Fundación Focus
<em>Velázquez Centre</em>

Velázquez Centre

Focus Foundation

Francisco Pacheco

(Sanlúcar de Barrameda, 1564 – Seville, 1644)
Artist biography

St Agnes, 1608

Oil on board

97 x 36 cm.

Museo del Prado, Madrid

St Agnes, 1608

This board comes from the same set as its companion piece Santa Catalina, which is also on show at the Velázquez Centre, and they have been on the same journey through history, although this is the only one to be signed, and is dated 1608. Both of these are from the time when Pacheco’s artistic career was at its height and he was at his most creative. Although they are still anchored in Mannerist structure, an evolution can be seen in their forms towards more solid shapes, and above all towards a greater degree of chromatic refinement and pictorial precision, offsetting the coldness and stiffness seen in other works.

Pacheco depicts the saint standing before a mountainous landscape, with an expression of deep absorption on her face. She has her habitual attributes – the martyr’s palm and the lamb, which alludes both to the similarity of her Latin name with the “Agnus Dei” (‘Lamb of God’) and her humility and gentleness. The painter also finds inspiration in the narrative scenery of the Golden Legend, according to which the saint rejected the jewels offered to her by the son of the Prefect of Rome, who was courting her, saying she could not accept them because she had a heavenly beloved, who had put his ring on her right hand – shown by the painter – a string of precious stones around her neck, and that he had dressed her in a shawl woven from golden thread. This explains the painter’s painstaking focus on the jewellery and embroidery in the picture.

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