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Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio (Seville 1640-?1695-8)
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Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio (Seville 1640-?1695-8)

Two young peasants in a landscape

Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio (Seville 1640-?1695-8)
Two young peasants in a landscape
oil on canvas
59 x 45 3/8 in. (150 x 115 cm.)
Private collection, Switzerland.
J.T. Spike, 'Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: Detroit, Painting in Spain...', The Burlington Magazine, CXXIV, no. 954, September 1982, p. 583, 'Villavicencio qualifies as the genuine 'discovery' of the exhibition. No. 34 [the present lot] displays a refined sensibility of expression reminiscent of Sweerts'.
R. González Ramos, Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio, caballero pintor, Seville, 1999, p. 149, no. 23.
Princeton, Princeton University, The Art Museum, and Detroit, Institute of Arts, Painting in Spain from North American Collections, (catalogue by E.J. Sullivan, et al.), April-September 1982, no. 34, pp. 50 and 95, pl. 34 (entry by N.A. Mallory).
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Miriam Winson-Alio
Miriam Winson-Alio

Lot Essay

Described by Spike in his Burlington Magazine review of the 1982 Detroit exhibition on painting in Spain 'as displaying a refined sensibility of expression reminiscent of Sweerts', this canvas is a characteristic, mature work by this Sevillian artist from circa 1680-90.

Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio came from an aristocratic family in Seville and was originally destined for a military career. He turned, however, to letters and painting at an early age, and in 1660 was one of the artists who, with Murillo, founded the Academia de Pintura in Seville. In 1661, he joined the Jerusalem Order of the Knights of Malta and travelled to Malta, where he befriended another member, the Neapolitan Caravaggesque painter, Mattia Preti. From this point on, much of his life was taken up in the service of the Order, travelling in Italy and Spain and periodically returning to his native Seville, where he continued to paint.

The choice of low-life subject matter as well as the treatment of the children's faces in this picture clearly owe a strong debt to Murillo's work. Murillo, and his compatriot Ribera, had been inspired by a new interest in painting scenes from everyday life, usually involving only a few characters often in the act of cheating or robbing an innocent dupe, which had in turn been inspired by Caravaggio's pictures of Roman life of the 1590s. At the same time, there was a new vogue for Spanish Picaresque novels, which tell the colourful stories of wanderers, rogues and gypsies, as illustrated in the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes and Mateo Alemán's Guzmán de Alfarache. This vogue for Spanish Picaresque literature swept through the Low Countries as well as France, Italy and Germany, and no doubt accounted for the success of Caravaggio's and his followers' low-life subjects throughout Europe. It is therefore no surprise that it was also picked up by some Spanish artists. Villavicencio merged Spanish and Roman literary and artistic traditions and often employed a Caravaggesque chiaroscuro which was highly unusual in Sevillian painting in the second half of the 17th century.

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