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The Duke of Feria at the siege of Rheinfelden; the duke, wearing armour, in the right foreground, speaking with two soldiers, below, a row of soldiers on horseback, the siege occurring in the background. 1634 Pen and brown ink, blue and brown wash over black chalk, squared for transfer
- Height: 318 millimetres
- Width: 415 millimetres
Inscription ContentInscribed across top: Brisac / Basilea / Rienfelde[n]
Modified text from McDonald 2013
Executed in a striking combination of blue wash with brown ink, this is one of Carducho’s largest and most accomplished drawings. It shows the capture of the Swiss city of Rheinfelden in 1633 by troops led by Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, 3rd duke of Feria. The siege was part of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) that took place mainly in what today is Germany and was broadly a religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Capturing Rheinfelden was part of a plan to link the Spanish controlled territory of Milan with the Spanish Netherlands.
The drawing is preparatory for Carducho’s painting (now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid) for the Hall of Realms in the Buen Retiro palace on the outskirts of Madrid built for Philip IV during the 1630s (J. Brown and J.H. Elliott, A palace for a king. The Buen Retiro and the court of Philip IV, New Haven & London, 1980). Carducho’s Siege was part of a programme of twelve paintings of military victories obtained by the Spanish monarchy during the 1620s and early 1630s commissioned by the Count Duke of Olivares to celebrate the glory of Philip's reign. The project involved all the prominent artists in Madrid. The choice of subject and the placement of the works in the Hall was carefully planned and designed to shore up the aspirations of the monarchy promoted by the Count duke. Carducho’s painting was positioned on the south wall of the Hall between another work by him, the Relief of Constance on the right, and Félix Castelo's Recapture of St Christopher on the left.
In the drawing the duke of Feria stands at the right issuing orders to his captains. The town of Basel is depicted at the left (15 kms to the west) and further along is Brisac. There are a number of differences between the drawing and the painting, a practice typical of Carducho where he revises his compositions at the final stage. The soldier with the raised sword in the lower left corner for example, does not appear in the painting presumably because it obstructed the view of the soldier on horseback.
The composition and the figures show the strong influence of prints by the Florentine sixteenth-century printmaker of battle scenes, Antonio Tempesta. While no single print can be identified as providing an overall source, Tempesta’s typical arrangement of figures provides a compelling comparison: the protagonists in the foreground to one side, intermediary figures directly below and the scene unfolding progressively into the background. That Carducho knew Tempesta’s work is proven by the inventory of goods taken after his death where there is listed an album of twenty-six prints by him and another, less transparent entry, 'otro del tempesta de lucas de trece estampas' (M.L. Caturla, 'Documentos en torno a Vicencio Carducho', Arte Español. Revista de la sociedad española de amigos del arte, XXVI, 1968-69, p.183)
Seven years earlier, in 1627, Carducho took part in a now a famous competition to paint a history painting of Philip III expelling the moriscos from Spain, part of the decoration for a room in the Alcázar dedicated to extolling the virtues of the Spanish Habsburgs as defenders of the faith. Carducho prepared a large drawing in pen and ink and blue wash now in the Museo del Prado that is the only surviving record of the competition. The use of blue wash in this drawing and the Siege of Rheinfelden, as well as their large size, suggests that they had a function beyond merely working out the composition. They were both designs for royal commissions and were probably presented for approval, the pictorial blue wash adding an appealing elegance to the sheets. They are unlike any other drawings made in Madrid during the period, and are anything else in Carducho’s graphic corpus.
A.L.Mayer, Die Handzeichnungen spanischer Meister. 150 Skizzen und Entwürfen vom 16. bis 19. Jahrhundert, 2 vols, Leipzig 1915 (Spanish edn Dibujos originales de maestros Españoles: 150 apuntes y estudios de artistas del siglo XVI hasta el siglo XIX, 2 vols, Leipzig and New York 1920), plt.72; F.J. Sánchez Cantón, Dibujos Españoles, Madrid, 1930, II, no.176; A. E. Pérez Sánchez, 'Gli Spagnoli da El Greco a Goya', 1970, p.81, plt IV; A.E. Pérez Sánchez, 'A corpus of Spanish drawings. Madrid 1600-1650', 1977, cat.no.226; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.90-91; M. P. McDonald, 'El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya', exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, cat.no.9.
Spanish Imp XVIIc
1976 BM, 'Spanish Drawings' 1980 Feb-Mar, Nottingham Uni, 'Spanish Art', no. 19
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Associated Event: Siege of Rheinfelden
Prints & Drawings
The Duke of Feria at the siege of Rheinfelden; the duke, wearing armour, in the right foreground, speaking with two soldiers, below, a row of soldiers on horseback, the siege occurring in the background. c.1634 Pen and brown ink, with blue wash; squared for transfer
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Object reference number: PDO226
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