Alonso Cano


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(bapt. Granada, 19 Mar. 1601; d Granada, 3 Sept. 1667).

Spanish sculptor, painter, architect, and draughtsman, sometimes called ‘the Spanish Michelangelo’ because of the diversity of his talents. He spent most of his career successively in Seville, Madrid, and Granada, but he also worked in Valencia and Malaga. Some of his movements were dictated by his eventful personal life, for more than once he left a city hastily or under a cloud after brushes with the law. In 1636 he was imprisoned for debt; in 1637 he wounded a colleague in a duel; and in 1644 he was accused of murdering his wife but was released after torture (by royal command, his right arm and hand were not harmed). In spite of his stormy temperament, his work tends to be serene and often sweet. From 1614 to 1638 Cano lived in Seville, where he studied painting with Pacheco (his fellow student Velázquez became a lifelong friend) and probably also spent some time in the workshop of the sculptor Montañés (early in his career he worked more as a sculptor than a painter). In 1638 he moved to Madrid to become painter to the Count-Duke Olivares and was employed by Philip IV (see Habsburg) to restore pictures in the royal collection. Thus he became acquainted with the work of the 16th-century Venetian masters, whose influence is evident in his later paintings: they are much softer in technique than his earlier pictures, which are strongly lit in the manner of Zurbarán. From 1652 he worked mainly in Granada, where he designed the façade of the cathedral (1667), one of the boldest and most original works of Spanish Baroque architecture. He was ordained a priest in 1658, as this was necessary for him to further his career at the cathedral. It houses several of his works in painting and sculpture, including a polychrome wooden statue of the Immaculate Conception (1655) that is sometimes considered his masterpiece.

Subjects: Art.

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