Juan de Soreda

(active from 1506 to 1536)

The Virgin and Child Jesus with Angel

ca. 1530

oil on panel

49.5 x 43 cm

Inv. no. P01663

BBVA Collection Spain

This panel can be attributed with certainty to Juan de Soreda, an artist who displayed a thorough knowledge of Italian painting of the time as early as the first decades of the sixteenth century, and who introduced models by Raphael (1483-1520), Leonardo (1452-1519), and even Michelangelo (1475-1564) in Castile. There is decisive documentary evidence of his presence in Sigüenza between 1525 and 1528, and it is thought that he travelled to Italy early on, which would account for his Italianizing style.

The composition of the Virgin Mary, with a fine oval face and long hands with thin fingers, the muscular treatment of the nude of the Child Jesus, reminiscent of Michelangelo models, and the way the angel’s face and the folds in his tunic are outlined are all characteristic of the work of Soreda. Also worth noting is the detailed construction of the landscape, of clear Italian influence, with the horizon line positioned almost in the middle of the panel.

The information provided by F. Javier Ramos Gómez, an art historian specialized in fifteenth and sixteenth-century painting in Sigüenza and Guadalajara, underscores the existence in the scene of elements allusive to the future passion of Jesus, like the subtle position of the Child’s left foot and the cross carried by the angel. He also points out that the inclusion of Antonio de Mora’s coat of arms in the panel might suggest that it was commissioned as a private devotional scene for personal praying, be it in the above-mentioned chapel, be it at his own home.

The frame is undoubtedly the original, in an Italianate style, with symmetrical scroll motifs, griffins and grotesques that speak of the artist’s alla antica training. The information provided by the coat of arms on the upper part of the frame seems to indicate that the work was commissioned by Antonio de Mora, a canon and a humanist who was member of the canonry of the Cathedral of Sigüenza and Provisor of the bishop Fadrique de Portugal.

The blazon, held by two svelte griffins facing each other, is similar to another one found in the tombstone of the cantor of the above-mentioned temple, and coincidental with one placed on the Renaissance façade of the entrance to the chapel. Antonio de Mora founded that family funereal monument (dedicated to Saint James the Greater) in the building’s cloister around 1521. To decorate the entrance, he commissioned the artists—Juan de Soreda among them—who had worked on the altar to St Librada, the saint known in English as Wilgefortis, in the cathedral’s crossing.