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Exiled Navarrese heritage (5). The journey of an exceptional baroque painting from Pamplona to Paris.


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Diario de Navarra

Pedro Luis Echeverría Goñi

University of the Basque Country

Although the convent of the Trinity no longer exists in Pamplona, whose church presided over the altar canvas of the Foundation of the Order of the Trinitarians (Louvre Museum in Paris), painted in 1666 by Juan Carreño de Miranda, we cannot ignore the impact that this painting had on Navarre's adherence to the Baroque plenary session of the Executive Council. From its contemplation and examination by Vicente Berdusán, we can verify the evolution of this outstanding painter, who lived in Tudela, towards a more colorful and vaporous painting that links him to the Madrid school. It also marked the beginning of the massive arrival of paintings by court masters such as Claudio Coello, Francisco Rizi, Mateo Cerezo, Francisco Solís, José Jiménez Donoso, Juan Antonio Escalante and Diego González de la Vega to the Navarrese cloisters during the reign of Charles II.

Its history with successive owners and destinations

This monumental oil on canvas (5 X 3.15 m.) has had an eventful itinerant history, marked by the military conflicts of the late eighteenth century and the first third of the nineteenth century, such as the wars of the Convention and Independence, and the convulsive Liberal Triennium. The painting remained in Pamplona for at least 155 years, first in its original destination, the church of the Discalced Trinitarians (1666-1794), located outside the walls in the Costalapea district and, after its demolition, in its new home, the former secularized convent of San Antón (1798-1821). It was bought before 1825 by Pablo Bergé, merchant, neighbor of Tudela, who sold this "glory of the Nation" to Jean Louis Laneuville, portrait painter, dealer and expert, neighbor of Paris. Thus began the Parisian stage that today surpasses the Pamplona stage, as it will soon be two centuries of stay in the neighboring country, first in a chapel of the church of San Roque and since 1840 in the collection of the Duke of Padua in the castle of Courson. Finally, in 1964 it was donated by the Countess of Caraman to the Louvre Museum, and since then it has been one of the jewels of the art gallery.

It is recorded that this work, contracted in 1664, the year of the consecration of the church, was painted for the main altarpiece by "Rizio y Carreño" for 500 ducats, although its execution was due to Juan Carreño de Miranda, as evidenced by the signature that appears in the lower left: "R. JV. CARREÑO Fbat, A. 1666". That enigmatic initial R. perhaps alludes to his partner Francisco Rizi, creator of this scenography, who made the preparatory drawing (Uffizi Gallery) with the grid to transfer it to the canvas. It is known from Palomino that his colorful and sketchy painting provoked an initial rejection by the Trinitarians. They only accepted it after the favorable report made by the reputed Aragonese painter Vicente Berdusán, who had worked in Madrid in Carreño's workshop between 1648 and 1652. It was studied by Jeannine Baticle and the updated data on its history comes from the Louvre file. It is significant that a courtly work of the Hispanic and international Baroque arrived in Paris, after its acquisition in the 19th century by a painter of revolutionary deputies and art dealer.

A painting of heaven on earth with "all the primors of art".

This is an altar painting in the Italian style, which is considered by specialists to be Juan Carreño's masterpiece, as it brings together the best rhetorical characteristics of the Baroque style plenary session of the Executive Council. First of all, it includes themes typical of the Counter-Reformation such as orders, ecstasy, sacraments, the Virgin and miracles. It forms a theatrical scenography in which, by means of a break of glory, the earthly plane is connected with the heavenly one. It represents the first mass of St. John of Matha during the consecration, accompanied by two deacons, before clerics and knights. In the glory is the Holy Trinity and, to his right, the vision of the founder of an angel with the Trinitarian sign of the red and blue cross, who intertwines his hands over the heads of a Christian and a Muslim captive, alluding to exchange as a foundational image; on the other side accompanies a choir of five musical angels. Through an open door, the meeting between Juan de Matha and the hermit and co-founder Félix de Valois takes place, and in the background landscape we recognize a white deer drinking, with the two-colored cross between its antlers. The transfer of an episode that took place in Paris in the Age average to the time of Charles II at the Court, with the 17th century update of characters, costumes and accessories, can be described as an attack on decorum. 

His style is a product of the contemplation of the royal collections, taking the best of Venetian (Titian) and Flemish (Rubens and Van Dyck) paintings, together with the deep bequest of Velázquez. sample a clear and luminous coloring with tonal gradations based on silver grays, carmine, earth and browns and a loose brushstroke, impastoed and avant-garde for his time. It is a baroque example of a unitary conception of the arts, since the brush imitates the architecture (chapel, altarpiece and portico), sculpture (image of the Immaculate Conception) and the arts (silverware and embroidery) perfectly integrated. The phenomenon of the "painting within the painting" is expressed here in the imitation of the embroidery of the rich robe of El Escorial on the dalmatic of the deacon with his back turned, with impressionist miniatures such as the Pentecost of the skirt. By means of the aerial perspective of Velázquez origin, an illusionist space is created with a transcendent atmosphere that transports the faithful, with angels fluttering in it in daring foreshortenings. A participatory resource are the two characters who, placed against the light in the corners of the painting, introduce us into the scene through their declamatory gestures and their expectant gazes.