The Virgin Presenting the Rosary to Saint Dominic

Photo: Paul Macapia

The Virgin Presenting the Rosary to Saint Dominic

ca. 1679 - 88

Antonio Palomino

Spanish, 1655 - 1726

We can understand this painting in several ways. It was painted by a young artist at a time when he was avidly hoping for a court appointment as painter to the king. It also documents the institution of the rosary, a primary devotional practice among Catholics, and demonstrates the importance of Saint Dominic to Spanish Catholics. Use the Artist and Explore pages to learn more about this multifaceted painting.
Oil on canvas
81 1/8 x 57 1/8 in. (206.1 x 145.1cm)
European Painting Purchase Fund, Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund and the Kreielsheimer Foundation
Provenance: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Charles Deering Collection, Chicago (loan from Mr. Deering to Art Institute of Chicago, 1922-1927), by 1922-1927 (his death); by inheritance to his daughters, Mrs. Chauncey McCormick and Mrs. R.E. Danielson, Chicago (continued on loan to Art Institute of Chicago, 1927-1955), 1927-1955; gift from Mrs. McCormick to Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Carrollton of Miami, Florida, 1955-1965; Dominican Friars, Chapel of St. Dominic Priory, Miami, Florida, 1965-1993; [Valery Taylor Gallery, New York]
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum

At an unhappy time and in an unfortunate climate [Spain], genius strives in vain for attainment if the stars fail to exert their good influence.

From Lives of the Eminent Spanish Painters and Sculptors, 1724

The Life of Saint Dominic

Dominic was born in northern Spain, and according to fifteenth-century sources, his parents were members of the noble class. Beginning at the age of twenty-five, he traveled outside Spain, where he encountered heretical preaching in southern France and helped establish a monastic community near Carcassonne. In 1215, in Toulouse, he established a small order of preaching monks who lived simply and devoted their activities to public preaching. Traveling to Rome, he secured official approval of the new order by Pope Innocent III in 1217. Dominic died in Bologna in 1221. He was canonized in 1234 and is the patron saint of astronomers.

The Dominican order rose to prominence very quickly because of its popular combination of intellectual rigor and attention to basic human needs. The saint's own example of self-denial supported his compelling rhetoric: "It is not by the display of power and pomp, cavalcades of retainers, . . . or by gorgeous apparel, that the heretics win proselytes; it is by zealous preaching, by apostolic humility, by austerity, by . . . seeming holiness. Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching truth."
Detail of saint's head, 93.9
Photo: Paul Macapia

The Artist at Work

Antonio Palomino is not renowned for the precision of his work, but this early painting contains multiple examples of artistic changes and refinements that show a clear desire for perfection. Palomino probably painted it shortly after he arrived in Madrid and was trying to make his mark and achieve a court appointment. He emulated the style of Claudio Coello, the most prominent painter then working in Madrid, in creating a straightforward image of the Spanish-born Saint Dominic.
Saint Dominic de Guzman, 1693, Claudio Coello
Rights Reserved © Museo Nacional del Prado - Madrid

Illustrated Examples of Palomino's Artistic Refinements

Photo: Paul Macapia
Detail, cherubs at lower left, 93.9
The cloud that serves as the Virgin Mary's throne is an afterthought, painted over cherubs who originally bore her aloft. Because oil paint becomes more transparent over time, the angels are once again visible, giving modern viewers a chance to make their own judgment about whether Palomino made the right decision.
"Lam. 7" (Diagram of positions of head, bent arm, bent leg), from El Museo pictorico y escala optica, ca. 1715-24, Acisclo Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco
The lips and chin of Saint Dominic protruded farther forward before the artist adjusted the features, which gives the figure a more regular, idealized profile. Palomino's later writings show evidence of concern about mathematical rendering of facial proportions.
Photo: Paul Macapia
Detail, drapery of white robe (lower left), 93.9
Even a minor detail such as the edge of the saint's drapery folds received extra attention. Palomino altered the shape of the fold to help lead the eye upward to the saint's face.

"Dog of God": Symbolism in the Painting

This painting has many symbols associated with Saint Dominic. The dog with a torch in its mouth before a globe of the earth alludes to a dream the saint's mother had before he was born-that she would give birth to a dog carrying a torch in its mouth to light the world. It is a pun on his name-"domini canis," or "dog of god"- and its black-and-white markings match the Dominican habit. The lily was a symbol of purity associated with both the Virgin Mary and Saint Dominic. A star before the saint's forehead represents the supernatural light he was said to radiate.
Detail with symbols highlighted, 93.9
Photo: Paul Macapia

The Institution of the Rosary

According to legend, Saint Dominic (ca. 1170-1221) had a vision in which the Virgin Mary appeared to him and presented him with a string of beads. The beads came to be used in personal devotional practice as they helped the user count a sequence of salutations to the Virgin. In fact, the use of a circlet of beads as a counting device in religious meditation is documented well before the early thirteenth century.
Detail of rosary, 93.9
Photo: Paul Macapia

Comparing Palomino's Work with the Work of Claudio Coello

A comparison with the work of Claudio Coello, the leading Spanish painter after Velázquez's death in 1660, shows Palomino emulating the older artist's straightforward naturalism. This approach is in keeping with the tendency of Spanish artists to give divine figures an almost physical palpability.
Saint Dominic de Guzman, 1693, Claudio Coello
Rights Reserved © Museo Nacional del Prado - Madrid

Saint Dominic in the New World

Along with the Franciscans, the Dominican order was the most active in proselytizing and converting indigenous peoples in the Americas to the Catholic faith. The first European-settled city in the New World, on the island of Hispaniola in what is now the Dominican Republic, was named Santo Domingo in honor of the Spanish-born saint.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (obverse) and Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata (reverse), 1639, Alonso López de Herrera
Meadows Museum, SMU, Meadows Museum Acquisition Fund, MM.88.08.a-b


Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, Seattle Art Museum, discusses the painting by Palomino


Exhibition HistoryAlbuquerque, New Mexico, Albuquerque Museum, "El Alma de Espana", April 17 - July 31, 2005, (4/17/2005-7/17/2005)

Published ReferencesBlanco Mozo, Juan Luis. "Antonio Palomino en Navalcarnero (Madrid)," in SEPARATA del Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoria del Arte, vol 20, 2008, fig. 4, illus. p. 105

Albarez, Mari-Tere. "Alma de Espana" exhibition catalogue. Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque Museum of Art, 2005

Ishikawa, Chiyo. "The Samuel H. Kress Collection at the Seattle Art Museum" Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, 1997, fig. 8, pp. 20, 22

Iturgaiz, Domingo. "Acercamiento a Antonio Palomino. Obra inedita en conventos Dominicanos," in Archivo Espanol de Arte, Tomo LIII, num. 209, 1980, fig. 1

Calloway, Donald H. MIC. Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heros of a Spiritual Weapon. Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press, 2016; p. 191

Calloway, Donald H. MIC. 26 Champions of the Rosary: The Essential Guide to the Greatest Heros of the Rosary. Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2017; p. 13

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