Acquisition of a Bartolomé Pérez de la Dehesa Painting by the Cleveland Museum

23/4/12 - Acquisition - Cleveland, Museum of Art - The Cleveland museum has recently acquired a Virgin with Child painted on copper by Bartolomé Pérez de la Dehesa, disciple then son-in-law of Juan Arellano, from the Galerie Terrades in Paris (ill. 1). The artist is known for his flowers rather than his religious scenes, although his floral garlands sometimes provide a frame for the saints he depicted. Pérez de la Dehesa also designed sets for the theater at the Parque del Buen Retiro in Madrid, as well as temporary décors, notably for the entrance of Marie Louise of Orleans in 1679. His production earned him the position of king’s painter in 1689.

1. Bartolome Perez de la Dehesa (c. 1634 – 1698)
Our Lady of Good Counsel, c.1690
Oil on copper - 37 x 26 cm
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Photo : Galerie Terrades

2. Juan Minguet (1737-1804 ?)
Altarpiece of the chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel (detail), 1765
Photo : D.R.

There are however, a few known religious paintings by Pérez, particularly a series of canvases illustrating the life of the Virgin [1] designed for the church of Santa María de Gumiel del Mercado, near Burgos, around 1683-1684.
The painting for the Cleveland museum represents Our Lady of Good Counsel, as inscribed at the top. Wearing a crown, a crescent moon at her feet, the Virgin appears at the center of a symmetrical composition. Four cherubs hover around her, all in the same position with hands piously joined, while two Jesuits are shown on their knees and slightly set back : Saint Francis Xavier dressed as a priest and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in the black habit of the order. The Baroque architecture shows a round arch supported by estipite columns ornated with gilt cherubs and fruit clusters. The gestures of the hands and the movement of the Virgin’s drapery impart a certain dynamic quality to the whole.

The composition was inspired by the altarpiece in one of the chapels of the imperial collegiate church of the Jesuits in Madrid, dedicated to Saint Francis Xavier. The chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel was built between 1660 and 1665 with the décor of the vaulted ceiling and the painting of the altarpiece entrusted to Sebastián de Herrera Barnuevo with the help of Arellano. An engraving [2] by Juan Minguet dating from 1765 (ill. 2) gives us an idea of the work, today lost, although it also reproduces the 18th century additions. We can see the statue of the Virgin with Child framed by the sculptures of Anne and Joachim, with the busts of the Jesuits represented above them. The painter chose to center his composition more tightly around the Virgin with the original silhouette and drapery faithfully reproduced but adding a particularly imposing and decorative halo. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, the church became the collegiate of Saint Isidore and was, alas, partially destroyed during the Spanish Civil War.

Pérez, whose style is rather close to that of Diego González de Vega, is not of course a major figure of the Spanish Baroque but this painting on copper is important because it illustrates a lesser-known aspect of his work, reflecting the reputation of an artist who, though specialized in flower paintings, took the liberty of also treating historical themes.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mercredi 25 avril 2012


[1] These paintings are reproduced in an article by Ismael Gutiérrez Pastor, "Géneros y colaboraciones en la pintura madrileña del siglo XVII. A propósito de los lienzos de Bartolomé Pérez en el retablo mayor de Santa María de Gumiel del Mercado (Burgos)." Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (U.A.M.), vol. XVIII, 2006.

[2] This is reproduced in the article by Abraham Díaz García, ¨Nuevos datos sobre Sebastián de Herrera Barnuevo en los Recoletos Augustinos y en el Colegio Imperial de Madrid", Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte (U.A.M.), vol. XVII, 2005.

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