The Viaticum, Toledo

Gonzalo Bilbao1922

Fundación Banco Santander

Fundación Banco Santander

This painting shows the procession of a viaticum in the upper part of San Lucas Square, having left the Doctrinos alleyway that goes down to the right. To the left are seen the walls and entrance gate to the atrium, the former cemetery, and beyond it, the Mudejar tower (the top of which was rebuilt in the 19th century) of St. Lucas church. It was founded in the Visigothic period, and on its site on top of a high precipice overlooking the river Tajo, remained somewhat isolated from the south-east part of the town.

The picture, dated 1922, is an example of the artist’s interest in motifs of Toledo, which he painted on numerous occasions following a visit there at an early age in 1876. In this fascination for everything to do with Toledo, as well as his ability to discern the special nature of the atmosphere and the light, there are some similarities with Aureliano de Beruete; however, Bilbao’s composition is more picturesque than that of the sober and elegant painter from Madrid, who also painted San Lucas in an entirely different setting (Toledo, Museum of Contemporary Art). Its size makes it different from most of his paintings of Toledo which, as a critic pointed out at the time, were small and completed in a single session, which was not the case with this picture.

A splendid violet sky appears over the mountains, which is painted – like them – with broad, dynamic brush strokes. The eaves over the gateway and the tower are painted with equal fluidity; here the brush strokes are denser and cross each other perpendicularly. The vigour of the architecture and the landscape contrasts with the diminished presence of the figures, which are reduced in size. This was usual in the scenes lavishly produced by Bilbao, in which the landscape, whether urban or country, was the most important feature, although some motif depicting local customs also appeared.

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  • Title: The Viaticum, Toledo
  • Date Created: 1922
  • Place Part Of: Spain
  • Physical Dimensions: w1010 x h710 mm (Complete)
  • Painter: Gonzalo Bilbao
  • Exhibition: Madrid, Spain
  • Credit Line: Written in pencil on the back of the frame, “El viático (Toledo)”
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Fundación Banco Santander, www.fundacionbancosantander.com
  • External Link: Fundación Banco Santander
  • Medium: Oil on canvas