Alonso Cano, a painter of turbulent life

Alonso Cano, a painter, architect and sculptor from Granada, is one of the most important artists on the national scene of the 17th century. He was a genius whose work is still impacting. We are going to discover something more about this outstanding and unique artist.

The turbulent life of Alonso Cano

Alonso Cano was born in Granada in 1601. In this city his father had a workshop where he worked as a sculptor and assembler of altarpieces. And it will be in this workshop where Alonso Cano begins his training.

However, looking for a better professional future for Alonso, his parents decide to move to Seville. There he enters as an apprentice painter in Francisco Pacheco’s workshop. One of his most notable companions was the young Diego Velázquez.

Married twice, appointed court painter, accused of murdering his second wife and tortured by the Inquisition, Alonso Cano lived in several Spanish cities where he found glory and fell from grace.


His art, calm and sweet, seems to be the antithesis of his temperament. Alonso Cano was an artist with a tormented spirit and a turbulent life.

Finally, he returned to Granada to take charge of the cathedral. But he not only worked on it, but on many other projects. And this and his inability to be ordained as a priest, led the City Council to dismiss him as a racionero of the cathedral.

Nevertheless, Thanks to Queen Doña Mariana of Austria, he triumphantly returned to Granada in 1660.. And it will be in his homeland that he will die at the height of his career.

Alonso Cano as painter

Despite being a versatile artist, Alonso Cano always considered himself primarily a painter. And, although he did not complete his five-year training in Pacheco’s workshop, he managed to establish himself as one of the best painters of his time.

Thus, at the beginning of the year 1638, Cano was invited by the Count-Duke of Olivares to enter his service. He would be his chamber painter and, therefore, he had to go to Madrid. There, in addition to creating notable works of art, he also served as drawing teacher to Prince Baltasar Carlos.

Cano was in charge of selecting new works for the burned Retiro Palace and restoring some of the works damaged in the fire.

His masterpiece as a painter is his canvas known as The miracle of the well. Also notable are the descent into limbo and his famous cycle of the life of the Virgin for the main chapel of the cathedral of Granada.

His facet as a sculptor

Alonso Cano was also a sculptor. Yes ok, It is not yet known where it was formed as such. Some historians suggest that he was able to do it in Martínez Montañez’s workshop. But it is most likely that he went autonomously thanks to the knowledge acquired from his father, Miguel Cano.

It will be, precisely, thanks to the knowledge provided by his father, that Alonso works the altarpieces with great mastery. A) Yes, highlights the altarpiece of the church of Santa María de la Oliva in Lebrija (Seville). For which, he carved some monumental sculptures of the Virgin of the Olive, Saint Peter Y Saint Paul.

Also for an altarpiece, Alonso Cano made in 1634 a beautiful San Juan which is now in the National Museum of Sculpture. A spectacular sculpture that impresses, in addition to its beauty, its size. Well, it’s almost life-size.

But, perhaps, the most impressive piece of the sculptures made by Alonso Cano is the smallest of those he carved: a little Immaculate with a sweet and childlike face. And that he made for the cathedral of Granada between 1655-56.

Also worthy of admiration are its monumental sculptures of Saint Joseph, Saint Anthony of padua, San Diego de Alcala Y San Pedro de Alcantara. Today they can be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Granada. Although, originally they were in the disappeared convent of the Guardian Angel, an architectural work also by Alonso Cano.

A renowned architect

As an architect, Alonso Cano also achieved recognition. His first works were developed in Madrid, after his return from Valencia. And among them, stands out an arch of ephemeral architecture that he designed to adorn the gate of Guadalajara on the occasion of the entry of Mariana of Austria, on November 15, 1649, in the capital of the Kingdom.

But, without a doubt, his main architectural works were developed in Granada. A) Yes, took charge of the project and construction of the disappeared convent of the Guardian Angel and the cathedral of Granada. This had entered into decline after the death of Diego de Siloé. And to be able to work on it, he got the appointment of racionero of the cathedral.

In this temple he projected and built the impressive baroque portal that today delights those who contemplate it at sunset.

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