Antonio del Castillo y Saavedra
Martyrium des Hl. Philippus, um 1665
This sheet, which August Mayer referred to as a “Miracle Scene of a Crucified Martyr," is one of the few multifigured narrative depictions in the Hamburg collection. It presents the martyrdom of Philip, who is said to have been crucified and simultaneously stoned to death in Hierapolis.
At the left is a chaotic mob in which some men have fallen on top of others, almost all of them raising their arms in gestures of defense or attack (perhaps a stoning?). Some appear to be attempting to escape by climbing over others, but all are turned toward the man on the cross. In the central grouping behind the kneeling man, one figure has raised his left hand while placing his right hand on his chest, another is praying, and the men behind also gaze upward. The martyr's hands have been nailed to a crossbar secured in the fork of a vertical pole, his bent left leg has been nailed to the pole, and his right leg hangs free. Behind him and to the side, in the right foreground, an older man and two children look on from the shelter of a tree. In the middle distance a few men, some on horseback, have turned their backs on the gruesome scene and are moving in the direction of the city visible in the distance, which could in fact be Hierapolis, as it lies on the slope of a mountain.
The liberal hatching, often extending across several unrelated areas and even across entire figures in the background, is typical of Antonio del Castillo. The artist must have had the composition clearly in mind; this is not a preliminary drawing, as there are no corrections or indistinct features.
The grid, which could indicate a transfer of the composition to some other medium, was used for (at least) one copy, which appeared on the market in London in 1991 and which Benito Navarrete Prieto and Fuensanta García de la Torre published in 2008, though they did not consider it an autograph work.
1 In 1963 Priscilla Muller identified the scene as the martyrdom of Saint Philip. See Mayer 1918, 117.
2 Navarrete Prieto and Garcia de la Torre 2008, 105, fig. 82, and 416, fig. 110.2.