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Pacheco, Franciscolocked

(b Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, 1564; d Seville, 1644).
  • Enrique Valdivièso

Spanish painter and writer. He is not considered to be a great painter, but he is remembered for his theoretical work Arte de la pintura. The book is the most important contribution to Spanish artistic theory in the 17th century.

1. Paintings.

From his earliest years he lived in Seville in the care of his uncle, also Francisco Pacheco, who was a canon of Seville Cathedral. Having served his apprenticeship with Luis Fernández (fl 1542–81) around 1580, by 1585 Pacheco was already working as a master painter and was becoming known for his interest in humanist studies, especially literature, and poetry in particular. From his youth he was familiar with the clerics and the intelligentsia of Seville, and it was through these connections that he received commissions for paintings. As a result of his intimacy with the clergy he enthusiastically defended iconographic orthodoxy, and this led to a strict and unvarying formula for his compositions and a certain coldness of expression. His visit to Castile in 1611 was an important factor in the improvement and development of his pictorial style. While there he visited Madrid, Toledo and the Escorial and made contact with other artists, including El Greco. In 1611, when Pacheco had returned to Seville, Diego Velázquez entered his studio. Pacheco recognized and encouraged the talent of his protégé, who eventually married his daughter, Juana. In 1616 Pacheco was appointed Veedor del Oficio de Pintores by the municipal government of Seville, and in 1618 the Tribunal of the Inquisition named him Veedor de Pintura Sagrada, in which position he was required to inspect and censor the work of his colleagues in Seville. This artistic distinction persuaded him to seek nomination in Madrid as Pintor del Rey under Philip IV; but in spite of the support of his son-in-law, Velázquez, who was then working in Madrid as a Pintor de Cámara, the application was unsuccessful. From this time on the appearance in Seville of such younger painters as Francisco de Zurbarán and Francisco de Herrera (ii) marked the decline of Pacheco’s influence, though he continued to paint in an unexpressive, conservative style until the end of his life.

The earliest dated works by Pacheco are from 1589 and are rudimentary in style, with stiff, lifeless figures (e.g. Christ Carrying the Cross, ex-Conde de Ybarra priv. col., Seville). In 1600 he began working with Alonso Vázquez on the paintings in the great cloister of the Mercedarian convent in Seville. This series (Seville, Mus. B.A.; Barcelona, Mus. A. Catalunya; Barnard Castle, Bowes Mus.) portrayed scenes from the Life of St Peter Nolasco and the Life of St Raymund Nonnatus. In 1604 Pacheco completed one of his most important works, for Fernando Enríquez de Ribera, 3rd Duque de Alcalá, the Apotheosis of Hercules on a ceiling of the Casa de Pilatos in Seville (see Seville §IV 3.). The Apotheosis (in situ) reveals Pacheco’s difficulty in painting the anatomy of nude figures and in rendering perspectival effects. In 1611 Pacheco painted another large composition, a Last Judgement (Marseille, priv. col., for engraving see Valdivieso and Serrera, fig.) for the church of the convent of S Isabel in Seville. This painting includes many nude studies and a self-portrait. Other paintings of interest are his versions of the Crucifixion, two of which were identified in the 1980s (1614, Granada, Fund. Moreno; and 1615, Madrid, priv. col., see Valdivieso and Serrera, fig.). In both works Christ is represented in an orthodox manner as fastened to the cross with four nails, one in each hand and foot. Pacheco’s best work is perhaps Christ Attended by Angels (1616; Courson, Château), which was painted for the convent of S Clemente in Seville. It has excellent still-life elements and a perspective landscape background. His versions of the Immaculate Conception are interesting because of the adolescent features he gives to the Virgin, who floats motionless in space. In Arte de la pintura (1649) Pacheco described what he considered to be the ideal iconography for depictions of the Immaculate Conception, views that reflect contemporary religious preoccupations in Seville. He stated that the Virgin should be portrayed as a young girl, 12 to 13 years of age, of perfect beauty. She should be wearing a white tunic and a blue mantle and be surrounded by an aura of sunlight and crowned by 12 stars. A waning quarter moon should be shown beneath her feet, which should be depicted with the toes pointing downwards. His two best-known examples are the Immaculate Conception with a Portrait of Miguel Cid (1611–21; Seville Cathedral) and the Immaculate Conception with a Portrait of Vázquez de Leca (1621; Seville, priv. col., see Valdivieso and Serrera, fig.). Pacheco’s most successful religious painting is the Mystical Marriage of St Agnes (1628; Seville, Mus. B.A.), in which, almost for the first time, he achieves a soft, sweet and intimate expressiveness. His most important works were the paintings for the high-altar retable in the Iglesia de la Pasión (destr. 1868), Seville: the Crown of Thorns, the Agony in the Garden, the Flagellation and Christ Carrying the Cross (all 1631; Seville, Mus. B.A.). These reveal his adherence to outdated Mannerist formulae.

Throughout his life Pacheco produced preparation drawings for his works. Some of these survive and show that his first conception of a subject was freer and more spontaneous than its final realization on canvas. His greatest contribution to drawing, however, is the collection Descripción de verdaderos retratos de ilustres y memorables varones, which contained 160 portraits of distinguished men of his time—ecclesiastics, poets and other literary figures—each accompanied by an account of the subject’s talents. Only 60 of these portraits have survived (Madrid, Mus. Galdiano).

