Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Jonathan Brown; Richard G. Mann

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  • Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. by Jonathan Brown;Richard G. MannReview by: James CliftonThe Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 810-811Published by: The Sixteenth Century JournalStable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 20:07

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  • 810 Sixteenth Century Journal XXIII no. 4 (1992)

    Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Jonathan Brown and Richard G. Mann. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington: National Gallery of Art, and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. xvii + 165 pp., numerous bw and color illus. $29.95.

    A project that will result in more than two dozen volumes, the Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue is slowly reaching publication. The present volume is the second in the series and matches the high standards set by its predecessor, John Oliver Hand's and Martha Wolff's Early Netherlandish Painting (1986). Each artist receives a brief biography, and the entry on each painting provides customary information on provenance, exhibitions, references, and an important section of technical notes, based on an examination by the Gallery's conservation department; in addition, a brief essay usually addresses formal and iconographic questions and includes afortuna critica of the work. Each painting in the collection is illustrated in color with the curious exception of El Greco's Saint Martin and the Beggar and the anonymous and rather weak late 15th-century Portuguese four-panel screen, whose entry is appended to the end of the catalogue. Comparative photographs, including two x-radiographs and one infrared reflectogram, are judiciously used. Ample indices and concordances and a prefatory note on terminology are consistent with those in the Early Netherlandish volume and enhance the clarity of the catalogue.

    The collection of Spanish paintings in the Gallery is relatively small (33 works are catalogued) - albeit of high quality - and thus required only a single volume covering some five centuries. The group of seven portraits by Goya is outstanding, and there are fine examples of works by Baroque masters: Murillo, van der Hamen y Leofi, and Valdes Leal, in particular, with less significant though attractive paintings by Velasquez and Zurbaran. But for reader of this journal, two panels by the Hispanco-Flemish Master of the Catholic kings, a panel by Fernando Yfiez de la Almedina, and the seven paintings by El Greco should be of particular interest.

    The Marriage at Cana and Christ among the Doctors, two of eight panels surviving from a Spanish retable of c. 1495/1497, probably commissioned by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, are fine examples of the influence of early Flemish painting in Spain. The subsequent stylistic influence, that of Italy, is equally well represented by the very Leonardesque Madonna and Child with the Infant SaintJohn. Formerly given to various Italian masters, the panel is here persuasively attributed to Fernando Yfaiez de la Almedina in an entry by David Alan Brown, who also argues that it was Yafiez, rather than his colleague and collaborator Fernando de Llanos, who was the "Fernando spagnolo" known to have assisted Leonardo in the execution of his Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. The panel is here dated c. 1505, during the time in which both Yiniez and Llanos were in Florence prior to their return to Spain in 1507 and joint execution of, inter alia, the large panels for the high altar of the Valencia Cathedral. The Madonna and Child is the first reasonably secure work of Yniez's Italian period and as such is an important document of the transmission of Italian style to Spain since, as Jonathan Brown points out, "Yafiez and Llanos were the first non-Italian painters

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  • Book Reviews 811

    to assimilate the style of the High Renaissance and to practice it in a foreign land" (128).

    J. Brown notes that the Gallery's group of El Greco paintings ranks among the finest in the world: it is of very high quality, includes representative works from every period of the artist's career, and is diverse thematically, lacking only an example of portraiture. All seven of the paintings appeared in the 1982-1983 exhibition, El Greco of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio; Madrid; Washington; Dallas), but the format of the present catalogue allows Mann to give more extensive treatment to individual pictures than William Jordan could in his exhibition catalogue entries.

    Although the text is highly informative, it should be made clear what is not within the scope of Spanish Paintings. The authors do not enter in any detail into issues not directly related to the pictures at hand. For example, Mann's biographical essay on El Greco notes only briefly that Cossie's argument that the artist's distinctive style was related to Spanish mysticism was influential on early 20th-century writers (and is a view quite recently, if not convincingly, elaborated by David Davies, not mentioned by Mann in this context), and concludes that recent work, including the publication of the artist's comments on art theory by Marias and Bustamente, has "made it possible to evaluate El Greco's achievement more objectively. It is now apparent that his emotionally powerful style was inspired by deeply held aesthetic and intellectual convictions"(43). What those convictions are, precisely, is not described.

