Tuesday, April 24, 2007

17th Century Spain and The Immaculate Conception

Spain always hotly adhered to the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. This heightened in the period of the Counter-Reformation.

Francisco Pacheco (1564-1654)
The Immaculate Conception
of the poet Miguel Cid 1621

Francisco Pacheco (1564-1654) was a Spanish painter, active in Seville. He was familiar with the works of El Greco. Nowadays he is better known as a writer and the teacher of Diego Velázquez and Alonso Cano.

He was also the father-in-law of Diego Velázquez.

He was very influential in his sphere. He acted as an advisor on artistic matters to the Spanish Inquisition.

In 1649 his book Arte de la pintura (The Art of Painting) was posthumously published. The book is a major source of information for the period. The highly detailed iconographical prescriptions in his book were often strictly adhered to by contemporary artists.

Pacheco in his Art of Painting lays down in detail the rules for painting an Immaculate Conception. He wrote:

"The version that I follow is the one that is closest to the holy revelation of the Evangelist and approved by the Catholic Church on the authority of the sacred and holy interpreters...

In this loveliest of mysteries Our Lady should be painted as a beautiful young girl, 12 or 13 years old, in the flower of her youth...

And thus she is praised by the Husband: tota pulchra es amica mea, a text that is always written in this painting.

She should be painted wearing a white tunic and a blue mantle... She is surrounded by the sun, an oval sun of white and ochre, which sweetly blends into the sky.

Rays of light emanate from her head, around which is a ring of twelve stars.

An imperial crown adorns her head, without, however, hiding the stars.

Under her feet is the moon. Although it is a solid globe, I take the liberty of making it transparent so that the landscape shows through."

The title of the Tota Pulchra is drawn from chapter 4 verse 7 of the Song of Solomon: “Tota Pulchra es. Amica mea, et macula non est in te.” [“Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee.”] This verse had been associated with the Immaculate Conception since the twelfth century.

Among the attributes, the most popular was the spotless mirror, the “speculum sine macula,” which came from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 7 verse 26, which reads: “For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God.”

St. Bernard was the first to apply Song of Solomon 4:7 to the Virgin. The Song of Solomon was first associated with the Immaculate Conception in the twelfth century by Abelard, in his treatise about the doctrine.

Scripture had decribed the Virgin`s robes as a pink robe and blue mantle.The change in colour of the Virgin’s robe occurred after the founder of the Conceptionist Order (1511), Beatriz de Silva, attested to seeing the Virgin dressed in white robe and blue mantle.

Murillo and Zurbarán followed these strictures of Pacheco in their paintings.

These mainland Spanish influences spread throughout the Spanish Empire including those possessions in Europe and in its lands in the Americas.
CANO, Alonso (1601, Granada, d. 1667, Granada)

Immaculate Conception 1648

Oil on canvas

Provincial Museum, Vitoria 

VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y (b. 1599, Sevilla, d. 1660, Madrid)
The Immaculate Conception c. 1618
Oil on canvas, 135 x 102 cm
National Gallery, London
Originally this painting was in the Carmelite Convent in Seville

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