An emblematic painting, a must-have illustration for any work dealing with the period known as the “Iberian Union”, the union of the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal, this painting by Maíno has accompanied dozens of books, conference posters and various events dealing with this period or, specifically, with Brazil’s inclusion in the Hispanic Monarchy. It is not, therefore, just a beautiful painting of the Spanish Baroque. Its repeated reproduction and its universalisation among modernist historians has elevated it to such a status that we could say that it alone represents all those who study the period 1580-1640 and its various developments, especially political and military ones. Perhaps also because it represents the high point of the union of crowns: the victory of the Portuguese-Spanish arms over the Dutch “heretic” in Salvador de Bahia, no less than the seat of the general government of the State of Brazil, a place coveted by the Dutch and attacked on numerous occasions throughout the first half of the 17th century and especially in 1624. The so-called “Day of Brazil”, led by Fadrique de Toledo, was one of the most publicised military events of the 17th century and gave rise to this emblematic painting, which was partly based on Lope de Vega’s play “El Brasil Restituido”, completed in October and performed in November 1625. Although this play served as inspiration for the painting, Maíno also had in mind the book Restauracion de la ciudad del Salvador, i Baia de Todos-Sanctos, en la Provincia del Brasil: por las Armas de Dom Philippe IV el Grande Rei Catholico de las Españas y Indias etc. by the royal chronicler Tamayo de Vargas, printed in 1628. Above and beyond these questions is the main theme of the painting, the exaltation of the victims in the war scene, with priority given to the weapons, soldiers and generals, which has made it an icon, with very clear analogies in terms of subject matter with another emblematic painting, Picasso’s Guernica.
This painting reflects the military successes of the early stages of the Thirty Years’ War and the return to arms in the more than 60-year confrontation with the “Flanders rebels” and their English allies, specifically the annus mirabilis of 1625, which saw the victories of Breda, Genoa, Bahia, Cadiz and Puerto Rico, and shortly afterwards that of Saint Christopher and Nevis (1629). This series of victories in such a short space of time, a reflection of the power of the Hispanic Monarchy in the early years of Philip IV’s reign, was the reason for the decoration of the Salón de Reinos in the Buen Retiro Palace. The Count Duke of Olivares thought that this would enhance the prestige of the “neglected” history of Spain and help to raise the fame of the Monarchy (RUIZ GOMEZ, 2009, p. 180). It is possible that Gaspar de Guzmán’s history advisors, such as Francisco de Rioja, were the ones who proposed the 12 victories to be illustrated and immortalised with large-format paintings by some of the most distinguished painters of the time, but there is no doubt that the Valide was directly involved in all the planning of the pictorial space.
The author of the Recovery of Bahia, Fray Juan Bautista Maíno, a native of Pastrana, was one of the most outstanding painters of the first half of the 17th century. Maíno travelled to Italy around 1604 and in Rome had a son by an Spanish woman. His stay in Italy also took him to Naples. In Italy he became acquainted with the work of Caravaggio, Gentileschi and Reni, painters who would profoundly influence his style and make him one of the greatest Spanish Caravaggists (CEBALLOS, 2009). On his return from Italy he settled in Madrid and his fame already preceded him, as he was asked by the court to teach drawing to Prince Philip, the future Philip IV. In 1613 he entered the Dominican order (blood-cleansing statute of 1612), which explains the painter’s relatively small output, as he would have withdrawn from the front line of artistic creation. Relatively little is known about the years leading up to the composition of his great painting. As soon as he entered the Dominican order he went to Toledo, but he was back at court in 1616, where he was already the painting teacher of the young Prince Philip. In this post he accompanied him on Philip III’s trip to Portugal in 1619. Maíno himself must have taken an interest in this trip, as his mother was a native of Lisbon and the family apparently had some business in the Portuguese overseas territories. In 1627 he took part in a painting competition on the theme of the Expulsion of the Moors, which was won by Velázquez.
