Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 131

Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
orb, imperial crown studded with gems and pearls
and topped by a cross, ermine fur, and blue cloak
embroidered with fleur-de-lys. This representation of
Charlemagne occurs in a painting by Orrente now in
the Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia (fig. 14), though
this work was incorrectly attributed to Jerónimo
Jacinto de Espinosa (Cocentaina, Alicanta, 1600 –
Valencia, 1667), as was a companion picture depicting
Godfrey of Bouillon.25
Next among the Christian heroes is Charlemagne
(ca. 747-814), eldest son of the Frankish king Pepin
III, who was a great military strategist. Charlemagne
extended his realms, subduing the Saxons through
several lengthy campaigns and ultimately obliging
them to convert to Christianity. He was crowned
Imperator Romanorum in Saint Peter’s in Rome by Pope
Leo III on the night of 25 December 800. Orrente
chose to depict the moment when the Frankish
king is crowned as Imperator Augustus, wearing the
vestments and symbols employed by the Holy Roman
emperors in their coronation ceremonies: the sceptre,
Fig. 14 / Pedro Orrente,
Charlemagne, oil on
canvas, 160 x 115 cm,
Valencia, Museo de Bellas
Artes de Valencia.
Fig. 15 Pedro Orrente,
Charlemagne, oil on
canvas, aprox. 156 x 116
cm, (present location
Fig. 16 Pedro Orrente,
Charlemagne, red wash
and touches of white lead
over preparatory drawing
in pencil, dark laid paper,
395 x 280 mm, Madrid,
Biblioteca Nacional.
As with all his Nine Worthies, Orrente’s canvas depicting
Charlemagne bears an inscription at the top which runs:
This same phrase appears on a painting, also attributable
to Orrente and formerly in the collection of the Count
of Toreno, which is now known from a photograph
in the Archivo Moreno (inv. 04371-A) (fig. 15).
Another photograph in the archive of the Instituto del
Patrimonio Cultural del España (inv. 19362_B) shows
the same painting now restored and in the Pérez Gaye
collection in Madrid. Another version of Charlemagne by
the studio of Orrente (oil on canvas, 153 x 116 cm) was
once the collection of Vicent Greus Roig and carries the
There are two strikingly-anachronistic elements in
Orrente’s depiction of the emperor: first the inclusion
of the collar of the French Order of Saint Michael,
established in Ambroise on 1 August 1469 by Louis XI of
France, and second the depiction collar of the Order of
the Saint-Esprit, founded by the French monarch Henry
III in 1578. In a desire for verisimilitude, the patron
who commissioned this series must have suggested the
inclusion of these precisely depicted emblems of the
various orders. The collar of the Order of Saint Michael
comprises double knots with the medallion showing
the warlike aspect of this saint, Prince of the Celestial
Forces, defeating the devil. The collar of the Order of
the Knights of the Saint-Esprit comprised fleurs-de-lys
with flames and chain links with the king’s initial (H for
Henri) with the gold, eight-pointed cross of the order
and a white enamelled dove in the centre.
There is in the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional in
Madrid a study, undoubtedly by the hand of Orrente,
for the figure Charlemagne (fig. 16).26 This sheet and
the above-mentioned drawing of David Defeating
Goliath in the same institution reveal Orrente’s powers
of invention and indicate his creative process in the
production of the Nine Worthies series.


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