Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 121

Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
Fig. 4 / Pedro Orrente,
Julius Caesar, oil on canvas,
150 x 114 cm, Valencia,
Private Collection.
Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
In the newly discovered painting, Hector is depicted
against a plain background wearing armour and a
helmet, and fearlessly unsheathing his sword. The
lion’s pelt over his armour may refer to the coat-ofarms assigned to him, as various armorial texts state.
The upper part of the canvas identifies the subject
through an inscription: HECTOR SVM BELLIS
of this work by the studio of Orrente (oil on canvas,
153 x 116 cm), located in a private collection in Alginet
(Valencia), has the inscription HECTOR TROYANO.
The last in the trio of pagan worthies is Julius Caesar,
Roman general, politician, writer and, orator (100-44
BC). The military prowess and tactical skills of this
late-Republican dictator were praised from an early
date by writers such as Suetonius and Plutarch, whose
works continued to circulate in the medieval period.
Julius Caesar defeated his enemy Pompey in the Civil
War, planned and executed the successful campaign
against the Gauls, and shortly before his murder
in the Senate – motivated by fear of his increasing
power – planned the campaign against Orodes II’s
Parthian Empire.
Another painting in a private collection depicting
the legendary Macedonian king, Alexander the
Great (fig. 2), can also be attributed to Pedro Orrente
and connected to his series of the Nine Worthies.
Alexander holds a lance and sword and wears a
plumed helmet with a bronze lion. The painting is
SATIS NO STA, PARVA. Alexander the Great (356323 BC), son of Philip II of Macedonia and of Queen
Olympias, demonstrated his bravery and astuteness
on the battle field, defeating the Achaemenid Empire
and extending his own empire from Greece and Egypt
to India. The fame of this great military strategist
was disseminated in the medieval period through the
Chanson d’Alexandre and above all through the Roman
d’Alexandre by Alexandre de Bernay. An unpublished
replica of Orrente’s depiction of Alexander the
Great by his studio, preserved in a private collection
in Valencia (fig. 3), is notable for the depiction of a
military encounter on the relief on Alexander’s shield.
Orrente’s figure of Julius Caesar (fig. 4), identified
elsewhere by the present author in a private collection
in Valencia, exhibits formal parallels with extant
examples of Roman bronze sculpture.14 The figure
is clothed in armour and a cloak, with exposed arms
and lower legs. He wears the traditional military skirt
( pteruges) composed of parallel metal strips, as well
as gilt shoulder guards decorated with lion masks.
Like Titian’s Julius Caesar, painted by for the Duke
of Mantua in his series of the Twelve Caesars (lost in
the 1734 fire in the Alcázar in Madrid, but known
through copies and prints by Aegedius Sadeler II),
Orrente’s Caesar wears a triumphal laurel wreath
symbolizing victory and holds a baton of command.
A replica, probably autograph, of this Julius Caesar
was sold as “Spanish School 17th century” and
entitled A Roman Hero in Laurels and Amour, Holding a
Commander’s Baton.15 Another poor but close copy of
Orrente’s model appeared on the Madrid art market,
inscribed IVLIO SESAR.


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