, 107 x
155.5 cm, signed, oil on
canvas, Colnaghi.
The only known pictorial cycle commissioned from
the artist is the lost series on the Life of Saint Francis
painted for the cloister of the Observant Franciscans
in Segovia, which was seen by Antonio Ponz and noted
in his Viage de España (Voyages through Spain). With regard
to this work, Ceán specified that De Leito “painted it
jointly with Josef Saravia, with more taste in colour
than correctness in the line, and with excessive
artificiality,”4 a laconic if perceptive opinion of De
Leito’s painting.
The scant documentation in the monastery’s accounts
indicates that the series was started in 1655 or
1656, and that by July of that year the cloister was
embellished with eleven paintings. This number had
risen to twelve by 1659, and there are indications that
a further five had been painted in Madrid; these are
referred to in the accounts of 1661, which record that
Felipe Gil had re-touched four and been advanced
500 reales to complete the series. He must then have
executed the nineteen large paintings and one small
one that are noted as having been finished by October
1662. With regard to this project, in his will of 1663
De Leito refers to payment that he is due: “I executed
various paintings on the orders of Father Hernando de
la Ruá, who was the guardian of the monastery of San
Francisco in Segovia, in that city, and re-touched (them)
for which I am owed a sum of reales. I stipulate that this
is settled and that the amount owed to me paid.”5
The ten arcades in each of the cloister galleries imply
that the series must have comprised a total of around
thirty-five paintings. Of these it can be inferred that
the first twelve, as well as at least five additional ones
brought from Madrid, were painted by De Leito.


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