Biography of Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531-1588)

Spanish painter, born in Benifayó (Valencia) in 1531 and died in Madrid on August 8, 1588. Early childhood develops in place of birth, until, with ten years, he/she moved to Portugal to live with his grandfather, Alonso Sánchez Coello, in Castel Rodrigo. In Portugal, he/she began his training as a painter at the Court of Juan III. His grandfather had moved to live in Portugal a few years earlier, but Luis Sánchez Galbán, his son and father of the painter, had been in Spain living in Benifayó. These facts and the Portuguese origin of his second surname did that for a long time it was considered a native of Portugal. Around 1550 makes a trip to Flanders sent by King Juan III, there known to Antonio Moro, momentous fact for his painting, since being with him to continue his training as a painter.

In 1555 appears already working in Spain at the Court of Felipe II, who had previously hired her master Antonio Moro, as a court portraitist and, subsequently, will do the same with Juan Pantoja de la Cruz, Sánchez Coello's disciple. He/She was appointed painter's camera, when there was the flight of the Court from Antonio Moro, because of disagreements with the King, either by fear of the Inquisition. Felipe II felt a great admiration for the artist and joined a great friendship with him.

His work focuses mainly on portraiture, being the great painter of this genre within Spanish Renaissance painting, and marking major influences in European painting. Its features are a deep psychological penetration and a flawless mastery of technique. Of the Flemish school, whose lesson learned in his youth alongside Antonio Moro, taking the general conception of the work, and the exquisite taste to the qualities, but the technique is strictly Venetian, assimilated the work of Titian, which met in the Royal Collections.

Isabel Clara Eugenia. Sánchez Coello. Museo del Prado. Madrid.

Sánchez Coello is a painter focused exclusively on the Court and the Court area. Among its production stand out, essentially, made portraits to members of the Royal family, many of them made for Royal portraits of the Pardo Palace salon. There are several portraits of Felipe II documentary news, but is not retained, although several versions of the Prince Don Carlos, are preserved as well as the Princes of the House of Austria, Don Juan de Austria, and princesses, Doña Isabel, Anne of Austria and Margarita of Parma. Form an important chapter of its production the portraits of the children of Felipe II, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Micaela, they are portrayed on several occasions together or separately. All of them of great quality.

While their main dedication were portraits, also cultivated thematic religious with some frequency. His preserved works include the altarpiece from el Espinar, in 1574, that of Colmenar Viejo in the same year, couples of Santos in El Escorial, made between 1580 and 1582, the martyrdom of San Sebastián and the nuptials of Santa Catalina.

Princess of Eboli. Sánchez Coello.

Sánchez Coello and Pantoja de la Cruz and Antonio Moro will develop a type of court portraiture, in that the expression of Majesty is achieved through insistence on the rigidity of the faces, the immobility of the figure and the importance that acquires the meticulous study of dress and jewels. This type of portrait not has its origin in Italian models, but in Flemish models arriving in Spain above all through the work of Antonio Moro, painter which lays the foundations of this type of classroom paint. In the portraits of Sánchez Coello is sensed a severity and austerity, often put evidenced by a rigidity and a sober elegance, which is nothing more than the embodiment of a sense of the courtly label and the rigid concept of Majesty developed by the House of Austria. His work evolved from a certain freedom in gestures still noticeable in portraits of Parma Margarita or the Prince don Carlos, in the version preserved in the Prado, the solemnity that culminates in the portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia, in which the personality of the portrayed begins to disappear before the strict rigidity of the pose and the ornateness of jewels and precious stones of the outfit, exquisite execution. This concept is maintained even in children's portraits. The hieratic and the abstract and ceremonial meaning of figure developed by Sánchez Coello, will increase much more in the portraits of his disciple Pantoja de la Cruz.

One of his major contributions was the use of neutral backgrounds, disappearing the typical Golden of Gothic tradition or the small landscapes of Renaissance taste. The dark background allows to focus the attention on the portrayed, without elements that distract you, at the time that enhances their vigor and softens her features, not be contrasted on colors arranged in the background.

Felipe II. Sánchez Coello. Museo del Prado. Madrid.

Sánchez Coello activity was not reduced to the production of portraits but it is known that also culture as poetry, to his pen a heroic poem title is La Belgiada; a book in defense of the painting, tragic Rossana, and a treaty right.


Czech CREMADES, f.: Painting and sculpture of the Renaissance in Spain, 1450-1600. (Madrid, Cátedra, 1983).

BRAUNER, e.: Alonso Sánchez Coello. (Madrid, 1990).

HENNESSY, J.P.: The portrait in the Renaissance, (Torrejón de Ardoz, Akal, 1985).

The portrait in the Prado Museum, (Madrid, Anaya, 1994).

MALLORY, a.: el Greco to Murillo: Spanish painting from the golden age, 1556-1700, (Madrid, 1991).

E gladly Carvajal.