Spanish painting had its birth during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and may be said to have been derived from Italy, through the influence of the Italian painters who went to Spain, and the Spanish artists who made their studies in Italy. But in spite of this strong Italian influence Spanish painting has its own characteristics which separate it from all other schools, and give it a high position on its own merits.Antonio del Rincon (1446-1500) was the first Spanish painter of whom we know. If any works of his remain they are portraits of his august sovereigns now in the Cathedral of Granada; but it is probable that these pictures are copies of the originals by Rincon.

Dating the beginning of the Spanish school from the last half of the fifteenth century, it is the third school in Europe as to age, it being about two centuries later than the Italian, and one century later than the Flemish school. Its importance is only exceeded by that of Italy. The distinguishing feature of Spanish art is its gravity, or we may almost say its strictly religious character, for, excepting portraits, there were few pictures of consequence that had not a religious meaning. Some artists were also priests, and, as the officers of the Inquisition appointed inspectors whose duty it was to report for punishment any artist who did not follow the rules of the Inquisition, it is easy to understand that the painters were careful to keep within the rules fixed for them. Whatever flights of imagination one might have in secret, he would scarcely run the risk of being excommunicated from the church, sent into exile for a year, and fined one thousand five hundred ducats for the pleasure of putting his fancies on canvas.

Pacheco, who was an inspector at Seville, published minute rules for the representation of sacred subjects and persons, and other writers did the same. There was a long and grave discussion over the propriety of painting the devil with horns and a tail. It was decided that he should have horns because, according to the legend of St. Theresa, he had horns when he appeared to that saint; and he was allowed to have a tail because it was thought to be a suitable appendage to a fallen angel who had lost his wings. One very strict rule was that the feet of the Virgin Mary should be covered, and nude figures or portions of the figure were strictly forbidden.

Another important influence upon the Spanish artists was their belief that the Virgin Mary and other holy spirits appeared to inspire them and aid them in painting their pictures. In fact, the church was the chief patron of art, and the artist was one of her most valuable teachers. A learned Spanish writer said: “For the ignorant, what master is like painting? They may read their duty in a picture though they may not search for it in books.”

The painters of Spain were divided between the schools of Castile, Seville, and Valencia. That of Castile was founded at Toledo early in the fifteenth century, and was maintained about two hundred years. Claudio Coello was of this school; he died in 1693, and has well been called “the last of the old masters of Spain.”

Alonzo Berreguette (1480-1561), born at Parades de Nava, in Castile, was the most eminent Spanish artist of his time. He is called the Michael Angelo of Spain, because he was painter, sculptor, and architect. He was painter to Philip I. Later he went to Italy, and journeyed from Florence to Rome with Michael Angelo in 1505. He studied in Italy many years. He was appointed painter and sculptor to the Emperor Charles V. Berreguette received four thousand four hundred ducats for the altar in the Church of St. Benito el Real in Valladolid, where he settled. When he was almost eighty years old he went to Toledo to erect a monument in the Hospital of St. John Baptist. He was lodged in the hospital, and died there. He left a large fortune, and was buried with splendid ceremonies at the expense of the emperor.

Luis de Morales (1510-1586) was called “the divine.” He belonged to the school of Castile, and very little is known of his early life. When he was fifty-five years old Philip II. invited him to court. When Morales appeared he was so splendidly dressed that the king was angry, and gave orders that he should be paid a certain sum and dismissed. But the poor painter explained that he had spent all that he had in order to come before the king in a dress befitting Philip’s dignity. Then Philip pardoned him, and allowed him to paint one picture; but as this was not hung in the Escorial, Morales was overcome by mortification, and almost forsook his painting, and fell into great poverty. In 1581 the king saw Morales at Badajoz, in a very different dress from that he had worn at court. The king said: “Morales, you are very old.” “Yes, sire, and very poor,” replied the painter. The king then commanded that he should have two hundred ducats a year from the crown rents with which to buy his dinners. Morales hearing this, exclaimed, “And for supper, sire?” This pleased Philip, and he added one hundred ducats to the pension. The street in Badajoz on which Morales lived bears his name.

Nearly all his pictures were of religious subjects, and on this account he was called “the divine.” He avoided ghastly, painful pictures, and was one of the most spiritual of the artists of Spain. Very few of his pictures are seen out of Spain, and they are rare even there. His masterpiece is “Christ Crowned with Thorns,” in the Queen of Spain’s Gallery at Madrid. In the Louvre is his “Christ Bearing the Cross.” At the sale of the Soult collection his “Way to Calvary” sold for nine hundred and eighty pounds sterling.