The Neapolitan artist Corrado Giaquinto had the greatest impact of any foreign artist working in Spain in the eighteenth century. He had left Italy for Madrid in 1753, traveling via Zaragoza where his pupil Gonzalez Velazquez was working in the basilica of El Pilar. During his short stay there he had an enormous influence on the local painters, particularly Francisco and Ramon Bayeu and the young Goya. He had been summoned to Madrid to paint fresco ceilings for the Royal Palace in Madrid, as there was no Spanish painter capable of carrying out such important commissions, completing three major works in the chapel, above the main staircase and in the Salon de Columnas. He was given the title of First Painter of the King and Director of the Royal Academy of San Fernando which he held until he left Spain in 1761, probably because of jealousy over the arrival of Mengs and the commissions in the same palace given to Tiepolo.
This painting is a preparatory oil sketch for the large-scale Allegory of Justice and Peace now in the Museo del Prado, Madrid. This important work was commissioned by Ferdinand VI just after the artist assumed his duties as First Painter to the King in 1753. Soon after, Giaquinto created another large-scale version of the same subject for the Sala de Juntas at the newly, established Academy of St Ferdinand, in whose collection it remains today.
The preparatory oil sketch shown here would have been presented to the king for approval before the final work was undertaken. Both the preliminary and finished versions show the personification of Justice and Peace delicately entwined in languid harmony. Although it can be more commonly interpreted as an attribute of Peace, the white dove hovering above the head of our elegant companion also identifies the latter figure as Divine Justice, the most noble and sublime form of all. Just below the figure of Justice at the left, rests the body of a dead youth and next to him, a broken pillar and sword. To the right, holding out an olive branch sits Peace, at whose feet rests a cornucopia that overflows with an abundance of ripe fruit. Encapsulated in this elegant and iconic image are the most salient themes of Ferdinand VI's monarchy whose role as a just and peaceful king presiding over a prosperous realm are stressed. As the white dove above Justice suggests, Ferdinand's reign along with his just and peaceful kingdom were all instituted, sanctioned and guided by the hand of divinity.
The king's role as a "Peaceful Conciliator" and his identification as the architect of prosperity within his kingdom was emphasised throughout the complex iconographical program, written for the New Royal Palace in 1748 by Father Martin Sarmiento. In this erudite treatise, the theme is reinforced by linking Ferdinand VI both in 1713 to the Peace of Utrecht, and by the symbolic identification of Philip V and Ferdinand VI with King David and his son Solomon.
Though highly traditional, Sarmiento's use of the biblical story of Old Testament kings was consciously adjusted to the specific propagandist necessities of the Bourbons, who promoted the New Royal Palace as the symbol of the "New Spain" that they had resurrected from the bankrupt nation inherited from the Habsburgs. Like Solomon, Ferdinand VI has also reigned over a peaceful kingdom that had been secured by the bloody military campaigns carried out by his father. With the peace came prosperity and the building of the Royal Palace which, like Solomon's temple, was meant to stand as a monument to the stable nation established by the king's father. This specific iconographical allusion was the key to Bourbon propaganda for it threw the painful War of Succession, where they had lost half the empire, into a more flattering light. This could only be done in favor of its positive aftermath when the Spain of Ferdinand VI enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. The essence of this complex Bourbon apologia, where Peace, Pros perity, justice rise from the heroic triumphs of war is eloquently expressed in Giaquinto's oil sketch of Peace and Justice.
As is so often the case in autograph works by the r:.aster, Giaquinto's small sketch is as beautiful as it is meaningful. Giaquinto's Justice and Peace reflects the authoritative high baroque models of Luca Giordano and Pietro da Cortona. Their spirits are keenly felt in the comely women and adorable children featured both in the sketch and finished canvas, and in the masterfully poised composition which unites all the component elements into one sweeping and elegant ensemble. While maintaining all the gravitas of the Italian Grand style, these elements have been delicately transformed by Giaquinto's coloristic refinement anal deft brushwork. The artist's absolute mastery of subtle color combination is displayed in the two central figures whose garments present a delicious array of honeyed gold, pistachio green and strawberry pink that are brilliantly juxtaposed with the warm melon tone of the cloud billowing out at knee level. The creamy consistency of the paint heightens the tone of sensuous splendor which emanates from every inch of the sketch, as well as the finished canvas.