Cloe Cavero de Carondelet
Eugenio Cajés’s Meeting at the Golden Gate: Purity and Procreation in Seventeenth-Century Madrid
Cloe Cavero‘s new article in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes reconstructs the original context of Cajés’s altarpiece to offer a new perspective on the way in which religious art engaged with the tensions prompted by the issue of the purity of blood, as well as with anxieties related to family and procreation
St Joachim and St Anne Meeting at the Golden Gate, painted by Eugenio Cajés between 1604 and 1605, is the sole remnant of a major commission for the Cercito chapel in the church of San Felipe el Real in Madrid. The painting has been praised by modern critics, who have drawn attention to the painter’s emulation of Italian artistic precedents. Illuminating as this appraisal may be, such an approach does not explain why the patrons chose an iconographic subject that had become increasingly rare, especially since the traditional association of the Meeting with the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin had been questioned in the late sixteenth century. Above all, focussing on the painting’s style fails to take into account the specific context for which this painting was conceived. As it happens, the Cercito family chapel was dedicated to a very particular cult, that of the Holy Child of La Guardia, the purported victim of one of the most notorious blood libels in late medieval Spain. The purpose of the present study is to redress the previous art-historical oversight with regard to this painting, through an in-depth study of the artistic, devotional and socio-cultural significance of the Meeting at the Golden Gate in seventeenth-century Madrid. An analysis of the extensive and to date unpublished archival documentation for the commission makes it possible to reconstruct key elements of the lost chapel. These sources, when read together with devotional texts that circulated at the time, reveal the personal motives that underpinned the foundation and decoration of the Cercito chapel. The reconstruction of the Cercito chapel proposed in this article offers a new perspective on the way in which religious art engaged with the tensions prompted by the issue of the purity of blood, as well as with anxieties related to family and procreation.
Cloe Cavero de Carondelet, “Eugenio Cajés’s Meeting at the Golden Gate: Purity and Procreation in Seventeenth-Century Madrid”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. LXXXIII, 2020, pp. 257–298.
Read the article here