2. Writings.

Pacheco was no more than an adequate writer. In addition to art, his numerous written works treat both literary and theological subjects. Among his many poems is Soneto del Rey a caballo (Seville, 1649), written as a tribute to the painting by Velázquez of Philip III (1629–35; Madrid, Prado). Many other poems are addressed to literary, artistic and ecclesiastical personages of his time. His important contribution is Arte de la pintura, published in 1649, five years after his death. In this volume he assembled a number of earlier theoretical treatises, as well as describing his own views, which were profoundly influenced by Counter-Reformation ideology. His decision to write the work probably stemmed from the discussions that took place in Seville among the circle of noblemen, clerics, humanists, artists and literary figures who used to gather in his studio. The most distinguished of its members was Fernando Enríquez de Ribera, 3rd Duque de Alcalá (see Ribera family §(4)), but it also included the poet Francisco de Rioja, the antiquarian and collector Caro, Rodrigo, the Jesuit priest Juan de Pineda and the poet and painter Juan de Jaureguí (c. 1566–1641).

The Arte de la pintura is arranged in three books with an appendix. The first discusses the antiquity and significance of painting, which is described as the most important of the arts and the means by which the Christian faith is propagated and defended. In the second book Pacheco summarizes the theories of Renaissance writers, particularly the Italians, expressing few of his own opinions. The ideas of Leonardo, Alberti and Raphael are explained, together with those of the Córdoban painter Pablo de Céspedes, whom Pacheco knew and admired. In the third book Pacheco gives his views on the correct practice of painting, identifying two essential aspects: the study of nature and the study of great artists. He never, in fact, followed this approach in his own paintings: there is no sign of the direct observation of nature nor of the study of great masters, whose work he knew mainly from engravings.

Probably the most interesting part of Pacheco’s book is the appendix, which contains a copious repertory of iconographic formulae. This was intended to ensure the most orthodox portrayal of every religious subject and was scrupulously based on scriptural texts. However, strict observance of these rules by a painter would prevent any freedom of interpretation and so stifle any creative impulse. Pacheco’s ideas corresponded to the rigidly conventional attitudes of the Church, which were based on the rulings of the Council of Trent on the subject of artistic endeavour. By upholding these rulings, the Church hoped to prevent heresy and preserve the purity of Christian thought. Given his own views, it is therefore not surprising that Pacheco was appointed as censor in Seville, able to ban any painting that deviated from the strictest orthodoxy. He commented in his book that if at any moment a painter doubted the correct way of interpreting a theme he should consult a learned cleric, who could provide him with a solution in accordance with orthodox tenets.

Pacheco’s strict attention to contemporary ideas of truth and morality is reflected in his concept of beauty. In his discussion of Michelangelo’s nudes in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican he fails to see any transcendental beauty in the human form but instead judges them to be dangerous for the soul of the spectator; indeed his own few attempts at rendering the human body were clumsy and rudimentary. Pacheco’s views on art were far more influential than his painting, which aroused little interest among his contemporaries. His theoretical writings were greatly respected by the painters of his own generation, as well as by later artists, and were seen as expressing a profound and convincing doctrinal viewpoint.


  • Arte de la pintura: Su antigüedad y grandeza (Seville, 1649/R Madrid, 1990)
  • Descripción de verdaderos retratos de ilustres y memorables varones, ed. J. M. Asensio (Madrid, 1886/R Madrid, 1983)
  • J. M. Asensio, ed.: Pacheco: Sus obras artísticas y literarias (Seville, 1886)
  • Artists’ Techniques in Golden Age Spain: Six Treatises in Translation, trans. Z. Veliz (Cambridge, 1986)


  • D. Angulo Iñiguez: Pintura del siglo XVI, A. Hisp., 12 (Madrid, 1955), p. 319
  • J. de las Cuevas: ‘Francisco Pacheco y el arte de la pintura’, Archivo hispalense, 73 (1955), pp. 9–65
  • A. Sancho Corbacho: ‘Pacheco: Tratadista de arte’, Archivo hispalense, 70 (1955), pp. 110–45
  • F. J. Sánchez Cantón: Introducción al ‘Arte de la pintura’ (Madrid, 1956)
  • F. Urmeneta: ‘Francisco Pacheco: Gloria del genio Leonardo español’, Archivo hispalense, 75 (1956), pp. 9–40
  • P. E. Muller: ‘Francisco Pacheco as a Painter’, Marsyas, 10 (1960–61), pp. 34–44
  • M. Barbadillo: Pacheco: Su tierra y su tiempo (Jerez, 1963)
  • J. Brown: Ideas e imágenes en la pintura española del siglo XVII (Madrid, 1980)
  • E. Valdivieso and J. M. Serrera: Pintura sevillana del primer tercio del siglo XVII (Madrid, 1985), pp. 17–116
  • E. Valdiviesco: Historia d la pintura sevillena (Seville, 1986), pp. 113–20
  • A. E. Pérez Sánchez: Pintura barroca española (Madrid, 1992), p. 158
  • A. E. Pérez Sánchez: Francisco Pacheco (Seville, 1990)