Alonso Sanchez Coello (about 1515-1590) was the first great portrait painter of Spain. He was painter-in-ordinary to Philip II., and that monarch was so fond of him that in his letters he called him “my beloved son.” At Madrid the king had a key to a private entrance to the apartments of Coello, so that he could surprise the painter in his studio, and at times even entered the family rooms of the artist. Coello never abused the confidence of Philip, and was a favorite of the court as well as of the monarch. Among his friends were the Popes Gregory XIII. and Sixtus V., the Cardinal Alexander Farnese, and the Dukes of Florence and Savoy. Many noble and even royal persons were accustomed to visit him and accept his hospitality. He was obliged to live in style becoming his position, and yet when he died he left a fortune of fifty-five thousand ducats. He had lived in Lisbon, and Philip sometimes called him his “Portuguese Titian.”

Very few of his portraits remain; they are graceful in pose and fine in color. He knew how to represent the repose and refinement of “gentle blood and delicate nurture.” Many of his works were burned in the Prado. His “Marriage of St. Catherine” is in the Gallery of Madrid. A “St. Sebastian” painted for the Church of St. Jerome, at Madrid, is considered his masterpiece. Lope de Vega wrote Coello’s epitaph, and called his pictures

“Eternal scenes of history divine,
Wherein for aye his memory shall shine.”

Juan Fernandez Navarrete (1526-1579), called El Mudo, because deaf and dumb, is a very interesting painter. He was not born a mute, but became deaf at three years of age, and could not learn to speak. He studied some years in Italy, and was in the school of Titian. In 1568 he was appointed painter to Philip II. His principal works were eight pictures for the Escorial, three of which were burned. His picture of the “Nativity” is celebrated for its lights, of which there are three; one is from the Divine Babe, a second from the glory above, and a third from a torch in the hand of St. Joseph. The group of shepherds is the best part of the picture, and when Tibaldi saw the picture he exclaimed, “O! gli belli pastori!” and it has since been known as the “Beautiful Shepherds.”

His picture of “Abraham and the Three Angels” was placed near the door where the monks of the Escorial received strangers. The pictures of Navarrete are rare. After his death Lope de Vega wrote a lament for him, in which he said,

“No countenance he painted that was dumb.”

When the “Last Supper” painted by Titian reached the Escorial, it was found to be too large for the space it was to occupy in the refectory. The king ordered it to be cut, which so distressed El Mudo that he offered to copy it in six months, in reduced size, and to forfeit his head if he did not fulfil his promise. He also added that he should hope to be knighted if he copied in six months what Titian had taken seven years to paint. But Philip was resolute, and the picture was cut, to the intense grief of the dumb Navarrete. While the painter lived Philip did not fully appreciate him; but after his death the king often declared that his Italian artists could not equal his mute Spaniard.

Juan Carreño de Miranda (1614-1685) is commonly called Carreño. He was of an ancient noble family. His earliest works were for the churches and convents of Madrid, and he acquired so good a name that before the death of Philip IV. he was appointed one of his court-painters. In 1671 the young king Charles gave Carreño the cross of Santiago, and to his office of court-painter added that of Deputy Aposentador. He would allow no other artist to paint his likeness unless Carreño consented to it. The pictures of Carreño were most excellent, and his character was such as to merit all his good fortune. His death was sincerely mourned by all who knew him.

It is said that on one occasion he was in a house where a copy of Titian’s “St. Margaret” hung upon the wall, and those present united in saying that it was abominably done. Carreño said: “It has at least one merit; it shows that no one need despair of improving in art, for I painted it myself when I was a beginner.”

Gregorio Utande, a poor artist, had painted a “Martyrdom of St. Andrew” for the nuns of Alcalà, and demanded one hundred ducats for it. The nuns thought the price too much, and wished to have Carreño value the work. Utande took the picture to Carreño, and first presenting the great master with a jar of honey, asked him to touch up his St. Andrew for him. Carreño consented, and, in fact, almost repainted Utande’s picture. A short time after Carreño was asked to value the St. Andrew, but declined. Then Herrera valued it at two hundred ducats, which price the nuns paid. After Utande received his money he told the whole story, and the picture was then known as “La Cantarilla de Miel,” or “the pot of honey.”