- Museum number
Design for an altarpiece with a tabernacle for the Holy Sacrament; the Trinity presiding over the distribution of the contents of a chest by a female saint to a group of bending supplicants including some chained prisoners, the image flanked by figures of a bishop and St Catherine of Alexandra. 1660-1665
Pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk
- Production date
- 1660 (c.)
Height: 309 millimetres
Width: 232 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
In addition to his activity as a painter and a sculptor, Cano worked throughout his career as an architect but little of what he designed has survived. When Cano was in Madrid in 1643 he unsuccessfully applied to Toledo cathedral to be appointed Chief Architect. The sheet is regarded as coming from late in Cano’s career and is a fine example of his ability to integrate large multi-figure compositions with sculpture and an architectural surround. The central painting depicts the Holy Trinity above a female figure at left, probably the Virgin Mary, taking a cloth from a chest. In the lower right are two prominent kneeling figures that have been identified as donors imploring intercession flanked by a number of other kneeling people. At the left is a man bound in chains. Flanking the painting are sculptures representing St Augustine reading and St Barbara who holds a palm of martyrdom and leans on her attribute, a tower. In the lower register is a tabernacle on which sit four figures, possibly representing the Cardinal Virtues. The drawing presents alternative schemes for decorating the columns presumably for the patron to choose. At the left is a fluted column, at the right one decorated with a spiralling acanthus motif.
Véliz suggests that the iconography relates to the ransom and recovery of Christian captives from North Africa, an act of charity practiced by the devout in Spain, particularly in Seville. The commission might be from the Trinitarian order and related to the foundation in 1655 of the convent of Nuestra señora de la gracia in Malaga. Cano was active in Malaga in the 1660s where he occasionally collaborated with Juan Niño de Guevara. The two figures of saints Augustine and Barbara recall those of Potenciana and Eufrasio that Cano designed for the title page to Antonio Terrones y Robles’, Vida, Martirio, Traslación y Milagros de San Eufrasio Obispo y patrón de Andújar (Granada 1657). This supports dating the drawing to around 1660. It also demonstrates how Cano reused figure types in different contexts (Véliz 2011, nos 84 & 85).
Identifying Cano’s drawings is not straightforward because of the tremendous influence he exerted on the drawing style of those working in his orbit, Sebastian Herrera de Barnuevo and Pedro Atanasio Bocanegra for example. However the work of Zahira Véliz has made it possible to better appreciate the range of his drawings that he made throughout his entire career in Seville, Madrid and Granada. When the present drawing was acquired it was attributed to Cano, but was later thought to be by the Roman Mannerist artist Giovanni Battista Ricci (1537–c.1627). Philip Pouncey, the famed expert on Italian drawings who worked at the British Museum returned it to Cano.
J. Brown, 'Selected drawings by Spanish Baroque Masters', Master Drawings, vol.21, 1983, pp.403-4, no.7; Exhib.cat., Madrid, Museo del Prado, 'Alonso Cano: Dibujos', 2001, no.91; Z. Véliz, Alonso Cano (1601–1667). Catálogo razonado, Santander 2011, no.101; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.140 & 142; 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.29.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 April-June, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 'Alonso Cano'
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