Commented Works: The Virgin of the Catholic Monarchs, Anonymous (1491 – 1493) Reply

Virgen Reyes Catolicos

In this six-minute video Laura Alba of the Technical Documentation Staff at the Prado Museum comments on the anonymous painting, The Virgin of the Catholic Monarchs (La Virgen de los Reyes Católicos) painted between 1491 and 1493 for the Dominican convent of Avila.

The work portrays the Virgin and Child accompanied by King Ferdinand the Catholic with his adolescent son, Juan. Behind the king but towering over him is Tomas de Torquemada, the infamous Inquisitor of Castille, looking angelic.

On the opposite side of the painting appears Queen Isabella, backed by Pedro de Arbués, the Inquisitor of Aragon. Just the protagonists chosen for this painting and their positioning mark the priorities of its time.

Infrared reflectographic analysis reveals the pencil sketches underlying the paint, some of them very esquematic and others–notably those of the queen–quite detailed, prompting the suspicion that more than one artist may have worked on the painting. But who applied the paint? It might have been Fernando Gallego, a master painter from nearby Salamanca. The similarity between the treatment of the folds of the queen’s dress and those in another of his paintings, Cristo bendiciendo (1494-1496) is notable. Another possibility is the Flemish painter in the queen’s service at that time, Michel Sittow, and the technical staff at the Prado are following up this possibility.

Video courtesy of the Prado Museum

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