Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán, the painter monk

Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán is the first Spanish painter of whom we know still lifes, mostly painted before 1603. Forerunner of tenebrism in Spain, his works are so natural and realistic that you can almost pick up the objects he painted. Do you want to know a little more about this painter monk and where to see his works? We tell you.

A bit of his biography

Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán, the painter monk, was born in Orgaz (Toledo) in 1560. There he would work first as a disciple of Blas de Prado and then as a professional painter, commissioning religious paintings, landscapes and still lifes, a genre in which he would excel in a very special way. He would also stand out making commissioned copies of works by great masters such as Titian.

According to his will and the researchers who have studied this magnificent Spanish painter, Sánchez Cotán was a cultured person, a lover of music and literature. He was a friend of El Greco and his lender, pious and with a comfortable life. But at the age of 43 he decided to radically change the course of his life.

At that age leaves Toledo to become a Carthusian monk. Thus, in September 1604 he was appointed lay brother of the Royal Monastery of Our Lady of the Assumption of the Cartuja in Granada. And in this city he would die in 1627.

His main works and where to see them

Several works stand out from his time in Toledo. worth mentioning The bearded of Peñaranda, painted in 1590 and in which it represents a woman with masculine features that is preserved in the Prado Museum. Also noteworthy is her canvas entitled Christ and the Samaritan woman, of the convent of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo.

Still life of game, fruit and vegetables, painted in 1602, it is one of the star works that the Prado Museum in Madrid has. In this painting he naturally paints various game prey, such as partridges, goldfinches and sparrows, along with apples, lemons and a beautiful thistle.

Precisely, the thistle will become one of its hallmarks and will be the protagonist also in his Thistle still life. It is a wonderful painting whose realism impresses and that we can see today in the Museum of Fine Arts of Granada, located on the second floor of the Palace of Carlos V of the Alhambra.

Works in the United States

‘San Diego Still Life’

In this genre he also made the so-called San Diego still life, to be found in the San Diego Museum, in California. In this one he takes almost a perfect photograph of a quince, a cabbage, a melon and a cucumber. And it has in common with the rest of the still lifes its dark background, almost gloomy, and the magnificent use of light that gives the painting impressive qualities and tactile sensations.

In this museum there is also a painting of Saint Sebastian with four arrows sunk into his flesh. While, at the Art Institute of Chicago, we can find another painting entitled Still life. In it he makes an almost exact copy of the San Diego Still Life, but introducing a duck and other birds.

Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán in the Cartuja de Granada

As we have already mentioned, Sánchez Cotán became part of the Granada Charterhouse as a monk. And it will be in it that he makes several cycles and paintings of religious themes. In addition, he was one of the architects of the maintenance of the building due to his great artistic ability.

A) Yes, we found the Passion Cycletoday preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts of Granada. Or the precious canvases that adorn the altarpiece of the choir of laymen, in which it represents the flight to egypt and the Baptism of Christ, preserved on-site.

In the refectory room of the Charterhouse you can see the box The Last Supper, in which he breaks with the tradition of putting the apostles on both sides of Christ and places three on the opposite side of the table. Thus, we can see them only from behind.

Similarly, the table is not made up of rich and abundant delicacies, but only a few fish and pieces of bread. And in the center of the scene, below Christ, a dog and a cat are fighting, providing greater realism.

in the chapel deep of the monastery undoubtedly does his best work using the trompe l’oeil technique. It is an altarpiece painted on the wall, in a classical style, which serves as a frame for the painting that represents Saint Peter and Saint Paul..

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