LUIS DE MORALES, KNOWN AS "EL DIVINO"

Badajoz, 1509 - Alcantara, 1586

Ecce Homo

Oil on panel

54.8 x 46.5 cm (Héctor San José), 39 x 29 cm. (José Gómez Frechina), 49.5 x 35 cm. (Antonio Urquízar Herrera), 38 x 26 cm. (Héctor San José)

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LUIS DE MORALES, KNOWN AS "EL DIVINO"

Badajoz, 1509 - Alcantara, 1586

1. Christ, with his serene and extremely beautiful face, pronounced cheekbones, and the painstaking depiction of the long, curly hair, moustache and two-pronged beard, is characterised by an intense realism that denotes Flemish influence and which was highly esteemed by contemporaries. The light that bathes Christ’s naked body, emphasising the volumes through subtle shadowing, indicates the influence of Leonardo da Vinci. Morales’s technical virtuosity, present in many of his works, is clearly evident in the present example in which the naked eye can distinguish each of the hairs of Christ’s long eyelashes and the tiny, thin fibres of the rope.

Héctor San José

2. Depicted bust-length in the manner of an Andachtsbild (devotional image), the proximity and immediacy of this Christ transmits a powerful emotional sentiment intended to encourage meditation on the holy mysteries of the Passion on the part of the devout viewer, arousing contrition
through extremely effective iconic models of piety. The tone of this work is thus one of suffering, with Christ’s face and chest bathed in blood, his lips half- open and his expression sorrowful.

Luis de Morales’s highly distinctive and virtuoso brushstroke is certainly present in this Ecce Homo. The light that envelops his naked torso, with its subtle shading that emphasises the volumes, points to the Leonardesque element present in Morales’s work, which he must have assimilated  hrough studying works by various pupils and followers of the Italian master which arrived in Spain.

José Gómez Frechina

3. Morales was most likely trained in Seville, under the tutelage of Pedro de Campaña (Pieter von Kempeneer), a Flemish artist who had previously pent time in Italy. Therefore, Morales, as was the case for most Spanish Renaissance painters, had access to both Italian and Flemish sources,  hich he was able to seamlessly combine in his own particular way.

His use of colour and light was innovative and impactful within the context of Spanish painting of the period. Furthermore, he was one of the mid- sixteenth century Spanish artists, along with the Valencian painters Llanos and Yáñez de Almedina, who best interpreted the heritage of Leonardo da Vinci. Although all three utilised Leonardo’s sfumato technique, only Morales combined it with a delicate and precise execution, which was raised by  Antonio Palomino, who wrote of Christ’s hairs of Netherlandish origin that ‘it made even those who are most versed in art want to blow on it to see it move, for each strand of hair seems to be as fine as a real one’.

Antonio Urquízar Herrera

4. The timeless image of the Saviour, devoid of the spatial context characteristic of a specific narrative cycle, is conceived as a dramatic image of the  Vir dolorum against a plain background with the coarse rope around his neck, drops of blood on his forehead and tears falling down his prominent  cheekbones. As such, it aims to encourage the devout viewer to experience pity and empathetic meditation on this episode of humiliation from Christ’s Passion.

Héctor San José

Technical data

LUIS DE MORALES, KNOWN AS "EL DIVINO"

Badajoz, 1509 - Alcantara, 1586

Ecce Homo

Oil on panel

54.8 x 46.5 cm (Héctor San José), 39 x 29 cm. (José Gómez Frechina), 49.5 x 35 cm. (Antonio Urquízar Herrera), 38 x 26 cm. (Héctor San José)

Private collection, Madrid