The idea of decorating the Salón de Reinos of the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid must have come from the royal advisers, as we have already noted, but the whole plan was driven by the king and the strong man of the moment, the Count Duke of Olivares. Giovanni Batista Crescenzi, superintendent of the royal works, Velázquez and Maíno himself were involved in the design of the decoration of the great hall and the selection of themes and painters, with the money coming out of the monarch’s private pocket.
Maíno painted the picture between 1634 and 1635, as did the other painters who produced works for the Salón de Reinos. This vast space, 34 metres long by 10 metres wide and 8 metres high, was decorated with a wide vault with arabesques and the coats of arms of the 24 kingdoms that made up the Hispanic Monarchy at the time, including the Kingdom of Portugal, to which Salvador de Bahia belonged. On the side walls, between the doors and above them, and at the two ends, the 27 paintings that decorated the great Hall would be placed. Between the doors would be the largest paintings, 12 in all, depicting the victories of the Monarchy, many of them from the annus mirabilis of 1625, but also others more recent in time. Above the doors were placed the ten scenes from the life of Hercules painted by Zurbarán, and on the front panels were the five equestrian portraits of Philip III, Philip IV, their wives and Prince Baltasar Carlos, all painted by Velázquez. (RUIZ GOMEZ (s d), RUIZ GOMEZ, 2009; BROWN, ELLIOTT, 1981).
Maíno’s painting would occupy a very prominent place, being the first one on the west side of the north wall, thus to the right of the entrance door and very close to where Philip IV’s throne was. The Count Duke sat next to him in more or less the same arrangement as these two figures in the painting (CEBALLOS, 2009, p. 190). He was not only notable for his place in the Salon. According to various accounts, at the time Maíno’s painting was considered the most important of all the paintings in the Salón de Reinos, above Velázquez’s Las Lanzas, which, with the passage of time, has come to be regarded as one of the most significant in the history of Spanish painting. Proof of this is that several poets invited by Olivares to write about the paintings in the Salón de Reinos dedicated sonnets to it, while none mentioned Velázquez’s painting. (RIVERO, 2020).
It is important to note that Maíno’s was one of two paintings portraying Fadrique de Toledo, as he was the protagonist of the conquest of Salvador in 1625 and of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Caribbean islands, in 1629, the latter painted by Félix Castelo.
The episodes of the reconquest of the city of Salvador de Bahia by the fleet of D. Fadrique de Toledo narrated in the painting were well known at the time. The Dutch fleet under the command of Jacob Willekens conquered the city in May 1624. After hearing the news, the king and the count-duke mobilised the entire naval system, bringing together two navies and three squadrons, a fleet of 62 ships with 12,500 men to recapture the city. The huge armada, under the command of Fadrique de Toledo, appeared in the Bay of Todos los Santos on 1 April 1625 and recaptured the city in a month of fighting, with the victorious armies entering the city walls on 1 May. As soon as the victory of the Iberians became known, numerous “relaciones de sucesos”, letters or chronicles were written and published giving details of the military action, attributing the success either to the intelligence of General Fadrique, or to the skill of the Portuguese fidalgos, or, as time went on, to the action planned by the Count-Duke, ordered by the king and executed by the generals. This was the version narrated by the royal chronicler Tamayo de Vargas in his account of the events of 1628, with which Maíno was undoubtedly familiar. Tamayo was a friend of the painter’s and some of the basic elements expressed by the royal chronicler in his work appear in the painting. However, it is beyond doubt that the main source of inspiration for the painter, apart from Tamayo’s book, was Lope de Vega’s comedy El Brasil restituido, which was performed at the palace in November 1625 and was probably attended by Maíno himself in his capacity as court painter and teacher of painting to the king.
Lope’s play presents a scene in which Don Fadrique, after the victory, parleys with a Dutch emissary, Leonardo, to discuss the conditions of the surrender. Don Fadrique is in favour of the maximum punishment. After tearing up the conditions presented to him by the Dutch envoy he proclaims:
“I will not
I do not intend to accept
of peace or other agreements
in my King’s estate;
for so much audacity
has sent me to punish.”
