Diego de Covarrubias - Alonso Sanchez Coelho. 1574.
Diego de Covarrubias i Leyva - Spanish theologian, economist and preacher, who left a significant mark in history. But his ceremonial portrait by Sanchez Coelho is also worthy of a separate story.
Outwardly, this is a typical ceremonial portrait, very characteristic of Spain of that time period. A dark background without a hint of decoration or any decor immediately gives out the work of this master, who refused to depict landscapes or architectural elements in the background. Usually the background of his paintings is grayish, but a special artistic device is used here. The very dark, almost black “velvet” background seems to absorb light, therefore the white priestly outfit on it seems to be literally luminous, radiating the pearl radiance of holiness.
The portrait shows a middle-aged man with dark, very smart and attentive eyes, with hair covered with a black headdress, and a neatly trimmed gray beard, dark mustache. The bronze complexion is betrayed by the fact that the portrayed often had to give sermons on the streets, in front of large masses of people.
His face is the only thing that lives on this portrait, so it literally catches the eye. It immediately becomes clear that this is not a simple person, but a representative of the clergy, very intelligent and educated. The master very vividly conveyed the expression on his face, and his eyes, despite all the static and constrained postures, seemed to live their own lives. Perhaps due to the fact that the artist managed to “grab” a special expression of the eyes or thanks to the play of shadows in the corners of the eyes, it seems that the portrait also carefully looks at the audience and even follows them, while remaining completely motionless.
The artist was a great master in small details, so it is not surprising that in this strict male portrait he paid them a lot of attention. The priest's clothes immediately catch the eye. This is the thinnest white fabric, cast in silver and pearls on a dark background and in sharp contrast with the high black collar of basic clothing. The white outfit is trimmed with small pearls along the neckline, shoulder seams and armhole. Pearls here form an elegant pattern. Along the neck, the fabric of the dress is collected by many small folds. Thanks to the artist’s increased attention to detail, we can literally count all the pearls and stitches, folds on the theologian’s clothes.
It is extremely difficult to portray white color, and even in such a large quantity, but the artist brilliantly coped with his task. It seems that from the portrait you can understand not only the cut of the clothes, but also to figure out what fabric it was made of. The cloak looks light, airy, translucent.
On the man’s chest, on a wide satin ribbon, hangs a rather large precious cross - a symbol of his belonging to the Catholic Church. This portrait has for centuries preserved the true appearance of a man who left a significant mark on the history of mankind. And the master himself once again demonstrated the highest level of his portraiture and artistic talent.