Maino’s Adorations: Heaven on Earth at the National Gallery
Beginning on 28th September is the showing of the beautiful Adorations by Juan Bautista Maino at the National Gallery – its first UK exhibit. Maino’s Adorations: Heaven on Earth, available for viewing in room 1, consists of two magnificent works: The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Kings. Part of the “retablo“, an altarpiece for the Church of the Dominican house of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo – corresponding to the ecclesiastical feasts of Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter and the Pentecost – it took two years to complete. In a small gallery space, these two masterpieces are huge, commanding the room, radiating a spiritual presence, as if themselves an altar.
In concurrence with the National Gallery’s 12th October Caravaggio exhibition, it is the first major show involving a study of Caravaggio’s influence on the artists of his time, and Maine’s Adorations are notably important as such.
Absolutely stunning creations, The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Kings are richly textured with vivid, luminous colours, and the extraordinary, intricate details and cool, bright illumination convey virtually photographic clarity. Painting these pieces at the time of becoming a Dominican friar, Maino seems inspired, his religious emotion and love emanating through the faces of the works’ figures, whose energy is so strong they appear to be in motion.
Maino’s use of light and shade is exceptional, very much in the style of Caravaggio, yet unique in its passion, grace and delicate perfection. Also observable influences are the devotional fervour of El Greco and the textural qualities of Orazio Gentileschi; elements of Guido Reni and Annibale Carracci are discernible as well.
Containing many fascinating details and forms, the Adorations are rife with symbolism, for example: crumbling stone represents renewal; evergreens, immortality; a dog refers to the Dominican Order. In keeping with his personal inspiration for these artworks, The Adoration of the Kings includes a self-portrait of the artist.
On loan from the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Maino’s Adorations have been hidden treasures. It is surprising that his remarkable genius has been relatively unknown outside of Spain, as his works are clearly incredible and on par with the most eminent of art history’s classics.
Maino’s Adorations: Heaven on Earth is at the National Gallery from 28th September 2016 until 29th January 2017, for further information visit here.