But he goes on to say that the king, a “severe judge”, “will know how to be a pious father”. In order to “speak with him” he uncovers a portrait of Philip IV, and urges the Dutch negotiator to “put his knee on the ground”. The general of the victorious army speaks thus:
(Uncover the portrait of H. M. Philip IV,
May God preserve him. Amen.)
Magno Filipe, these people
Ask pardon for their errors;
does Your Majesty wish
that this time we pardon them?
It seems that he said yes.
For I grant them pardon,
leaving what they have stolen
and only going out
with the clothes they have,
three months’ provisions
and ship to their own lands,
without taking with them a single verse,
gunpowder, nor ammunition. (Lope de VEGA, El Brasil restituido, ed. De Guido de SOLENNI, p. 109).
Despite the similarity between the two works, the play and the painting, Maíno significantly alters Lope’s scene. The most important novelty is the replacement of the portrait of the king by a tapestry in which figures other than the monarch appear and, in general, the overall tone of the comedy and the statements imputed in it to d. Fadrique, are much more aggressive than what Maíno finally represented. Moreover, this scene is merged with the final scene of the play, in which the allegory of Brazil crowns the king with the laurel (MARÍAS, VARONA, 2009, p. 68).
Lope de Vega and Maíno reproduced in this scene what at the time was considered the most outstanding aspect of the victory of the Luso-Spanish armies in Salvador de Bahía: the clemency granted to the enemies. Fadrique de Toledo, related to the Duke of Alba, of infamous memory for the inhabitants of the United Provinces, would have demonstrated the mercy and clemency that should be applied to the defeated, as an example to be followed. In the “Relaciones de sucesos” published in 1625, the clauses that D. Fadrique had granted the Dutch in the negotiations that led to the surrender were repeated over and over again, including the fact that the almost 2,000 soldiers could leave freely and that they would be given boats and supplies for the journey (VALENCIA Y GUZMÁN, 1626).
From a compositional point of view, Recovering Bahia is presented as a painting within a painting, with three superimposed scenes to be read from back to front. The painter’s point of view (the island of Itaparica?) is far removed from the city of Salvador de Bahia, which can barely be glimpsed in the background. It is perched on the top of the hill, perhaps at an exaggerated height, and a number of towers can be seen, notably the Sé-Catedral. In Tamayo we can read: “… the city of El Salvador is located on the tongue of the water on an eminence more than forty fathoms high, which can be reached by narrow paths…” (TAMAYO DE VARGAS, 1628, p. 102). At the bottom of the hill, linked to the city by a winding road, we see the port area, barely outlined, and in front of it a multitude of ships in the midst of a naval battle. In a shot before this scene we have a navy, a group of six ships, four smaller and more distant, and two galleons in a closer shot. In several chalupas, soldiers are travelling with packages that are about to be unloaded on the shore. At the farthest landing point, a large group of soldiers can be seen, while at the nearest one, an officer with a halberd in his hand appears with his back turned, accompanied by two Indians conventionally dressed in feathered skirts, one of them wearing a feathered headdress. The entire maritime scene functions as a kind of set, separated from the two main scenes by rocky backdrops, one vertical and the other diagonal, which provide the first and main scene.
Following the order from back to front we find the scene in which General Don Fadrique, dressed in green breeches and doublet and wearing the crimson sash of a general, shows a group of surrendered and kneeling Dutchmen a tapestry under a canopy on which some little angels appear holding the Latin inscription “Sed dextera tua” taken from Psalm 43,4 of the Vulgate which reads in full: “Neque enim in gladio suo possederunt terram, et brachium eorum salvavit eos, sed dextera tua et brachium tuum. (For they did not conquer this land with their sword, nor was it their arm that saved them, but your right hand and your arm). Behind Don Fadrique appear two figures of generals, also with the crimson sash across their chests, one of them on the dais, thus giving him a certain prominence, but not as much as the Spanish general. This figure seems to be addressing the Dutch who are crying out for mercy, pointing to the bay with his arm, presumably indicating to them that they could embark once they had obtained a royal pardon. There is a correspondence between the three: they wear the crimson sash, carry a wide-brimmed hat, as was common among high-ranking officers, and the two on the dais, Don Fadrique and his companion, carry a baton, while the third, in the lower plane, is shown wielding an object that seems more difficult to identify as a baton, and which looks more like a jineta, although it would be of very little length. It may be a baton with an ornament.
