Enfilade

Bilbao Acquires Paret’s ‘Triumph of Love over War’

Posted in museums by Editor on May 31, 2018

Luis Paret y Alcázar, The Triumph of Love over War (Mars), 1784, oil on canvas, 82 × 160 cm (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum). One of a pair of lunettes, this latest acquisition is reunited with its pendant, which entered the museum’s collection in 1999.

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Press release (29 May 2018) from the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum:

The collector Alicia Koplowitz has donated a painting by Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid, 1746–1799) to the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum. It will be presented to the public within the context of the exhibition 110 Works 110 Years as a tribute to the generosity and philanthropic spirit of the individuals whose donations have contributed over the years to the creation and growth of the collection.

With this donation the museum has increased its already outstanding representation of the artist’s work, comprising eight paintings: The Divine Shepherd (1782), View of Bermeo (1783), The Triumph of Love over War (two lunettes forming a pair) (1784), View of El Arenal in Bilbao (1783–84), Scene with Villagers (fragment) (1786), View of Fuenterrabía (fragment) (1786), and The Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ and Saint James the Greater (1786).

These works by Paret entered the collection by different means: through the founding donations made by the City Council of Bilbao (The Divine Shepherd and The Virgin Mary with the Infant Christ and Saint James the Greater in 1913); acquisitions made by the museum (View of Fuenterrabía in 1986 and The Triumph of Love over War in 1999); donations (Scene with Villagers donated by Plácido Arango in 1996—which has been reunited with the other fragment of the same composition, View of Fuenterrabía—and the present donation by Alicia Koplowitz); the donation in lieu of tax by BBVA presented to the museum by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia (View of El Arenal in Bilbao in 1996); and the acquisition made with funding from BBK and from contributions by the Friends of the Museum (View of Bermeo in 2017).

Luis Paret y Alcázar lived in Bilbao between 1779 and 1789 during part of his exile ordered by Charles III as a consequence of his participation in the licentious lifestyle of the King’s younger brother, the Infante don Luis de Borbón. During that time Paret produced a body of mature work that included religious commissions, allegorical compositions, and the series of views of Cantabrian ports, which began with View of Bermeo (1783)—acquired by the museum in December 2017—and continued from 1786 with a commission from Charles III.

Luis Paret y Alcázar, The Triumph of Love over War (Venus), 1784, oil on canvas, 82 × 160 cm (Bilbao Fine Arts Museum).

This period saw the execution of The Triumph of Love over War, which now enters the museum as a donation and will once again form a pair with another work of the same title and characteristics. Both were previously in a private English collection. The one that entered the museum first was sold on the art market in the late 1990s, shortly after which it was acquired by the museum. In 2017 its pendant, now donated by Alicia Koplowitz, went on the market. The two lunettes are now reunited after two decades, “in one of those happy coincidences that are rare in the museum world” in the words of Manuela Mena in the book published by the museum to mark this donation.

The two paintings are unusual within Paret’s output due to their format and dimensions (two lunette-shaped canvases each measuring approximately 81 × 160 cm), which are notably different to his easel paintings, all of small size. The recent cleaning undertaken in the museum’s Conservation and Restoration Department has revealed a grey strip added around all sides of the canvas in a previous restoration. It would seem that it was probably added when the lunettes were separated from their first location as it seems likely that they were originally set into the wall in a room within white stucco frames with decorative gilt motifs in the 18th-century taste.

The pictorial technique also differs from that of the artist’s small, Rococo-style paintings which are characterised by a delicate, transparent brushstroke and an emphasis on detail. Here Paret’s handling is much freer and more energetic, undoubtedly because the lunettes were conceived to be hung high up, facing each other and with a di sotto in sù (from below to above) perspective. The use of similar tonalities and pictorial devices in the two works (such as the modelling of the volumes through small brushstrokes) confirms that they were executed at the same time, were intended for the same space, and thus had a complementary iconographic programme. With regard to their subject matter, both compositions depict infant nudes framed by garlands of flowers and on the point of undertaking actions that will connect them: the one on the right is about to let loose a dove which will ‘fly’ towards the sleeping boy in the lunette on the left. On waking, he in turn will ‘shoot’ his arrow with three roses strung on it. The skin colour and more decorous pose of the first figure suggests that she is a depiction of the infant Venus wearing a laurel wreath as a symbol of the triumph of Love over Mars, represented by the boy in the other lunette.

More information is available in this article:

Manuela B. Mena Marqués, “The Triumph of Love,” online available at http://www.museobilbao.com/pro/uploads/salas_lecturas/archivo_in-81.pdf. Original text in Spanish in Luis Paret y Alcázar [1746–1799]: El triunfo del Amor sobre la Guerra: Donación Alicia Koplowitz (Bilbao: Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa = Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2018), pp. 6–33.

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