- Museum number
St Isidore kneeling in prayer and holding an agricultural implement, two angels driving oxen beyond, putti holding up an image of a walled dity of Jerusalem above
Pen and brown ink, grey-brown wash, squared for transfer
- Production date
- 1680 (c.)
Height: 217 millimetres
Width: 257 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
On 18 November 1679 in Quintanapalla near Burgos, the eighteen year old Carlos II married María Louisa de Orleans (Marie Louise d'Orléans), daughter of Phelippe d’Orleans, the brother of Luis XIV. María then made the long journey from Paris to Madrid arriving on 13 January 1680 when her entrance was celebrated through public festivities. Triumphal arches were built long the processional route along which the dignitaries travelled and facades of buildings richly decorated with imagery. The decorative programme was devised to reflect the qualities of the bridal couple and to mark the importance of the occasion. Constructing and decorating such temporary structures was a major source of employment for many artists, architects and artisans throughout the seventeenth century. María Luisa’s entry was no exception and the best artists working in Madrid were called into service. They included Claudio Coello, José Donoso, Sebastián de Herrera Barnuevo and Francisco Rizi (Zapata 2000).
María Luisa’s journey through Madrid to the Royal Palace was marked by four temporary arches and other structures dedicated to different themes. This drawing of St Isidore was for the central painting on the arch erected on the Puerta del Sol, the third arch along the processional route. Matías de Torres worked in the circle of Francisco de Herrera the Younger and Claudio Coello to whom this drawing was once attributed. Although the attribution to Coello has been dismissed, his influence as a draughtsman should be kept in mind. Stylistically this sheet has points in common with Coello’s drawings. A number artists working in Madrid during the last decades of the century, such as Francisco Ignacio Ruiz de la Iglesia (1850,0713.1), used the same grey/brown wash and firmly drawn ink outlines pointing to a currency of style.
Palomino describes Torres's work on ephemeral decorations that included royal entries, funerals, monuments and perspective altars (A. Palomino, 'Vidas. Antonio Palomin'o, ed. N. Ayala Mallory, Madrid 1986, p.381). Torres executed eighteen paintings for the arch, none of which have survived but an etching by him in the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, records the arch façade while demonstrating his considerable skill as a printmaker. The print is the only surviving visual record of any of the arches and gives a clear idea of the size and the complexity of its decoration. Divided into three principal levels the arch was devoted to the theme of Religion personified by a woman six metres tall standing on a globe holding a crown and the keys of Saint Peter. The arch was adorned with figures including saints, rulers and equestrian figures. The adornments were described in the Descripcíon verdadera y punctual de la real, Magestuosa, y publica Entrada, que hizo la Reyna Nuestra Señora Doña Maria Luisa de Borbon … for example, the columns were painted to resemble lapis lazuli with gold veins and other surfaces resembled white marble.
In the centre of the arch was a large painting of St Isidore praying surrounded by a wreath of flowers surmounted by a crown held by putti. Isidore, the patron saint of Madrid had been canonised in 1622. He was so devout that he interrupted his work as a farm labourer to pray during which he had visions. Because his piety greatly angered his overseer, angels began to do his work for him so he could pray. The drawing shows Isidore's vision of Jerusalem. In the Descripcíon the scene of St Isidore is described 'en la parte superior la Ierusalen Celestial, y en lo superior San Miguel en Batalla con el dragon, y los malos Angeles, echandolos del Cielo, y en lo inferior los Campos de Madrid, y San Isidro orando, y lo Angeles arrando'. The painting was the most important on the arch for which two working drawings showing different stages of its design exist. Both are almost identical, but in the sheet in the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando the Alcázar of Madrid is shown on the hill to the right that corresponds to how it appears in the print. The British Museum drawing that does not include the Alcázar is less finished and has a different shape. The need to change the design of the oval for it to agree with the vertical thrust of the arch is possibly why two versions were made. The addition of the Alcázar also gave the composition a specific local reference.
Teresa Zapata has discussed the sources for the decorations identifying how important prints were. The detail of Jerusalem in Torres's drawings was taken from a print by Adriaen Collert after Marten de Vos (Nn,7.4.28). In both the drawing and the print the castellated walls of the city and angels standing in the entrance arches are identical. Other drawings for the arch survive, for example, a study by Torres of St James at the Battle of Clavijo in the Courtauld Institute, London. They demonstrate how much preparation was undertaken for every part of the decoration even though it was a temporary structure. Many of the drawings were meant to be engraved for a volume that never appeared. St Isidore Praying was probably meant as part of the planned publication.
A.E. Pérez Sánchez, 'El dibujo español de los siglos de or'o, exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 1980, p.64 (as Coello); E. J. Sullivan, 'Baroque Painting in Madrid: the contribution of Claudio Coello,' Columbia, 1986, no.D12 (as Coello), p.211; T. Zapata, 'La entrada en la corte de María Luisa de Orleans. Arte y fiesta en el Madrid de Carlos II', Madrid 2000, p.136; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.112-13; 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.19.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, `Spanish Drawings`, (no cat)
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'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number