Sunday, 10 March 2013


“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” - Saint Augustine of Hippo

Francisco Bayeu y Subías (1734-1795) was a Spanish painter famous for his paintings in the Romantic, Neoclassical and Baroque styles. Bayeu y Subías was also a part of a famous family of artists, which included his two brothers, Ramón and Manuel. Little is known of Francisco Bayeu y Subías’s early childhood except that he was born in Zaragoza and it is therefore most likely that he began his education here either with the Jesuits or the Escolapios. At the age of fourteen, Francisco began training with the Baroque Spanish painter José Luzán Martínez until the year of 1753. When the painter Antonio González Velázquez arrived in Zaragoza, he hired Francisco Bayeu y Subías as an apprentice. The relationship between the two must have been good as for many years, Antonio González Velázquez financially supported the young Francisco with his studies in Madrid at the “Academia Real de Bellas Artes de San Fernando”.

From 1753, Francisco Bayeu y Subías worked as an artist in Madrid. In 1758 he returned to Zaragoza where he acquired a large clientele. Here he married Sebastiana Merclein y Salillas, the daughter of another local painter who was familiar with the Aragonese art market, which was in fact one of the reasons for the marriage. From this point on, Bayeu y Subías’s commissions increased and his works became popular. The most famous work of this period was the piece he painted for the “Monasterio Jerónimo de Santa Engracia de Zaragoza”

In 1763, Francisco Bayeu y Subías was invited to Madrid by Anton Raphael Mengs in order to work collaboratively on the decoration of the Royal Palace. With the help of Mengs, Francisco became one of the most popular artists in Madrid. From then on, the majority of Bayeu y Subías’s paintings would be for the Royal Court, and were often portraits of Royal Family. Francisco Bayeu y Subías was named an official Court painter in 1767 by the Spanish King, Charles III of Spain. While at Court in Madrid, Francisco Bayeu y Subías met the young Francisco Goya whom he protected and helped out. Goya even married Bayeu y Subías’s sister, Josefa Bayeu in 1773.

Bayeu y Subías was considered to be an excellent fresco painter and was often commissioned with the interior decoration of buildings. Together with Anton Raphael Mengs, Francisco painted many of the rooms in the various Royal palaces including the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Palacio de Aranjuez and the Palacio de El Pardo. During this time he also painted in many churches too such as the Convento de la Encarnación in Madrid, the Basílica del Pilar in Zaragoza, and the cloisters in the Cathedral of Toledo.

While painting the Basilica of Pilar in Zaragoza, Francisco Bayeu y Subías also employed Francisco Goya to help out as well as employing some members of his own family. It was during this project that the two artists fell out and became rivals, as both were considered to be important artists of the Royal Court.

In recognition of Bayeu y Subías’s work, he received many titles and awards. He became the Head Director of Painting at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid in 1765, among other high positions in other Spanish art schools. He eventually became the director of the Academy in 1795. Francisco Bayeu y Subías also received much compensation from the Royal Court in reward for his achievements. Francisco Bayeu y Subías continued working and painting frescoes, content with his large salary from the Spanish Royal Family. However in 1795, he fell ill and did not recover, dying in the early morning of the 5th of August of the same year in Madrid.

His subjects at the Toledo cathedral are scenes from the life of St. Eugenio. There are fifteen works by the painter in the Museum of the Prado at Madrid. Among them are “The Coronation of the Virgin”, “The Ascension”, “The Evangelist St. Matthew”, “The Evangelist St. Mark”, “The Evangelist St. Luke”, “The Evangelist St. John”, “Olympus” — all studies for more important works. Don Francisco was also an etcher, and executed a small number of plates.

The work above is “Saint James being visited by the Virgin” (1760). Legend credited Saint James with bringing Christianity to Spain. When passing through Zaragoza he was visited by the Virgin, who gave him with a statuette of herself on a jasper columnar pillar. This gave the name of “El Pilar” to enormous basilica has grown on the site, one of the most venerated shrines in Spain. The subject is therefore popular in Zaragoza. Sketches made by Antonio Gonzales Velázquez in 1753 for frescoes in the dome seem to have influenced Bayeu’s design. This was a perhaps a private version of these works. It also shows the influence of Giaquinto on Bayeu.

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