Sunday, May 25, 2014

Alonso Sanchez Coello

Infante Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias
c.1575 (Renaissance)
oil on canvas
58 x 46.3 cm
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, USA

Infante Ferdinand, Prince of Asturias (1571-1578) was the son of Philip II of Spain and the fourth wife Anna of Austria. He still wears a skirt, so he must be about four years old. He became seriously ill with dysentery in 1575. Slowly he recovered but then relapsed three years later and died. He was six years old.

Alonso Sanchez Coello (1531-1588) was a Spanish portrait painter, of Portuguese origin, of the Spanish Renaissance and one of the pioneers of the great tradition of Spanish portrait painting.

Near Valencia, he was born and spent his childhood, until the death of his father when he was around ten years old.
Then he was educated in Portugal at his grandfather's home. His grandfather was in the service of King John III of Portugal who sent Coello to study with Anthonis Mor in Flanders around 1550. While studying in Flanders, he also spent time copying some of Titian's works. From Mor, he learned precision in representation, and from Titian he incorporated Venetian gold tones, generous workmanship, and the use of light on a canvas. Although influenced by the paintings of both Mor and Titian, his portraits display an original talent and reflect admirably the modesty and formality of the Spanish Court.

In 1552, he went to Lisbon with Anthonis Mor when Charles V commissioned Mor to paint the Portuguese royal family. For a few years, he remained in Portugal working for the court of the heir to the throne, Joao Manuel, Prince of Portugal. After the prince's death, he moved to the Spanish court of Philip II, having been recommended by the widow of John, Juana, who was the sister of the Spanish king. In 1561 when Mor left Spain, he took Mor's place as Spanish Court Painter. Philip II of Spain held him in high esteem and was godfather to two of Coello's daughters.

He spent the remainder of his life at the court, becoming a personal favorite of the King Philip II of Spain and acquiring honours and wealth. He is regarded as the founder of the great tradition of Spanish formal portraiture. He also painted religious works, but these are much less distinguished.