A notable feature of this group of officers is that their faces are idealised, for if the first two were, as Rivero has pointed out, Fadrique and Juan de Orellana, they were both dead by the time the painting was completed. Also noteworthy is the fact that the three officers are depicted with moustaches and goatees, in contrast to the beards worn by the Dutch and the Portuguese returning to the city.
Returning to the tapestry, it shows a portrait of Philip IV (the one shown by D. Fadrique to the Dutch envoy in Lope’s comedy) but with important variations. The king is “escorted” from behind by a figure of Minerva, goddess of war, and the Count Duke of Olivares, who crowns the king with a laurel wreath. The king appears younger than he was in that year, thus depicted in 1625, the moment of victory. The young king is shown wearing armour, with the crimson sash of a general and with a sheathed sword. He holds the baton of command in his left hand and in his right the palm leaf of victory, which Minerva helps him to hold. The Count-Duke plays a very important role in the whole scene. Together with Minerva, he holds the laurel wreath on the king’s head. Like the king, he appears with the half armour and the general’s sash (with a more intense crimson?) and in his left hand he carries the ceremonial rapier of the Catholic Monarchs, for his position as the king’s knight (CEBALLOS, 2009, p. 190) in which olive branches are intertwined, alluding to his surname and to the peace achieved after the Portuguese-Spanish victory. The king’s coronation also appears in the final scene of Lope’s comedy, but in this case it is the allegory of Brazil that girdles it.
X-ray research has shown that the figure of Olivares had originally been painted below the king’s head, but Maíno corrected this detail and placed it slightly higher. Although the reason for this change is not clear, it has been suggested that it may have been a direct indication from the Valide or the Pronotary of Aragon, Jerónimo de Villanueva, who commissioned and paid for the canvases in the Salón de Reinos, as well as supervising their execution (Ceballos, 190). The treatment of the ornamentation of the collars is also curious: in the case of the generals, the collars of the generals are adorned with bracelets on their shoulders, while the king and the Count Duke, in accordance with the pragmatics on austere costumes of 1623, have the typical stiffened collar.
The tapestry has an important symbolism in its lower part. On the ground there are three figures being trampled by the king and the count-duke. The figure on the left (right of the tapestry) is clearly an allegory of Heresy, as he is shown breaking a cross, alluding to the victory over the Protestant/Calvinist “heresy” of the Dutch. This is followed by a figure with a wrathful face and snake-like hair, whose right hand is a kind of claw showing a wound, and holds a serpent in his left hand behind Olivares’ right foot. It has been interpreted as an allegory of the Furor, as described by Cesare Ripa in his treatise on Iconology of 1603 (Ceballos). However, Fernando Marías and María Cruz de Carlos Varona, in their study in the catalogue edited by Leticia Ruiz Gómez, interpret this figure differently: it could be linked to Envy as the mother of War, Affliction and Despair, in line with Tamayo’s explanations of the whole war episode (MARÍAS, VARONA, 2009).
The third allegory that appears on the floor of the tapestry is a double-faced female figure, dressed in a red cloak, holding in her left hand a dried olive branch and in the other a dagger. Ripa describes the allegory of Treason, Deceit, Fraud or Hypocrisy in exactly this way, but Marías and Varona interpret it as an allegory of Duplicity or disloyal duplicity, thus having in the tapestry the three strong ideas of Tamayo de Vargas’ text, which would explain the Dutch action: Heresy, Envy and Disloyalty (RUIZ GÓMEZ, 2009, p 68).