    James Clifton ............................ . Rhodes College

    Images of Nepotism: The Painted Ceilings of Palazzo Barberini. John Beldon Scott. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. xvii + 243 pp., 174 bw illus., 4 color plates. $65.00. When Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urban VIII, the surprising result of the

    conclave of 1623, a relatively obscure family from Tuscany entered the Roman limelight. During Urban's reign - a "feast day of nepotism," according to one contemporary - the pope and his nephews spared no effort to elevate the family's social position. The results were ultimately disastrous: the War of Castro (1641-44) brought Urban's reign to an inglorious conclusion, his nephews fled into exile, and the Barberini properties were confiscated. As part of the attempt to establish their position, the Barberini acquired a palace from a leading Roman family, the Sforza, enlarging and decorating it so that it might rival and surpass every other Roman palace, enlisting some of the most important architects and artists of the 17th century: Maderno, Bernini, Borromini, Pietro da Cortona, Andrea Sacchi, and others. Scott demonstrates that the pictorial decoration of the palace - novel in form and content yet with important precedents - supported the Barberini claims to legitimacy, developing especially the theme of "the divine election of the Barberini family to rule the Church and the Papal States" (198).

    The major achievement of this book is that it provides for the first time an integrated discussion of all the major decorative projects of the palace. Although the book includes a useful discussion of those ceiling paintings executed for the

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    Article Contentsp. 810p. 811

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 643-908Volume Information [pp. ]Front Matter [pp. ]Papal Policy and the English Crown, 1563-1565: The Bertano Correspondence [pp. 643-659]The Monte's 'Monte': The Early Supporters of Florence's Monte di Piet[pp. 661-676]Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Decline of the Sheriff [pp. 677-698]Gender, Violence, and Rebellion in Tudor and Early Stuart Ireland [pp. 699-712]Et cum theologo bella poeta gerit: The Conflict between Humanists and Scholastics Revisited [pp. 713-726]Reflections on the Pitti Friendship Portrait of Rubens: In Praise of Lipsius and in Remembrance of Erasmus [pp. 727-753]Pope Alexander III's Humiliation of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa As an Episode in Sixteenth-Century German History [pp. 755-768]The Problem of the Soneto in the Spanish Renaissance Vihuela Books [pp. 769-789]Early Modern International Trade and Merchant Empires: A Review Article [pp. 791-795]Book Notices [pp. 797-800]Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 801-802]Review: untitled [pp. 802-803]Review: untitled [pp. 803-804]Review: untitled [pp. 804-805]Review: untitled [pp. 806-807]Review: untitled [pp. 807-808]Review: untitled [pp. 808-809]Review: untitled [pp. 810-811]Review: untitled [pp. 811-813]Review: untitled [pp. 813-814]Review: untitled [pp. 815-817]Review: untitled [pp. 817-819]Review: untitled [pp. 819-820]Review: untitled [pp. 821-822]Review: untitled [pp. 822-823]Review: untitled [pp. 823-824]Review: untitled [pp. 824-825]Review: untitled [pp. 825-827]Review: untitled [pp. 827-829]Review: untitled [pp. 829]Review: untitled [pp. 830]Review: untitled [pp. 831-832]Review: untitled [pp. 832-833]Review: untitled [pp. 833-834]Review: untitled [pp. 834-836]Review: untitled [pp. 836-837]Review: untitled [pp. 838-839]Review: untitled [pp. 839-841]Review: untitled [pp. 841-843]Review: untitled [pp. 843-845]Review: untitled [pp. 845-846]Review: untitled [pp. 846-847]Review: untitled [pp. 848-849]Review: untitled [pp. 849-850]Review: untitled [pp. 850-851]Review: untitled [pp. 851-853]Review: untitled [pp. 853-854]Review: untitled [pp. 854-855]Review: untitled [pp. 855-856]Review: untitled [pp. 857-858]Review: untitled [pp. 858-859]Review: untitled [pp. 859-860]Review: untitled [pp. 860-861]Review: untitled [pp. 862-863]Review: untitled [pp. 863]Review: untitled [pp. 864-865]Review: untitled [pp. 865-867]Review: untitled [pp. 867-868]Review: untitled [pp. 868-870]Review: untitled [pp. 870-871]Review: untitled [pp. 871-873]Review: untitled [pp. 873-875]Review: untitled [pp. 875-876]Review: untitled [pp. 876-878]Review: untitled [pp. 878-879]Review: untitled [pp. 880]

    Back Matter [pp. ]


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