Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 180

PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
Fig. 2 / Pedro Orrente,
Adoration of the Shepherds,
oil on copper, 86 x 68.5 cm,
acquired from Colnaghi in
2017 by a Private Collector.
Fig. 3 / Anonymous artist
after Antonio Allegri, called
Correggio, Magdalene
Reading, oil on copper, 27
x 37 cm, Sold by Bonham’s
in 2011 (original painting
formerly in Dresden).
and a leading draughtsman and history painter in his
judgement and daring.”6
Rome before moving on to the workshop of Leandro
Bassano in Venice.
Further links to Italy are suggested by Orrente’s
association with the Tuscan painter Angelo Nardi
(1584-1664). The two men probably overlapped in
Venice, and Nardi subsequently arrived in Spain in
1607, the year in which Orrente is documented as
back in Murcia. A document of 31 January 1612
connects the two men and shows Nardi acting on
Orrente’s behalf in the retrieval of a painting for
which payment had evidently not been received.7 An
earlier document dated 27 August 1605 also provides
evidence of Orrente’s presence in Italy, as recounted
by the writers quoted above. This document
authorizes in Venice a certain Gasparo Manart from
Rome to collect a sum of money from the artist based
on a letter of exchange signed in Alicante on 25
October 1602 before Giovanni Battista Paravicino.8
It seems likely that Orrente departed for Italy shortly
after this in 1602, and it is possible that he stopped in
Orrente’s time in Italy, and in particular in the Venetian
workshop of Bassano, explains the artist’s exploitation
of copper as a support in the newly discovered Adoration
of the Magi (see fig. 1) and Adoration of the Shepherds (see
fig. 2). The use of copper supports became popular
throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries following the probable development of the
technique in Italy around the 1520s, although the
earliest extant examples are a bit later.9 Vasari credits
the invention to Sebastiano del Piombo, who, he claims,
“showed how to work on silver, copper, tin and other
metals.” In fact no works by the artist on the material
survive.10 Nevertheless, Sebastiano’s invention of
painting on stone supports may have inspired artists to
experiment with other materials perceived to be more
durable than wood or canvas. The use of copper as a
support probably also relates to developments in printmaking and the experiments in etching of painters
like Parmigianino, by whom there is at least one
documented (though untraced) work on copper.11
Because of collaboration between printers and
painters, copper plates would have been widely
available, easy to prepare, and durable, smooth
alternatives to wood and canvas. Artists found paint
easy to manipulate on the metallic surface, the rigidity
of which made the depiction of fine detail possible,
and its non-absorbent property meant that paint
retained its saturation.12 A Magdalene Reading, painted
on copper ca. 1530, was traditionally attributed to
Correggio and survived in the Gemäldegalerie in
Dresden until the Second World War (fig. 3).13 By the
1560s, Vasari himself, along with Allori and Bronzino
– working for Francesco I de’Medici in Florence – all
favoured copper. Paintings on copper were prized in
collectors’ cabinets for their jewel-like surfaces, and
the practice soon spread to northern Europe via artists
such as Peter Paul Rubens and Adam Elsheimer.


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