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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Two Allegories by Juan de Valdés Leal

Juan de Valdés Leal (1630 - 1691)
Allegory of the Crown of Life 1655 - 1665
Oil on canvas
127 x 95 cm
The Art Gallery, York




Juan de Valdés Leal (1630 - 1691)
Vanitas/ Allegory of Vanity 1660
Oil on Canvas
Dimensions: 51 7/16 x 39 1/8 in.
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford


The two allegories are companion pieces which were painted by de Valdés Leal and were commissioned by Don Miguel de Mañara to hang at the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville

Now several thousand miles separate the two works.

The first painting has many titles:

An Allegory of the Crown of Life, also called A Jesuit Conversion, An Allegory of Salvation and An Allegory of Repentance

The human figure in the first painting bears an uncanny resemblance to Don Miguel de Mañara

The Crown of Life was a traditional symbol of grace

The title "Crown of Life" refers to the Biblical passage from the Epistle of St James:

"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive a crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him." (James 1,12; cf. 2 Timothy 4,8; Revelation 2,10)

A crown can be a sign of festive joy, used at weddings and festivals in olden times . It can be a mark of royalty and those in authority. It can refer to victory, as in a crown of laurels given to the victorious athlete in games. It can also be a mark of honour or of dignity.

In Reformation times a few theologians, most notably Martin Luther, argued that the Epistle of St James was too defective to be part of the canonical New Testament. This is probably due to the book's specific teaching that faith alone is not enough for salvation (James 2:24), which seemed to contradict Luther's doctrine of sola fide (faith alone).

The Council of Trent dogmatically defined the Epistle of St. James to be canonical. The emphasis given to the Epistle was one of the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Don Miguel de Mañara`s message was that the Christian can achieve eternal salvation only through charity and good works not through contemplation and faith alone

When Miguel de Mañara died in 1679, his will expressly forbade spending money on a pompous funeral because he wanted to leave his money to the poor. He left all his wealth, except for small amounts given to long-time servants, to the Hospital de la Santa Caridad.

He directed that a verse be written over the place where he was buried in the floor of the church: "Here lie the remains of the worst man that has ever lived. Pray to God for him."