Navarrete, Juan Fernández de


Navarrete, Juan Fernández de
(1526-1579)
   Called El Mudo (The Mute) because he was a deaf-mute, Navarrete is best known for the altarpieces he contributed to the decoration of the Monastery of El Escorial for Philip II of Spain, whom he served as court painter from 1568 until his death in 1579. He was originally from Logroño and traveled to Italy where he was influenced by the art of the Renaissance masters, and particularly Titian with whom he may have studied. His earliest known painting is the Baptism of Christ (c. 1565, Prado, Madrid), a work that shows his assimilation of the Italianate style. Not only are the anatomical details of Christ's nude torso and his pose borrowed from Michelangelo, but the fore-shortened God the Father hovering above Christ is taken directly from the scenes of Creation in Michelangelo's Sistine ceiling (1508-1512; Vatican). The Michelangelesque features in Navarrete's art are also manifested in his Christ Appearing to His Mother (1578-1579), one of the altarpieces he contributed to the decoration of El Escorial, where a seminude foreshortened Christ floats in midair. Navarrete's loose brushwork and vivid colorism are what earned him the sobriquet "Spanish Titian." His other works include Abraham and the Three Angels (1575; Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland), Martyrdom of St. James (1571), Christ at the Column (1572-1575), and Burial of St. Lawrence (1578-1579; all at El Escorial, Monastery of San Lorenzo), this last a lugubrious rendition with dramatic lighting effects. These were part of the 32 altarpieces commissioned from the artist for the Escorial monastery. Having completed about a third of the works, Navarrete died suddenly, leaving Philip to scramble to find a substitute master. Navarrete's Italianate style would affect future Spanish painters, among them Francisco Ribalta and particularly Diego Velazquez.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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