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Alonso del Arco (c. 1635–1704)


Alonso del Arco was born in 1635 in Madrid. His birth year has been contested, with some historians suggesting that he was born in 1625 and some suggesting a decade later, in 1635. Generally 1635 is the accepted date, since an inscription was discovered behind a work he painted of the Death of Saint Joseph in the Toledo museum, which reads “fecit año 1697, etatis sue 62 anniis”, which allows us to place his year of birth in 1635 with enough certainty. Del Arco was first written about approximately forty years after his death by Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco (1655–1726) who cites the artist in his work Las vidas de los pintores y estatuarios españoles and states that the young artist was a native of Madrid and that he was deaf and mute. The next to write about him was the historian and critic of Spanish art, Juan Agustín Ceán Bermúdez (1749–1829) who recorded that del Arco had entered as a disciple of the master Antonio de Pereda y Salgado (c.1611–1678), entering his workshop around the age of twenty five. He was the master’s main assistant and outstanding disciple, distinguishing himself from the rest of the apprentices and in due course acquired the nickname the “Sordillo de Pereda” (the young deaf one from Pereda’s studio).


Before he became de Pereda’s disciple and main collaborator, little is known of his life. From the school of Pereda, Ceán recorded that he had achieved good taste and colour management, but without correction in drawing. Nevertheless he earned himself a reputation as a good portraitist, some of which included a portrait of Mariana of Austria (1696, Toledo) and that of Cardinal Juan Everardo Nithard (1674, Madrid). He executed his works so rapidly that he was employed in painting ephemeral pictures which, for example, adorned triumphal arches erected for royal entries. Between 1679 to 1680, he helped to prepare for the festivities of the arrival of Queen María Luisa de Orleans, first wife of Carlos II. In 1689 he worked on the fresco decoration of the dressing room of the Virgen de la Oliva hermitage (Almonacid, Toledo) with scenes from the life of the Virgin in 1689. In the 1690s, he had an active workshop. 


By his will, we know that he was the first-born son of Antonia Moreno and Sebastián del Arco, but his father’s profession was unknown. He had a sister, Catalina del Arco, who died before him and left him in her will a legacy of five hundred ducats. In addition, he inherited from his father a bond and mayorazgo, that is, a privilege that allowed him to gain his father’s estate, which seems to have been in the possession of his grandfather Melchor del Arco. When Alonso arrived in Yebra to take possession of the assets from the inheritance, he was not received well by relatives or neighbours, who are said to have attacked and injured him. On November 21, 1655, he gave power of attorney to his uncle Francisco Caro del Arco, to take charge of his assets and represent him in the lawsuit he had filed with his attackers. 


On July 29, 1704, Alonso del Arco wrote a will designating his wife, Juan Gerar and Luis Millet, his brother-in-law and also a painter, as executors. He died a few days later, on August 9, in his home in the Plazuela de San Juan. After Alonso’s death, the two daughters and widow were left in extreme poverty, and the Marquis of Santiago, for whom Alonso had worked in the decoration of the oratory, supported the family financially.



Delenda, Odile. Dos lienzos firmados por Alonso del Arco en la parisina iglesia Saint-François de Sales. Archivo Español de Arte. 77, 2004, pp. 301-305.

Galindo, Natividad,  «Alonso del Arco», Archivo Español de Arte, 180, Madrid, 1972, pp. 347-385.

Galindo, Natividad. «Algunas noticias nuevas sobre Antonio Palomino», Archivo Español de Arte, 61, 1988, pp. 105-114. 

Galindo, Natividad. “El pintor madrileño Juan Vicente de Ribera (h. 1668-1736)”. Boletín del Museo del Prado, tomo XV, 1994, pp. 29-52.

Galindo, Natividad, “Un cuadro de Alonso del Arco en el ayuntamiento de Valencia”, Archivo Español de Arte, 1981, pp. 363-364.

Galindo, Natividad, «Algunas noticias sobre Juan Bernabé Palomino», Academia, 69, 1989, pp. 240-242.
Galindo, Natividad, «Presencia de Alonso del Arco en los fondos del Museo del Prado», Boletín del Museo del Prado, 11, Madrid, 1983, pp. 111-114.
Nieto Sánchez, Carlos & Pascual Chenel, Alvaro. Una nueva pintura inédita de Alonso del Arco. Estudio iconográfico y documental. Archivo Español de Arte. 84, 2011, pp. 171-176.
Stirling Maxwell, William. Annals of the artists of Spain. United Kingdom: John C. Nimmo, 1891.
Watts, Henry Edward. Miguel de Cervantes: His Life & Works. United Kingdom, Adam and Charles Black, 1895.