Juan Fernández de Navarrete, Spanish, c.1526-1579
Title: Abraham and the Three Angels
Date: 1576
Medium: Oil on canvas
287 x 238 x 4 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1962 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.1721
DescriptionIn Genesis (1:18), three men visit Abraham and predict that his aged wife Sarah will give birth to a son within a year. The men are three angels sent by God. By showing them as three bearded, Christ-like men, the artist is symbolising the Trinity.

The artist was a deaf mute from the age of three and became court painter to Philip II in 1568, his training having been financed by Hieronymite monks. He reputedly visited Italy as a young artist and studied in Titian’s studio, Titian also being a favoured artist of the king. Fernández certainly adopted the latter’s swift technique and rich colouring, and became known as the ‘Spanish Titian’. He was commissioned to paint 32 altarpieces for the basilica of the Escorial, the combined royal palace and monastery. This large picture was appropriately painted for the room where guests were received and was highly praised in a 1605 description of the monastery. The painting remains highly regarded today and is considered his masterpiece.

(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2016)
ProvenanceCommissioned in 1575 by Philip II of Spain for the Recibimiento or Guest-Room of the monastery of the Escorial, where it remained in situ until taken as war booty by the French in 1809; given by Joseph Bonaparte to Marshal-General Soult, Duke of Dalmatia, 1809-1810; Galerie Lebrun, Paris, 19-22 May 1852, Soult sale, lot 3; re-sold Paris, second Soult sale, 1867; purchased by a member of the Soult family; by descent until at least 1930; Private Collection, France; Galerie Heim, Paris; purchased Galerie Heim, Paris, 1962
Exhibition HistoryCentenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964

Old Master Exhibition, Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1971-1972

From Bosch to Titian. Art and Wonder at the Escorial, Patrimonio Nacional, Palacio Real, Madrid, 16 September 2013 - 12 January 2014
Label TextAn Old Testament story tells of three angels who visited Abraham and his wife Sarah. The angels prophesied that the couple would have a child, despite the fact that Sarah was 90 years old. The artist Navarrete, from northern Spain, painted Abraham greeting his guests, while Sarah listens from the doorway. Navarrete was a deaf artist who became court painter to King Philip II in 1568. He painted this scene for a reception room in the royal monastery at the Escorial, near Madrid.

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