Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 134

Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
The group of nine figures that make up this pictorial
cycle is completed with the figure of the Allegory of Fame
(present whereabouts unknown), which the present
author has been able to identify as a work by Orrente
on the basis of a photograph in a private collection
(fig. 20). The artist depicts the pagan goddess as a
winged woman wearing a laurel wreath, blowing on a
large trumpet, while carrying another in her left hand
– actions through which she proclaims truth and lies.
The figure is comparable to one in a woodcut by Jos
Amman, which again depicts Fame, with two trumpets
and a large pearl earring. As observed, the nine
heroes were in some cases accompanied in triumphal
processions by the figure of Fame, who proclaimed
their deeds and virtues. Like his depictions of the
historical figures, Orrente’s Fame carries an inscription
that reads (incompletely): FAMA CANOSQVE TVBA.
There is another, unpublished version of this work by
Orrente now in a private collection, only known to the
author from a photograph (fig. 21).
Fig. 20 / Pedro Orrente, Allegory
of Fame, oil on canvas, 150
x 110 cm, Private Collection
(present location unknown).
Fig. 21 / Workshop of Pedro
Orrente, Allegory of Fame, oil
on canvas, Private Collection
(present location unknown).
It remains uncertain who might have commissioned
this pictorial cycle of the Nine Worthies, and its
original intended location is unclear. One possibility
is that it was commissioned as a decorative cycle
for a room in the Royal Palace in Valencia. The
tapestry of the Nine Worthies purchased by Pedro
Pedro Orrente and the Nine Worthies
the Ceremonious may have hung in a room in that
palace for some time, prior either to its removal to
another royal residence or its ultimate deterioration.
Perhaps the commission of the pictorial cycle from
Pedro Orrente was conceived as a replacement for
the original tapestry. Alternatively, the presence of
symbols such as the Cross of Jerusalem and various
collars of French military orders might suggest that the
series was in some way connected to the military order
of Santa María de Montesa and intended to decorate a
public space in Valencia such as the Templars’ Palace.
Another, perhaps more likely, hypothesis would be to
connect Orrente’s pictorial cycle of the Nine Worthies
to Antonio Rodríguez Portugal’s translation from French
into Spanish of Le triumphe des neuf preux, published in
Valencia by Juan Navarro (15 July 1532) with the title
Cronica llamada el triûpho de los nue- | ue mas preciados varones
de la fama. En la qual e contiene la vida | de cada vno dellos:
y las grandes proezas y exdellêtes hechos | y hazañas en armas
por aqllos hechas. La qual es vn es | chado [sic] de cauall’ia.
Traduzida en nro vulgar caste |llano: y agora nueuamête êprimida
e corregida y enmêdada con mucha diligência: y pue |sta en muy
gentil estilo: segû que a | tan noble obra pertenesce. The success
of this book is indicated by its subsequent publication in
Alcalá de Henares (1585, by Juan Iñiguez de Lequerica)
and in Barcelona (1586, by Pedro Malo).
Fig. 22 / Pablo Pontons,
Alfonso the Magnanimous,
oil on canvas, Valencia,
Palau de la Generalitat.
Fig. 23 / Pablo Pontons,
Ferdinand the Catholic, oil
on canvas, Valencia, Palau
de la Generalitat.
Numerous issues relating to this cycle remain to be
resolved; in some cases, it has only been possible to
identify paintings through photographs and therefore
lack of information regarding their dimensions hinders
their allocation within specific series. Nevertheless, the
success of the series of Nine Worthies is indicated by
the existence of numerous autograph replicas, studio
versions, and copies. The iconic series of the Kings
of Spain in the Palacio de la Generalitat in Valencia
shares notable parallels with Orrente’s Nine Worthies
in conception and style. As Elías Tormo has noted: “In
my opinion the series has absolutely nothing to do with
the art of Esteban March, but I have not yet formulated
another more plausible attribution.”29
entering into an agreement with Orrente through
which his thirteen-year-old son “will enter the latter’s
studio to train in the art of painting for seven years.”31
In his book Solemnidad festiva con que en la insigne, leal,
noble y coronada ciudad de Valencia se celebró la feliz nueva
de la Canonización de su milagroso Arzobispo Santo Tomás de
Villanueva (1659), Marco Antonio Orti refers to a series
by Pontons on the Nine Worthies in the second cloister
of the convent of the Socorro: “The nine captains of
fame, and lifelike portraits by famous painters, these
paintings numbering one hundred and four in total,
and all of them by the hand of the famous painter
Pablo Pontons the Valencian, and of remarkable credit
to his native region.”32
In fact, on stylistic grounds, the series of the Kings
of the Crown of Aragon – for example Alfonso the
Magnanimous and Ferdinand the Catholic (figs. 22 & 23)
– can be dated to the second half of the seventeenth
century and attributed to a pupil of Pedro Orrente,
Pablo Pontons (1622 – ca. 1690), as tentatively
suggested by Tormo as early as 1917.30 Pontons worked
in the cloister of the convent of Nuestra Señora del
Socorro and for the convent of the Merced in Valencia.
He trained with Orrente, as known from a document
of 1635: this records Pablo Pontons, a tapestry weaver,
The identification in this article of all of Orrente’s
paintings from this unique series of Golden Age Spanish
paintings permits a more complete understanding of
them, which will hopefully contribute to the recognition
of their important place in the collective memory
of seventeenth-century Spain. Few series of works
are capable of credibly evoking and introducing the
medieval literary world as do the Nine Worthies, with
its posthumous glorification and commemoration of
these historical and legendary heroes, who become
contemporary exempla through the Allegory of Fame.


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