NICOLA JENNINGS // El pintor Joan de Joanes y su entorno familiar. Los Macip a través de lasfuentes literarias y la documentación de archivo | Isidro Puig, Ximo Company, and Luisa Tolosa

El pintor Joan de Joanes y su entorno familiar. Los Macip a través de lasfuentes literarias y la documentación de archivo Isidro Puig, Ximo Company, and Luisa Tolosa 360pp, CAEM-Edicions de la Universitat de Lleida, 2015

Joan de Joanes (Valencia c. 1505 – Bocairente, 1579) and his father Vicente Macip (c.1473 Andilla? – Valencia, 1545) were the dominant figures in Valencian painting for much of the sixteenth century. By 1515 Macip was the head of a sizeable workshop producing spectacular retables for churches in and around Valencia, the individual panels of which are now, in many cases, scattered across Spain. The fact that Macip continued to sign contracts for these retables until the final years of his life has made it difficult to disentangle the work of father and son, and (as the Museo del Prado’s website reminds us) there are still disagreements about attribution. El pintor Joan de Joanes y su entorno familiar is the culmination of a series of attempts to shed further light on this issue, providing us with comprehensive bibliographies and documentation, not only about Vicente and Joan (whose full name was Juan Vicente Macip Navarro), but also about their wives, children and grandchildren. The result is a useful reference book as well as a fascinating insight into the life of an artistic family in sixteenth-century Spain. It is one of several excellent publications based on archival sources to come out of Valencia in recent years.

Following José Albi’s 1979 three volume set, Joan de Joanes y su círculo artístico, and exhibitions in Madrid and Valencia timed to coincide with it, there has been considerable interest in the painter and his crea­tive assimilation of Leonardo and Rafael. Although it was for many years hypothesised that Joanes travelled to Italy, this is now ruled out on the basis of detailed information about his curriculum vitae. His knowledge of Renaissance art came instead from studying Italianate and Italian works in Valencia: the paintings of the slightly older ‘Hernandos’ (Hernando Llanos and Hernando Yáñez de la Almedina worked with Leonardo in Florence), reliefs such as a Baptism of Christ (now in the Museo de Bellas Artes in Valencia), and a small number of works by Sebastiano del Piombo brought from Rome around 1520.

The heart of the present volume is the section on Joanes, start­ing with his first mention, in 1531, as co-signatory with his father of the main altarpiece for Segorbe Cathedral. It is in the Entombment and Resurrection from Segorbe that the Italianate style for which Joanes came to be known first manifested itself. The difference between these panels and Vicente Macip’s earlier paintings – in the tradition of Valencian-based artists such as Paolo de San Leocadio, the Master of Perea, and Rodrigo de Osona – is clear from a comparison between, for example, the Segorbe Entombment and one by Vicente Macip (without Joanes) now in the Lladró Collection. Segorbe contract’s reference to Joanes as ‘the son of ’ Vicente (‘lo fill de…’) led scholars such as Fernando Benito Doménech to assume, not only that Macip Senior was its principal artist, but also to attribute to him later works in the same Renaissance style.1 Puig, Company and Tolosa strongly disagree, arguing that it was the young Joanes and not Vicente – by then in his fifties – who truly ‘renewed the Macip workshop’. They make a convincing case, and it is significant that even Benito Doménech’s intellectual heir, José Gómez Frechina, has recently agreed that the Entombment from Segorbe and other works attributed by Benito to Macip are undoubtedly by Joanes.2

As Puig, Company and Tolosa remind us, Joan de Joanes was one of the most gifted painters of the Renaissance period in Spain. Their book provides a great deal of material for future scholarship on Joan and Vicente Macip, and is a timely reminder of the role of these painters as forerunners of the Spanish Golden Age. Joan’s Baptism of Christ in the Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia and Christ at the Column in Alba de Tormes near Salamanca are amongst the most beautiful paintings of the sixteenth century. It is a great shame that there is no good example of a work by Joanes (or indeed by his father) in any UK museum.

Book cover: El Pintor Joan de Joanes y su entorno familiar


[1] Fernando Benito Doménech, ‘Fuentes icónicas empleadas por Vicente Macip y Joan de Joanes en sus cuadros del Prado y otras pinturas’, Boletín del Museo del Prado 14 (1993), 11–24; Fernando Benito Doménech ed., Joan de Joanes. Una nueva visión del artista y su obra (Valencia, Museo de Bellas Artes, 2000).

[2] José Gómez Frechina, Sebastiano del Piombo. Christ Carrying the Cross (London and Madrid: Colnaghi Studies, 2016), 40-49.