The allegorical portrait in L’Atelier de Santi


The allegorical portrait in El Atelier de Santi is the pictorial representation that I make of a group or individual, person or even animal. Through his possessions or properties I make a composition in the manner of a still life. Also in traditional portraits and in use, the portrayed person is usually accompanied with some objects of their preference, fetish or property. In this modality that I expose, the person appears represented exclusively by means of objects that are related to him, they represent him in a certain way. His physical aspect disappears to make way for part of his life or material history.

Attributes of his craft in Murillo's Self-Portrait (National Gallery of London)

Attributes of his craft in Murillo’s Self-Portrait (National Gallery of London)

Stylistic referents

There is, in this subgenre that I present, a strong Baroque inspiration from the genre of still life (called “bodegón” in spanish, when it comes to kitchens and food) and allegories. From the Renaissance paintings, the portrait usually includes objects that tell us about the person portrayed, their dedication and hobbies. And not just about her rank, often most depicted in her wardrobe, jewelry, trinkets, and ornamentation. Cases like the series of the senses and the philosophers of José de Ribera “the Spanish”, and the Velázquez’s dwarfs, are a clear example of the use of the allegorical portrait. And going through a long list of painters who began and continued to use still life and “bodegón” in various ways to make allegory (Jan Brueghel, Clara Peeters, Willen Claesz, Frans Sniders, Giuseppe Archimboldo, Antonio de Pereda, etc.).

From far back in time (Romanesque and proto-Gothic) the pious representations of saints and prominent men of the Catholic Church date back. In them the character is accompanied by all kinds of objects and accessories. From those referring to his origin and rank, to those of his deeds and miracles, passing through the tools and tools of his martyrdom. Thus, a wide catalog of general and particular attributes was conceived through which the saint and / or martyr are identified.

Still Life (left) by Willen Claesz. Heda, source of inspiration for the trompe l'oeil (right), by Santiago Ortega

Still Life (left) by Willen Claesz. Heda, source of inspiration for the trompe l’oeil (right), by Santiago Ortega

Allegorical portrait and emotional portrait

In the representation of these allegorical portraits, the recurring objects of the supposed portraits play a very important role. Whether they are memorabilia, hobbies or fetish-type objects, they all express a close profile of the person represented. But I also seek through this way of composing, the diversification of motives. I show a variety of objects in the same representation, specifying as little as possible. That is, not specifying the professional profile, status, family or other. Well, all the nuances of the personality are valid to portray the character in an allegorical way. His tastes and hobbies, his environment and influences, his dedication and trade, etc. And the variety offers a more “polyhedral” or volumetric portrait with different points of view in the psychological.

Toys from my daughter's childhood in "Bunny and his friends"

Toys from my daughter’s childhood in “Bunny and his friends”

I started this subgenre by gathering a series of objects from my grandfather to make a small pictorial tribute to him. The composition of this work placed me in a conversation with those objects, attributing a symbolism to his things in relation to his personal history. Many of these objects took me back to the moments I shared in my grandfather’s house on festive occasions and family reunions.

At the same time, I have kept personal belongings of close people, through whom I have a memory of their relationship with the owner. This becomes a motive reserved for future compositions, since all of them portray their owner in some way in various facets of his life story.

Trompe l'oeil named "Things of the grandfather"

Trompe l’oeil named “Things of the grandfather”

A close example, “La sobremesa” (*)

In all this process there is also a relationship and emotional interaction between the represented and his objects. It is an emotional content between the author and the one represented through their related objects, and also between the resulting work and the observer. The observer of the painting will relate the objects by composing in his observation a profile of the owner of the objects represented.

It is one of the closest cases, and to give an explanatory example, The after-lunch, “La sobremesa” (*A conversation that extends the meal beyond dessert and coffee). In this trompe l’oeil I have introduced objects with which I have a direct emotional relationship. It is not an allegorical self-portrait, but it does represent a moment with allegorical symbolism related to my life story.

Within this composition I have introduced “things” from my mother, or rather, from my mom. Well, it is an experience that goes back to moments of my earliest childhood. Because after-lunch (in Spain, the most important lunch is in noon) was one of my mother’s favorite moments, where she enjoyed the conversation with her children and family. In a way it is a part of a larger allegorical portrait of my mother, where you can see some of her tastes and preferences, with her vices and virtues.

A certain allegorical portrait in the trompe l'oeil "La sobremesa"

A certain allegorical portrait in the trompe l’oeil “La sobremesa”

I will publish soon

This way of keeping objects and motifs from close people (or not) has also resulted in saving objects and motifs from my referents and admired masters of painting. Giving rise to a project, already in practice and with several examples, such as The Zurbarán’s bookcase or The Velázquez’s cupboard. This consists of putting my favorite pictorial fragments inside false pictorial cabinets and shelves. I have called this series precisely “from the Shelves”, and it will be a welcome motif in future publications.

For more information;

Paint a trompel’oeil in L’Atelier de Santi






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