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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Juan Fernandez Navarrete

Spanish painter, b. at Logrono, 1526 and died at Segovia, 1579

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Navarrete, JUAN FERNANDEZ, a Spanish painter, b. at Logrono, 1526 and died at Segovia, 1579 (at Toledo, February, 1579 or March 28, 1579?). He is called el Mudo (the mute) because he lost his hearing when a child of three and, in consequence, his power of speech. His parents, who were well to do and perhaps of noble birth placed him with the Hieronymite monks of Estrella where Fray Vicente, a gifted brother, was his first teacher in art. Navarrete's talents were early discovered because he made all his wants known through rapid and vigorous black and white sketches. He may have been a pupil of Becerra, Spain's great fresco painter, but it is certain that he went when a youth to the great Italian centers of art and under Titian in Venice acquired that technique and knowledge of color which earned him the name of "the Spanish Titian". He returned to Spain a painter of repute, and traveled extensively in his native country, leaving works from his hand in her important cities. In 1568 he was made painter to Philip II, received a salary of two hundred ducats, "besides just payment for his work", and was commissioned to decorate the Escorial. In 1575 he completed a "Nativity" wherein are three dominant lights; one from St. Joseph's candle, one from the glory above, and the most radiant of all from the divine Child as in Correggio's "Notte". In one "Holy Family" he painted such strange accessories, a cat, a dog, and a partridge, that the king made him, promise never again to put "such indecorous things in a holy picture". Though called the Spanish Titian, Navarrete was not an imitator of any Italian; he was an original and he painted rapidly, freely, and spontaneously. His composition, especially in groups of figutes, was masterly and was excelled only by that of Velràsquez. "He spoke by his pencil with the bravura of Rubens without his coarseness". Navarrete's work greatly influenced the development of Spanish art and after his death Lope de Vega wrote: "No countenance he painted was dumb". Despite the artists's infirmity he was an agreeable companion, played cards, read, and wrote much, was broadminded and generous. When his patron ordered Titian's "Last Supper" to be cut because it was too large for a place in the refectory of the Escorial, it was el Mudo who protested most. In the refectory at Estrella, where he received his first instruction in painting are some of Navarrete's best pictures. The following works may be mentioned: "Holy Family", at Weimar; "St. John in Prison", at St. Petersburg; "St. Jerome", in the Escorial; "Holy Family", in the Escorial.

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