In the foreground, separated from the rest by a kind of rocky diagonal wall, is the first scene, the most delicate, the one that has given this painting and its author, Maíno, exceptional stature in the history of painting. It is made up of 12 figures. On the left, three bearded men, two of them wearing hats, are interpreted as Portuguese men returning to the city after their stay in the camps on the outskirts. Their attitude is conversational and one of them points to the central scene, that of the wounded soldier, held by another figure and attended to by a woman who dresses his wound. This scene, of undoubtedly religious resonance, alludes to Christian charity, thus elevating this theme to the central theme of the entire work. Brown and Elliott have even related it to depictions of St. Irene attending to a cleansed St. Sebastian (BROWN, ELLIOTT, 1981). On the left of the scene are two women, one wearing clothes for the wounded, another holding a child in her arms, highly reminiscent of a painting by Gentileschi, and three children, one of them covering her face in full sobbing and two others, naked from the waist up, embracing, interpreted as widows and orphans, victims of the war. In the background, a young man wearing an orange cap watches the scene. There has been speculation as to the identity of the wounded man. In principle, from the jacket next to him, he could be an arquebusier. From his clothing hang a kind of sheath, which could be interpreted as the “twelve apostles”, the twelve little bags that harquebusiers wore strapped to their chests with the gunpowder for each shot. The scene appears in Lope de Vega’s play, when he recreates the wound that Captain Diego Ramírez received in the chest after the Dutch assault on the Spanish position in the monastery of San Benito, shortly after disembarking:
O hard, bloody Mars!
O muses be saddened
because Don Diego Ramirez
a bullet passes through his chest! (Lope de VEGA, ed. De Solenni, p. 73).
However, it is possible that Maíno again takes up here what Tamayo wrote, rather than what Lope represented. The chronicler says:
“Captain Don Diego Ramírez de Haro, falling to the ground from a musket shot to the nipple with a bullet in his arm, tried to get up as he was so encouraged to continue, but could not, because the wound was so great, that he was surprised to live, the bullet having been taken out of his back”. (TAMAYO DE VARGAS, p 1628, p. 109).
If we look at the part of the body referred to by Tamayo, it is precisely the part of the body where the woman applies her care. The image as a whole is a representation of Christian charity, but it may also have two political messages related to the episode. The figures contemplating the wounded man could be Portuguese, attending to a wounded Spaniard, thus symbolising the union of bodies and souls that was in the Count Duke’s justifications for the Union of Arms. It should be noted, however, that the figures on the left, all of whom are bearded, are in some way connected with the bearded Dutch and could perhaps be a representation of the New-Christians who were supposed to have been instrumental in showing the Dutch the way to the city and would have been very cooperative with them. This is a central theme in Lope’s work and appears here and there in the Relaciones de sucesos of the time, being, moreover, the scapegoat used by the Spanish authorities to justify the ease with which the Dutch had taken over the city (SANTOS-PÉREZ, VICENTE MARTÍN, RODRIGUES-MOURA, 2022).
In short, Maíno depicts a crucial episode in the history of the Spanish Monarchy in the annus mirabilis of 1625, an exemplary episode of collaboration between the various components of the Monarchy and the occasion for the Dominican to show for the first time in history that, in the end, the result of war is always a string of victims, including the dead, the wounded, widows and orphans. Maíno was commissioned by the Count-Duke to paint a picture that extolled him as the mastermind behind the whole war operation but which, ultimately, placed the victims and the virtue of charity as the main motif, when in theory, as in the other paintings in the Salón de Reinos, it was supposed to praise solely and exclusively military victory and clemency towards the vanquished.
As it was painted in the years 34-35, at the height of the exaltation of the Count-Duke’s role in monarchical politics, and owing to its close relationship with the work of Tamayo de Vargas, Maíno’s painting reflects the message that Olivares had wanted to convey since the late 1920s: that the episode of the “Siege and enterprise of the Bay of All Saints” was successful not because of the actions of the generals and of Don Fadrique in particular, as was originally thought, but because it was planned by the court. In this “enterprise” it was Olivares who would have brought about its success, thanks to his idea that the joint action of the Catholic kingdoms under a single Spanish crown was the only way to defeat the numerous enemies of the faith.
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José Manuel Santos-Pérez (University of Salamanca)