Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 185

PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
PEDRO ORRENTE / The Spanish Bassano
Fig. 6 / Pedro Orrente,
Miracle of Saint Leocadia,
1617, oil on canvas, 250 x
300 cm, Toledo Cathederal.
Fig. 7 / Juan Ribalta,
Adoration of the
Shepherds, ca. 1620, oil
on copper, 15 x 29.5 cm,
Museo de Bellas Artes de
Although in many ways inspired by his time with
Bassano in Venice, the newly discovered Adorations
(see figs. 1 & 2) were probably painted shortly before
the artist’s permanent settlement in Valencia. As has
been observed, the paintings are remarkable not only
for their support, but also for their size (86 x 68.5 cm
each). In the context of Spanish painting of the first
half of the seventeenth century, works on copper are
uncommon; works on this scale are an extreme rarity.
In their text on the artist, Diego Angulo and Alfonso
Pérez Sánchez referred to an Adoration of the Magi
on copper belonging to the Marchioness of Agüero
in Madrid, but without providing the dimensions.20
Presumably this was executed on the smaller scale of
most works on this medium.
In Spain, small paintings on metal supports, known
as láminas, were often used in the decoration of
oratories.21 Although they were highly valued at
court, works on copper in Spanish collections
generally came from Italy and Flanders. A recent
article by Peter Cherry on an Adoration of the
Shepherds on copper now in the Museo de Bellas
Artes de Bilbao (fig. 7) highlights the dearth
of paintings on metal produced by artists in
Valencia.22 The work in Bilbao, painted by Juan de
Ribalta around 1620, is one of very few Valencian
works on copper discovered by Cherry (along with
those documented by Juan’s father, Francisco), and
it is the only one known to have survived. Cherry
notes that the casting of the scene as a “real
event” is similar to Orrente’s Bassano-like, rustic
treatment of biblical subjects. This is confirmed
by compositional similarities in the Adoration
of the Shepherds by Orrente presented here: both
paintings feature the subject entering from the left
to find the Holy Family by a shed with a pitched
wooden roof set in a deep landscape. The figure
of the shepherd with a lamb slung across his
shoulders in the Ribalta, furthermore, recalls the
figure on the far left in the Orrente. Orrente was
Francisco’s rival in Valencia, and the relationship
between Juan and Orrente’s works, not only
compositionally but also in terms of support is
an interesting reflection of how artistic practice
developed in the local context.


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