Art/ Collection/ Art Object

A Knight of Alcántara or Calatrava

Bartolomé Estebán Murillo (Spanish, Seville 1617–1682 Seville)
ca. 1650–55
Oil on canvas
Overall, with added strips, 77 x 43 3/4 in. (195.6 x 111.1 cm); original canvas 77 x 38 1/2 in. (195.6 x 97.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Rudolf J. Heinemann, 1954
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 610
The sitter in this portrait wears a pendant with a symbol of a military order. In the nineteenth century the sitter was identified as Don Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio (1640–ca. 1695), whose passion for painting led him to study with both Murillo and Mattia Preti. Unfortunately, this identification is incorrect, though the portrait may show another member of the Villavicencio family.
?unverified sale ["Zubieta" according to Angulo Iñiguez], London, June 12, 1874, as "Don Pedro Núñez de Villavicencio, friend and disciple of Murillo and knight of a military order," for £178.10 to Palmer; Julian Williams, Seville (about 1883) described by Curtis as "a full-length portrait of Villavicencio, about thirty-five years of age, with hooked nose, moustache, and long black hair, wearing a black dress with open sleeves, a hat in his hand, a sword at his side"; Francisco Merry y Colom Gaite y Osorio, 1st Conde de Benomar, London [d. 1899]; ?sale, Christie's, London, July 6, 1899, for £210 to Lesser; [Lesser, London, 1899–1912; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, February 10, 1912, no. 18, as "Don Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio, in black dress with braided sleeves, and white stockings, standing, holding his glove and hat, and wearing the Riband and Order of Saint John of Jerusalem ([sic] our sitter wears the ribbon and order of the knights of Alcántara or Calatrava), 75 in. by 48 in." for £81.18.0 to Nicholson]; [(?A. L.) Nicholson, from 1912]; [Rudolf J. Heinemann, Munich, in 1927]; ?[Fleischmann, Munich, by 1928–at least 1930]; ?[F. Mont, New York, in 1950]; [Pinakos Inc. (Rudolf J. Heinemann), until 1954]
Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "Five Centuries of European Painting," May 16–October 26, 1963, unnumbered cat. (as "Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio (?) (1644–1700)").

Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas. "Grandes Maestros," November 5–December 17, 1967, no. 20 (as Don Pedro Nuñes de Villavicencio (?)).

Charles B. Curtis. Velazquez and Murillo. London, 1883, pp. 300–1, no. 476i, lists as no. 476i a portrait of "Pedro Nuñes de Villavicencio, Knight of the Military Order, friend, pupil and protector of Murillo (b. 1644, d. 1700)" and states that it was sold in London June 12, 1874 to Palmer for £178.10s; notes that Julian Williams "had recently a full-length portrait of Villavicencio".

Catalogues of Pictures by Old Masters. Christie's, London. February 10, 1912, p. 6, no. 18, notes in error that the sitter wears the "Riband and Order of Saint John of Jerusalem"; as formerly in the collection of Count de Benomar.

August L. Mayer. Murillo: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1923, pp. 226, 293 [see Ref. Angulo Íniguez 1981, p. 331], dates it about 1645–50; observes that the sitter cannot be Pedro Nuñez de Villavincencio as he was a Knight of Malta only and that his life dates (1644–1700) do not coincide with the supposed age of the sitter in the portrait.

Georg Jacob Wolf. "Munich." Art News 26 (February 18, 1928), pp. 16–17, ill., dates it to about 1650; calls it the high point among works shown at E. A. Fleischmann's Gallery, Munich.

Grandes maestros. Exh. cat., Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas. Caracas, 1967, unpaginated, no. 20, ill., as in the collection of Rudolf J. Heinemann in 1927.

Diego Angulo Íñiguez. Murillo. Madrid, 1981, vol. 2, pp. 331–32, no. 422; vol. 3, pl. 457, as "Knight of Alcántara," possibly a relative of Pedro Nuñez de Villavicencio; dates it about 1650–60 and catalogues it with autograph works, noting, nevertheless, that it may be the work of a follower; contributes to the provenance, and observes that the picture described in the 1912 sale may be identical with ours and the medal and ribbon incorrectly identified.

María Jesús Sanz. "Las joyas en la pintura de Murillo." Goya (July–December 1982), p. 119.

Enrique Valdivieso. Murillo: Sombras de la tierra, luces del cielo. Madrid, 1990, p. 216, dates it about 1650–60.

Manuela Mena [Marqués] in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 22, New York, 1996, p. 347, mentions it with works produced by Murillo between 1665–82.

Suzanne L. Stratton-Pruitt in Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682): Paintings from North American Collections. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum. New York, 2002, p. 190.

Old Masters: Day Sale. Christie's, London. July 7, 2017, p. 34, under no. 126.

The frame is from northeastern Italy and dates to about 1680 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This exuberant but provincially carved reverse profile frame is made of pine and painted and water gilded on a thick gesso. The burnished silver leaf, no longer reflective, has oxidized and appears quite dark. The top edge is ornamented in twisted acanthus leaves which emanate from the center except on the lower right where the carving runs continuously from the top. Strong multiple acanthus leaves at the corners and sides have double floral centers. Floral garlands rest in the painted reposes across the top and base and along the sides. The back edge is ornamented in twisted ribbon and husks emanating from centers both top and bottom. Though a slip has been added at the sight edge the frame retains both its original dimension and original, though degraded, surface.

[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
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