The Castilian Vicente Victoria was born to a Spanish mother and an Italian father, his early years were spent studying philosophy and theology in Valencia, where he also learnt the rudiments of painting. In 1679 he left for Rome and remained there until his return to Valencia in 1688, during which time he pursued both ecclesiastic training, and artistic training in the studio of Carlo Maratti. Upon his return to Valencia Victoria took up a post as Cannon in the Church of San Felipe in Xativa and spent his time writing extensively on historical and theological topics, and painting frescos in the dome of a chapel in the Cathedral in Xativa and in other monasteries and churches in the region. Victoria returned to Rome in 1698 and gained the title of court painter to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III. He became an passionate collector of high quality Italian prints and drawings as well as tablets, medals and coins and was appointed antiquarian to the Pope. His friend Antonio Palomino, in his famous discourse on Spanish Painters in the 17th
and early 18th
centuries, highlights Victoria’s skill at the art of trompe l’oeil
writing “I saw in his studio some trompe l’oeils that I mistook for reality until he himself gave me reason to doubt it, such as a simulated board done on canvas from which hung some papers, drawings, and other trifles, which I must sincerely confess did fool me.”1
Whilst not a single signed example of this type of painting by Victoria exists, works given to him are based on the strength of a late eighteenth-century description of a trompe l’oeil of arms, then in the O’Cruley collection, Cádiz, which was being attributed to him at the time. Particularly similar to the present picture are a pair of paintings in the Osuna Collection, Seville, which feature many of the same items of weaponry as well as the draped standard, and another trope l’oeil
of weapons in the Prado, all of which were given to Victoria by Alfonso Pérez Sánchez.2
Peter Cherry has more recently proposed an attribution for these works to Jacobus Biltius, on the basis of similarities with the signed Trompe l’Oeil of Arms
by Biltius that was sold at Sotheby’s New York, 22 January 2004.3
1. A. Palomino, Lives of the Eminent Spanish Painters and Sculptors, translated by Nina Ayala Mallory, Cambridge 1987, p. 380.
2. A. E. Pérez Sánchez, La Nature Morte Espagnole, Fribourg 1987, no. 164, 165 and 166 p. 159-160 reproduced.
3. See W.B. Jordan and P. Cherry, Spanish Still Life, from Velázquez to Goya, London 1995, p. 149.