The museum presents a retrospective on the Sevillian author made up of 70 works that illustrate his facets as a draughtsman, painter and set designer. It consists of 19 new attributions and 88% of works restored for the occasion. Quite an effort that allows us to rediscover one of the least claimed artists of the Spanish Golden Age.
Francisco de Herrera el Mozo (Seville, 1627 – Madrid, 1685) was a seventeenth-century artist with enormous versatility in painting, drawing, engraving and creating scenery. However, time has seen how his frescoes were destroyed and some of his canvases were forgotten. Now Herrera el Mozo presents himself as a renewed artist in the Prado Museum, thanks to the retrospective that opens today with more than a third of new attributions. “We are not only facing a unique exhibition, but also the creation of an author with an entire unpublished corpus”, affirms the director Miguel Falomir. He says so because 19 previously considered works by Federico Zuccaro, Francisco Rizi, Pier Francesco Cittadini or Velázquez are being exhibited, which Benito Navarrete –curator of the exhibition– returns to the hand of the Sevillian master.
Herrera el Mozo and the Baroque total It is the result of a five-year investigation. Both the Complutense professor and the Prado restoration workshop, responsible for recovering the colors of more than fifty paintings asChrist on the way to Calvary of the Cerralbo Museum and Saint Joseph’s dream who for the first time leaves the parish of San Sebastián in Aldeavieja (Ávila).
The Sevillian was a painter “with a very strong personality who spoke with his own voice, and a very powerful one, in the midst of the prolific Spanish 17th century”, in the words of Falomir (remember that he competed with Velázquez or Murillo).
He was vain, haughty and defiant. Perhaps that is why he was envied by some of his contemporaries. Mathematician, astronomer and geometer as well as an engineer, architect and set designer, this artist who now presents himself renewed in the Prado that covered all the arts. Hence the subtitle of the sample: the full Baroque.
The tour begins with a painting by Francisco de Herrera el Viejo on loan from the Louvre: The founders of the monastic orders taking their rule from Saint Basil. This is the first time that El Mozo collaborates with his father, from whom he will learn practically all the pictorial models.
The presence of this French canvas is essential to understand the influence exerted by the first Herrera on his son, who in 1648 fled with part of those family models to Rome. A robbery that is not entirely strange, if we take into account the bad relationship between the two (the first did not even attend the second’s wedding).
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THAT ROMAN STAGE AND ITS GRAPHIC ACTIVITY IS A DISCOVERY. INVESTIGATIONS HAVE RETURNED TO THE MASTER UP TO A DOZEN GOAUADES PREVIOUSLY ATTRIBUTED TO THE CITTADINI CIRCLE.
The Italian capital opened a world of possibilities to the artist, who began to be known as “il spagnolo degli Pexe” [el español de los peces]. To record this, a possible self-portrait is shown –Fish Saler– coming from the National Gallery in Ottawa, which is quite a discovery. So is the reconstruction of that Roman stage and the graphic activity he carried out there, because research has returned to the master up to a dozen gouaches previously attributed to the Cittadini circle.
Dozens of drawings, prints and fabrics –impossible not to mention the monumental Triumph of San Hermenegildo– complete the tour, conceived with a careful assembly that accompanies the rhythm of the sample.
This ends with one last facet of Herrera el Mozo as a set designer. This is how we got to the manuscript jealousy makes stars by Juan Vélez de Guevara exhibited for the first time in Madrid or the recreation of the Salón Dorado del Alcázar that children will surely like.
Navarrete says that the exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Plácido Arango, who was president of the Board of Trustees of the Museum for years.
It is precisely in the first rooms that the dream of saint joseph that he donated at the time to the Prado, together with the completely renewed version – rather “resurrected” – that the author made for the Aldeavieja altarpiece (now the malachite green shines with its own light).
Too bad this canvas can’t hang next to Immaculate, the other cloth that Arango gave at the time to the Madrid institution. “I consider that this painting does not correspond to the artist’s technique, nor the Saint Thomas of Aquino of Sevilla. For this reason, and for scientific honesty, they are not exposed here”, defends the curator.
Herrera el Mozo and the total Baroque It is the first monographic of the artist organized in the Prado, after a first approach to the teacher in 1986 by the hand of Pérez Sánchez. It is sponsored by the Friends of the Prado Museum Foundation and in collaboration with the Madrid City Council, and can be seen on the first floor of the museum until June 30. Sol G. Moreno
*More information in the article by María Álvarez-Garcillán Morales published in ARS number 58.