PAINTING IN SPAIN.

The school of Valencia flourished from 1506 to 1680. Vicente de Joanes (about 1506-1579) was a painter of religious pictures who is scarcely known out of Spain, and in that country his pictures are, almost without exception, in churches and convents. He was very devout, and began his works with fasting and prayer. It is related that on one occasion a Jesuit of Valencia had a vision in which the Virgin Mary appeared to him, and commanded him to have a picture painted of her in a dress like that she then wore, which was a white robe with a blue mantle. She was to be represented standing on a crescent with the mystic dove floating above her; her Son was to crown her, while the Father was to lean from the clouds above all.

The Jesuit selected Joanes to be the painter of this work, and though he fasted and prayed much he could not paint it so as to please himself or the Jesuit. At last his pious zeal overcame all obstacles, and his picture was hung above the altar of the Immaculate in the convent of the Jesuits. It was very beautiful—the artists praised it, the monks believed that it had a miraculous power, and it was known as “La Purisima,” or the perfectly pure one.

Joanes excelled in his pictures of Christ. He seemed to have conceived the very Christ of the Scriptures, the realization of the visions of St. John, or of the poetry of Solomon. In these pictures he combined majesty with grace and love with strength. Joanes frequently represented the Last Supper, and introduced a cup which is known as the Holy Chalice of Valencia. It is made of agate and adorned with gold and gems, and was believed to have been used by Christ at his Last Supper with his disciples. Some of the portraits painted by Joanes are very fine. In manner and general effect his works are strangely like those of the great Raphael.

Francisco de Ribalta (1550-1628) was really the head of the school of Valencia, and one of the best historical painters of Spain. He studied his art first in Valencia, and there fell in love with the daughter of his master. The father refused him his suit, and the young couple parted in deep sorrow. Ribalta went to Italy, where he made such progress, and gained such fame that when he returned to Valencia he had no trouble in marrying his old master’s daughter. Valencia has more pictures by Ribalta than are found elsewhere. Out of Spain they are very rare. One of his works is at Magdalene College, Oxford.

One peculiarity of the Spanish painters was that they painted the extremes of emotion. Their subjects represented the ecstacy of bliss or the most excruciating agony. They did not seem to have as much middle ground or to know as much of moderate emotions as the painters of other nations. Ribalta was no exception to this rule, and some of his pictures are painful to look at. His portraits are fine, and represent the most powerful men of Valencia of the time in which he lived.

Josef de Ribera was a native of Valencia, but lived and studied in Italy, and so became more of an Italian than a Spanish master. I have spoken of him in connection with the Naturalists and their school at Naples.

Alonso Cano (1601-1667) was a very important artist, and cannot be said to belong to any school. He was born at Granada, and studied under masters of Seville, both in painting and sculpture. He became the best Spanish artist who studied in Spain only. He was something of an architect also, and his various talents acquired a high place for him among artists; but his temper was such as to cause him much trouble, and it so interfered with his life that he did not attain to the position to which his artistic gifts entitled him.

In 1637 he fought a duel, and was obliged to flee from Madrid, and in 1644 his wife was found murdered in her bed. Cano was suspected of the crime, and although he fled he was found, and brought back, and put to the torture. He made no confession, and was set at liberty; but many people believed in his guilt. He still held his office as painter to the king, and was sometimes employed on important works; but he determined to remove to his native Granada and become a priest. Philip IV. appointed him canon, and after he held this office he was still employed as a painter and sculptor by private persons, as well as by religious bodies, and was even sent to Malaga to superintend improvements in the cathedral there. But his temper led him into so many broils that at length, in 1659, the chapter of Granada deprived him of his office. He went to the king with his complaints, and was again made a canon; but he was so angry that he never would use his brush or his chisel in the service of the Cathedral of Granada.

His life was now devoted to charity and good works. He gave away all his money as soon as he received it. When his purse was empty he would go into a shop, and beg a pencil and paper, and sketching a head or other design would mark the price on it, and give it to a beggar with directions for finding a purchaser for it. After his death large numbers of these charity works were collected.