- Museum number
The assumption of the Virgin; she is carried aloft by angels and putti. c.1650-8
Pen and brown ink and brown wash over black chalk squared for transfer
- Production date
- 1650-1658 (circa)
Height: 250 millimetres
Width: 198 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
Herrera Barnuevo trained as an artist in Madrid probably with his father Antonio de Herrera. He later became Alonso Cano’s principal assistant when Cano moved to Madrid from Seville in 1638. Like Cano, Herrera worked as a painter, sculptor and architect, and in all these fields he prepared designs on paper.
Herrera's drawings have often been confused with those of Alonso Cano who had a tremendous impact on his style. Originally thought to be by Cano the Assumption of the Virgin has since been recognised as the work of Herrera. The similarity in the drawing style to Cano is however striking as can be seen by comparing the angels in the present work to those in Cano's drawing of the Assumption made around the same date (see 1910,0212.42). Herrera absorbed Cano’s concise penmanship and careful use of wash but his drawings reflect the dynamism that characterises painting in Madrid during the second half of the century.
The Assumption is in a remarkable state of preservation that allows his technique to be appreciated. Herrera drew on high quality, mainly thin paper to accommodate the continuous line of pen and ink, and the semi-transparent effects of wash. His drawings are difficult to date because few relate to other works that survive. His earliest drawings linked to Mariana of Austria’s entry into Madrid in 1649 have not survived, but preparing designs for similar public events occupied him throughout his career.
The legacy of The Assumption demonstrate elements of artistic exchange in Madrid. Herrera’s drawing provided the model for a signed painting of 1658 by José Antolínez in the Church of San Nicolás de Toledo, Madrid. Antolínez was something of a specialist in paintings of the Virgin but how he came to use Herrera's drawing is not known. It is likely however that working in the same city for similar patrons the two artists knew each other and even collaborated. Herrera was fifteen years older than Antolínez, and he latter might have worked in his studio but there is no record of this. Both artists produced a type of religious art greatly in demand in the second half of the seventeenth century. The drawing is outstanding in Herrera’s work for its dynamism, his Virgin and Child possibly made around the same time (1846,0509.195) is by comparison, much more restrained. The vortex of upward spiralling movement in the Assumption represented a new treatment of the subject thus making it attractive for an artist like Antolínez eager to capitalise on the changing tastes and needs of patrons.
J.C.Robinson, 'Descriptive Catalogue of Drawings by the Old Masters, forming the Collection of John Malcolm of Poltalloch, Esq.', London 1869 (re-published 1876), no.427; H.E. Wethey, 'Sebastián de Herrera Barnuevo', Anales del Instituto de Arte Americano e Investigaciones Estéticas, II, 1958, pp. 22–23; M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, 'Old Master Drawings from the Malcolm Collection', exh. cat., British Museum, London 1996, no.52; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.103-5; 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.16.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, 'Spanish Drawings'
1980 Feb-Mar, Nottingham Uni, 'Spanish Art', no.51
1990 Apr-Aug, BM, 'Treasures of P&D'
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