Juan Bautista Maíno is well known in his native Spain. Not so much in the UK. Now is your chance to get to know him a bit better and for free. Madrid’s Prado Museum has loaned two of his works, ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ and ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ to the National Gallery and until the end of January 2017 you can find them in Room 1.
When Maínos was a young man he travelled to Italy, whilst there he honed his painting skills and became a Dominican monk. His time in Italy coincided with the production of Caravaggio’s greatest works. These were new and opened Maíno’s eyes to a different way of painting. Once back home in Spain he became a courtier, he even taught Philip IV how to paint. In 1612 he signed a contract to provide paintings and sculpture for an altar piece in Toledo. He was to provide four enormous canvases as well as all the accompanying iconography, a tall order given that he promised to complete the work in 8 months. It took him two years. ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ and ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ are two of those paintings.
What I love about these paintings is the detail. The fabrics that the Kings wear look so real that you want to stroke them. One of the Kings has soft white wavy hair, he looks like he showered this morning and conditioned well. Maíno was known as a portraitist in his own time, certainly all the people in these two paintings look like real people. The cherubs that peer down on the shepherds look like a collection of naughty schoolboys. You almost expect the slumbering sheepdog to leap up at any moment.
Maíno’s Adorations: Heaven on Earth is a small but perfectly formed display that promises to complement the Caravaggio blockbuster show down in the basement of the National Gallery. What’s more it is free, this is your chance to see these painting without having to travel to Madrid or even pay!
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
28 September 2016 – 29 January 2017
Open daily 10am – 6pm (Fridays until 9pm)