Alonso del Arco (1635–1704)


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The first son of Sebastiàn del Arco and Antonia Moreno, Alonso del Arco was born in Madrid in 1635. His birthdate is confirmed by the signature found on the back of one of his paintings (Death of Saint Joseph, Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo), which reads “ALONSO DEL ARCO FECIT AÑO 1697, ETATIS SUE 62 ANNIIS”. Alonso had a sister, Catalina, 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 had been in the possession of his grandfather Melchor del Arco. When Alonso tried to take possession of the assets from the inheritance, he was not received well by relatives or neighbours, who are said to have attacked 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.

Alonso del Arco is first mentioned by Antonio Palomino (1655-1726) who reports that around the age of twelve he entered the workshop of Antonio de Pereda (1611-1678), one of the most successful Spanish seventeenth century still-life painters and a protégé of Giovanni Battista Crescenzi (1577-1635), the Superintendent of the Royal works in Spain. He soon distinguished himself from the other apprentices in Pereda’s workshop, becoming his master’s best assistant and acquiring the nickname the “Sordillo de Pereda” (the young deaf one from Pereda’s studio). The training in Pereda’s workshop allowed Alonso to develop excellent skills in the treatment of the still-life objects in his paintings. This is particularly evident in works such as The Infant Jesus asleep on the Cross (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid), in which a wide range of objects, including the instruments of the Passion, are painted with exquisite detail. Between the 1670s and the 1680s, Del Arco completed altarpieces for religious buildings in the Castile region including the St John the Baptist for the church of San Juan del Mercado in Atienza and the St Filippo Neri for the convent of the Discalced Trinitarians in Madrid. Around 1690 he opened his own workshop, which soon became one of the most successful in Madrid. The workshop specialised in devotional canvases illustrating Marian subjects and the lives of the Saints, both highly requested by local collectors. The pictures produced in Del Arco’s workshop are characterised by inconsistent quality due to the frequent use of compositional models often derived from printed sources.

Del Arco was also an excellent portraitist as demonstrated by his portraits of Mariana of Austria (Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo), the Marquis of Aytona (Fundación Banco Santander, Madrid) and Cardinal Juan Everardo Nithard (Consejo de Estado, Madrid). He also worked as a fresco decorator, illustrating the dressing room of the Virgen de la Oliva Hermitage in Almonacid de Toledo with scenes from the Life of the Virgin and the Story of La Virgen de la Oliva.  

On July 29, 1704, Alonso wrote a testament 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.


Naya Franco, Carolina, ‘Alonso del Arco, pintor sordo en el Madrid de Carlos II. A propósito de la localización del retrato del Marqués de Aytona’. In El artista, mito y realidad. Reflexiones sobre el gusto V, Rebeca Carretero, Alberto Castán and Concha Lomba (eds.), Zaragoza, 2021, 527-538. 

Pascual Chenel, Àlvaro. ‘Alonso del Arco y Antonio Castrejón, pintores madrileños del siglo XVII: nuevas incorporaciones a sus catálogos’. Imafronte, 25, 2018, 121-149.

Nieto Sánchez, Carlos and Pascual Chenel, Alvaro. ‘Una nueva pintura inédita de Alonso del Arco. Estudio iconográfico y documental’. Archivo Español de Arte, 84, 2011, 171-176.

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

Arnaiz, José Manuel. ‘Dos cuadros inéditos de Alonso del Arco y una puntualización’. Archivo Español de Arte, 59, 1986, 90-94. 

Galindo, Natividad. ‘Presencia de Alonso del Arco en los fondos del Museo del Prado’. Boletín del Museo del Prado, 11, 1983, 111-114.

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

Palomino, Antonio. El museo pictórico y escala óptica. El parnaso español pintoresco laureado, Madrid, 1715-1724.