The meadow treasures the best collection of works by Alonso Cano (1601-1667), together with the cathedral of Granada, not only for its quantity, but especially for its quality. It was in his hometown that a great exhibition was dedicated to him in 2000. In a room in the Prado, works by Cano hang, along with others by Valdés Leal, Francisco Rizi and Antonio del Castillo. But there are also some that wait in warehouses, for lack of space, or deposited in various institutions. A few years ago, the gallery acquired two works by Alonso Cano, which belonged to Afinsa. They are from his Seville period, which until then had not been represented in the Prado. At the end of last year, the Ministry of Culture acquired another work by the artist for the museum, «Magdalena penitente in the desert», for 200,000 euros. The painting, which had a noble pedigree (once belonged to the Dukes of Sueca and Alcudia), was put up for sale by the Caylus gallery.
And now we have learned that the Prado recovers an Alonso Cano from its collection. It is exclusively published in its next issue by the specialized magazine «Ars Magazine», in an article signed by the art historian José María Quesada, author of the attribution to Alonso Cano of this “Virgin reading” (oil on canvas, 126 by 101 centimeters). And we say that it recovers, because the painting, which was once part of the Museo de la Trinidad, has been deposited since 1898 in the church of San José in Madrid, in Calle de Alcalá, in front of the Metropolis building. The canvas was attributed to the painter Diego González de la Vega (Madrid, h. 1628-1697), disciple of Francisco Rizi. He was paired with an unattributed “risen Christ” who was lost in a fire in 1936 in the parish of the Purísimo Corazón de María in Madrid.
Personal property of the Church
José María Quesada has spent many years working on the inventories of personal property of the Catholic Church of the Community of Madrid, which he knows like few others. At the end of last year he attended together with Andrés Úbeda, deputy director of Conservation and Research of the Prado, to the church of San José to admire in the sacristy the painting attributed to Alonso Cano. When the museum’s activity returns to normal, if the Covid-19 gives us a truce, the Permanent Commission of the Prado Board of Trustees will decide if the deposit is raised, at least temporarily, and the painting goes to the museum for study and restoration. This very repainted. Afterwards, it will be decided whether to join the Prado collections (seems the most likely option) or return in deposit.
José María Quesada believes that this «Virgin reading» was painted by Alonso Cano after his arrival in Madrid in 1638, at the service of the Count-Duke of Olivares. He places this work stylistically close to two paintings by Alonso Cano: “The Miracle of the Well”, by the Prado and “The Christ of Humility”, by the Parish of San Ginés in Madrid. For him, «a figure as exquisite as that Virgin could not be painted by González de la Vega. He doesn’t paint like that. Have a very characteristic female model, who constantly repeats: wide body, very round face, small nose and mouth, slanted eyes … Despite never having traveled to Italy, this Virgin is very venetian. Cano soaks up the Venetian painting in the Royal Collection. ” The naturalism of his paintings, he says, is tempered; They appear in them beautiful glazes and Velaz carnaciones … It also highlights its magnificent drawing, the elegance of the model …
Portús: «My impression is good»
Javier Portús, head of the Conservation of Spanish Painting at the Prado, has not yet been able to see the work directly, only through a photograph. In a telephone conversation with ABC, Portús is cautious, although optimistic: «My impression is good. Most likely it is from Alonso Cano. His attribution seems plausible to me. The idea is to make technical analyzes and contrast the results with those we have in the museum of other works by Alonso Cano. Over time we have gathered quite a bit of information about him. ” But he notes that “it seems that the painting is cut. My impression is that it is the fragment of a work, maybe an Annunciation. We will verify it when the work comes to the Prado ».
The attribution problems they were, to a large extent, due to the fact that this “Virgin reading” was once incorporated into a “Apostolate” by González de la Vega. Like Quesada, Portús does not see González de la Vega’s hand in this painting: «You see the difference in conception and invoice with other of his works».
In his opinion, the painting may have never even set foot in the Prado: «A good part of the works that belong to the Prado and are deposited in other places passed directly from the Trinidad. This was nominally incorporated in 1872 into the Prado. Over the years, only a hundred works would pass to the museum (Berruguete, El Greco, Maíno …); the majority, although incorporated into the Prado, physically remained in the convent of La Trinidad until the works were dispersed through deposits throughout Spain. La Trinidad had about 1,500 paintings. The Prado did not have the physical capacity to receive them ».
On «Magdalena penitente in the desert», comments that it is “a very beautiful painting, through which it is very easy to understand the compositional qualities of Alonso Cano. It is a very narrow and complicated format, where it is not easy to fit this Magdalena kneeling, repentant, and mixing the idea of beauty and emotion. Chromatically, he is very brave. Cano was a extraordinary draftsman and one of the best descriptors of anatomy in Spain at that time ».
Velázquez’s friend, with whom he coincided in Court and with whom he is closely related, this prolific artist (his work is widely dispersed), which came to be ordered priest“He has an artistic temperament different from that of Velázquez,” says Portús. Alonso Cano is a painter very balanced and classicist. Chromatically, he is more reserved than Velázquez. From a thematic point of view, they are two very different races. Almost all the known work of Alonso Cano is religious ».
Will we see this “Virgin reading” hanging in the meadow? «I don’t know. There is a deficit of space in the museum. In the warehouses we have great works by Alonso Cano. The rooms dedicated to Spanish Baroque painting are extraordinarily selective and competitive », answers Portús. Yes it seems that Alonso Cano will continue without news. José María Quesada has attributed to the artist a Unpublished “Crucified Christ”, already restored by the Community of Madrid and under investigation, which is located in a convent of nuns in Madrid.