Sir William Stirling-Maxwell (1818-1878). Keir House, near Dunblane, Perthshire, and Pollock House, Glasgow; bu descent to his grandson, Lt.-Col. William Stirling, Keir House, until early 20th Century.
Private Collection, U.K.
Inscribed on the recto Cano and the verso Juan Antonio del Castillo
Black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash
156 x 126 mm. (6 1/8 x 5 in.)
Our drawing is a faithful contemporary version of a drawing by Alonso Cano in the Bilblioteca Nacional, Madrid2. This drawing in Madrid relates to a commission at the Convento de Santa Cruz la Real – an important Dominican foundation in Granada. It is interesting to note that the verso of our drawing has a contemporary inscription to Juan Antonio del Castillo, and further research may reveal more about this figure. Cano is known to have had connections with members of the Castillo family whilst in Seville circa 1634. It seems likely that this is the artist who used Canos original drawing to work on the fresco, and may well be the artist who worked on this cycle. According to Veliz in her forthcoming article: Based on Palominos text, the drawings can be dated to the early 1660s, after Canos return from Madrid. Until recently, almost nothing was know about the someone called Castillo who painted the scenes from the Life of St. Dominic on the basis of Canos drawings. Currently on the London art market, however is a copy after Canos original design of the Infant St. Dominic Found Sleeping on the Floor. The copy is inscribed on the verso Juan Antonio del Castillo, thus providing a full name for Palominos someone called Castillo His paintings decorated the principal cloister of the convent, from which entrance was gained to the church, library, chapter house, refrectory, and cells. The cloister was finished in 1624. Each side is 30m long, and with the twenty-eight arches on ground level repeated on the upper story. The paintings occupied niches opposite the arches on the ground floor and would have been seen by the members of the community as they went about their daily routine.3
The subject of our drawing has been explained well by Veliz Bomford and it perhaps easiest to revert to her entry of the subject in reference to the Madrid drawing: Barcia supposed this to be a scene from this Franciscan legend, and Wethey tentatively identifies the older figure with Saint Rocco. It may well be more closely connected with the life of Saint Dominic than previously supposed. The life of Saint Dominic includes several episodes from his early life which foretell or reveal his exceptional spirituality to his family. At the same time the artist represents the infant Dominic, obviously born, unclothed, on the floor next to his cot, a reference to the episode in the Dominican legend in which Dominic, even before he could speak or reason, showed his love of the ascetic life. The present drawing also shows a conflation of elements from the Dominican legend focusing on the infants desire to sleep on the hard floor and suffer the cold of his unwrapped body. The dog is also present, but not specifically the dominecane, one of the most common attributed of Dominic and his order. The older child and young man might be interpreted as Dominics older brothers, who, while very devout themselves, were guided and inspired by the special enlightenment of their younger brother.
I would like to thank Zahira Veliz-Bomford who has examined the drawing in person and gave me access to her unpublished thesis on Alonso Can4.
1.This possible provenance was suggested by Priscilla Muller, verbal communication January 2006, whose drawings are in the Museo Nacional del Prado
2.Alonso Cano, dibujos, exhibition catalogue, 2 April-24 June 2001, Museo Nacional del Prado, number 38.
4.Veliz Bomford, thesis number 55.