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First Monographic Exhibition on Juan Bautista Maíno at the Museo del Prado
A woman worker stands next to the painting "The Recapture of Bahia de Todos los Santos" by Spanish artist Juan Bautista Maino during the media presentation of the Maino exhibit at Madrid's Prado Museum October 16, 2009. Reuters/Dani Cardona.

MADRID.- This October the Museo del Prado is presenting the first monographic exhibition on Juan Bautista Maíno, one of the most original but least known figures within Spanish painting of the first half of the 17th century. For the first time the exhibition, sponsored by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, will bring together almost all the artist’s known works, together with seven previously unknown ones and others by Spanish and Italian painters that will help to set Maíno’s paintings in an international and Spanish context.

The exhibition Juan Bautista Maíno (1581-1649) includes 37 works by the artist and a further 26 by the painters who most influenced his artistic development, among them Velázquez and Caravaggio. It will allow visitors to see most of the known works by Maíno, one of the most important figures within Spanish painting of the first half of the 17th century but also one of the least known due to the scarcity of surviving information on his life and work and the problems involved in reconstructing his biography and oeuvre.

The exhibition thus offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore and become familiar with the figure of Juan Bautista Maíno, who has not previously been the subject of a monographic exhibition. Thanks to recent research and the growing interest in his figure new attributions have been added to his small output of around 40 works. Seven of these recent attributions will be included in the exhibition as autograph works by Maíno, in addition to various paintings that were previously only known in photographic reproductions and others that have rarely been exhibited and have not previously been set within the context of the rest of his output.

The exhibition also includes notable paintings by the artist such as "The Repentant Saint Peter" (Galería Barbié, Barcelona), "The Penitent Magdalen" (Swiss private collection) and "Saint Dominic in Soriano," the composition for which he was best known (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg).

Particularly outstanding are the ten paintings that make up Maíno’s masterpiece, "The Saint Peter Martyr Altarpiece," painted for the Dominican monastery in Toledo where he took religious orders in 1613. In the past they were housed in the now defunct Museo de la Trinidad and are now part of the Prado’s collection. The four large canvases are the most important within the overall composition and can be considered key works of 17th-century Spanish painting. Of them, "The Adoration of the Magi" and "The Adoration of the Shepherds" are among the finest examples of Spanish painting of the time and immediately suggest the work of painters such as Savoldo, Caravaggio, Orazio Gentileschi and Guido Reni.

"The Recapture of Bahía" (1634-35) was originally in the Spanish royal collection and is Maíno’s most famous individual painting, executed for the Salón de Reinos [Hall of Realms] in the Buen Retiro palace in Madrid. Maíno was employed by the Spanish court due to his fame as an outstanding painter and his position as a Dominican monk, and around 1620, when the artist was 42, Philip III appointed him drawing master to the prince, the future Philip IV. At this period Maíno established cordial relations with Velázquez whom he supported and selected as the winner in a competition to paint the subject of "The Expulsion of the Moors" (now lost), preferring his entry to those by rivals of the stature of Carducho and Cajés.

"Portrait of a Gentleman" (1618-23) dates from this period when Maíno was close to Velázquez. Acquired by the Museo del Prado in 1936 it is one of only four signed works by Maíno and is of particular importance within his oeuvre, revealing clear parallels with Velázquez.

Caravaggism and Classicism
The German art historian Carl Justi was one of the first to locate Maíno within Caravaggio’s orbit (“It is likely that no one came as close to Caravaggio as this Spanish Dominican monk”, he wrote in 1888). The exhibition therefore includes works by Italian artists who can be related to Maíno’s years of training in Rome and his Italian roots. In addition to paintings by Caravaggio, the exhibition includes examples by Gentileschi, Reni, Saraceni, Cavarozzi, Elsheimer and Cecco de Caravaggio. Particularly notable is Caravaggio’s "Ecstasy of Saint Francis," loaned by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and exhibited for the first time in Spain.

To help provide a context for Maíno’s work and in addition to the above-mentioned comparison with contemporary Italian painters, the exhibition also includes works by other contemporary Spanish painters that relate to his years in Toledo and Madrid. They include examples by El Greco, Velázquez, Tristán, Orrente, Bartolomé González, Núñez del Valle and Lanchares. Together they present a broader perspective of the significance of Maíno’s compositions within Spanish painting of the day.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and allows for an appreciation of Maíno’s pictorial evolution through its eight thematic sections, starting with his earliest compositions for the Pastrana Altarpiece in Guadalajara. This section is followed by others on the small-format works; landscapes; the two Adorations, "The Resurrection and the Pentecost for the Saint Peter Martyr Altarpiece;" portraits; large-format works; saints; and finally a section on "The Recapture of Bahía."

A little-known Master
Among the great figures of Spanish painting, Juan Bautista Maíno (Pastrana, 1581- Madrid, 1649) is also one of the least well known. Although Lope de Vega, Francisco Pacheco, Jusepe Martínez and Antonio Palomino expressed great admiration for Maíno as both a man and a painter he has not until now been the subject of a major study. In addition, the fact that he entered the Dominican Order in 1613 relegated his artistic activities to a secondary plane, as a result of which his known oeuvre only comprises around 40 works.

Despite being drawing master to the future Philip IV, who always respected and paid attention to Maíno’s artistic judgments, concrete biographical details have been so scarce that the precise place and date of his birth in Spain were not known until 1958.

It is now known that the artist was born in the town of Pastrana in the area of Spain known as the Alcarria. Maíno was the son of a Milanese silk merchant of the same name and of Ana de Figueredo from Lisbon. He spent his teenage years in Madrid and went to Italy at a date that is still not known but must have been around the end of the 16th century. There he received his artistic training within the context of the two major trends that prevailed in Rome around 1600: Caravaggio’s revolutionary naturalism and the revision of Italian classicism undertaken by Annibale Carracci and the Bolognese school. Maíno experienced and assimilated this new combination of manners and styles at first hand, as is evident in his painting, which is characterized by a vigorous, descriptive line and monumental, sculptural figures that are defined through intense, contrasting light and bright, saturated colors with a wide range of yellows, ochres, cobalt blues and vermilions. Maíno painted on a range of supports and in different dimensions and was particularly notable as a portraitist as well as a landscape painter, a genre in which he left a number of compositions that combine a classicizing aesthetic with a minutely detailed, almost botanical focus close to the style of the Flemish landscape painters.

Museo del Prado | Juan Bautista Maíno | Spanish Painting | 17th Century | Velázquez | Caravaggio |

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October 21, 2009

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