Francisco de Herrera, d. J. ("El Mozo"), Zeichner

Die Versuchung des Hl. Antonius, um 1645 (?)

Painter, architect, and graphic artist Francisco de Herrera the Younger probably began his training under his father, Francisco de Herrera the Elder, then sojourned for a time in Rome around 1649,[1] where he studied architecture and painted still lifes, especially of fish, eventually receiving the sobriquet of “the Spaniard of fish.”[2] Following a stay in Madrid,[3] where his father died in 1656, he returned to Seville no later than 1657,[4] where in January 1660 he founded, together with Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Juan de Valdés Leal, Cornelis Schut, and others, the Seville Academy, which he directed for nearly a year together with Murillo. He then continued his career in Madrid at the royal court, where he was appointed “Master in Chief of the Royal Works" in 1677 and was charged with caring for all royally owned works of art.[5] Also active as an architect, he worked on the first plans for the Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar in Zaragoza.[6]
This delicate drawing, now badly faded, came into the collection with an attribution to the school of Murillo. In the 1966 Hamburg catalogue the sheet was presented as “School of Madrid," owing to the absence of similarities to Murillo's work; it was dated to the mid-seventeenth century and placed in the proximity of Herrera the Younger.[7] Jonathan Brown considered that attribution, since maintained, to be correct, believing the treatment of the saint and the landscape to be typical of Herrera the Younger and seeing it as one of Herrera's few known drawings from the period before 1668.[8] The very painterly washed ink drawing was gone over with a black crayon, mainly to sharpen the figures' contours.
This sheet is one of the few narrative compositions in the collection. It pictures a devil prancing around Saint Anthony (ca. 250–356) and tempting him with grapes. The saint stands nearly in contact with his tempter, and fails to concentrate on his prayer. The “wave of seduction” begins in the dark at the left of the composition and moves toward the light on the right: from the level of the satyr's left elbow with the washed and lightly hatched shrubbery, it proceeds across his shoulder and right arm to Anthony's right hand, which appears willing to accept the proffered grapes. The movement continues across his arm to Anthony's head, which also expresses temptation, but then abruptly breaks off above his left arm by the staff that rests on the ground and denotes Anthony's resolution. In contrast to the later, more complex compositions that extend more clearly into the depth of the picture, this work adheres to the notion of a setting parallel to the picture plane, suggesting a probable date from the period before Herrera the Younger's Roman sojourn around 1649.

Jens Hoffmann-Samland

1 For Herrera's stay in Italy, see Fernández-Santos 2005.
2 Ceán Bermúdez 1800, 2:279.
3 In Madrid in 1654 he finished the painting The Triumph of Saint Hermenegild, 128 3/8 x 89 3/4 in. (326 x 228 cm), Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, inv. no. P 833.
4 The painting Ecstasy of Saint Francis in the cathedral at Seville, for example, dates from the year 1657.
5 Brown 1974, 131-32.
6 Ceán Bermúdez 1800, 2:182; and Brown 1974, 132.
7 Stubbe (dir.) 1966, 7.
8 Brown 1975, 239, no. 15, fig. 14

Details about this work

Feder und Pinsel in Braun über schwarzem Stift 173 x 255 mm (Blatt) Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kupferstichkabinett Inv. Nr.: 38590 Collection: KK Zeichnungen, Spanien, 15.-19. Jh. © Hamburger Kunsthalle / bpk Foto: Christoph Irrgang, CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

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