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Filipe Lobo

View of the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Riverside
Portugal, Lisbon
ca. 1657
Oil painting on canvas
51.8 x 77.2 cm

Filipe Lobo, an artist until recently known only a single painting, did not fail to gain a certain reputation in the history of Portuguese of art, thanks precisely to the singularity of this one artwork. The View of the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Riverside, an oil painting on canvas, from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon (inv. 1980 Pint), signed and dated – “Philippus Lupus Fecit Ano MDCLVII” – is a rare piece and one of the very few examples of an urban veduta of seventeenth-century Lisbon; a testimony to the assimilation, even if late and unusual, of genre painting conventions as practiced in Northern European workshops. Little is known about the painter. In addition to the date of his death, 1675, there are documents on his activity in the Confraternity of Saint Luke, where he served as steward from 1669-70, 1673-74 and also 1675-76, a mandate that he was patently not able to fulfil; and others that mention him as living in various dwellings in the parish of Santa Catarina, where he may have crossed paths with other craftsmen and fellow artists who where his neighbours. Of his large progeny of five children, only one would have followed in his footsteps, Francisco Lobo, who was appointed deputy of the Confraternity of Saint Luke between 1585 and 1586.

               While similar examples of landscape painting and genre scenes are rare in Portuguese painting, some have consistently argued that Filipe Lobo trained under Dirk Stoop (ca. 1615-1686), a Dutch painter born in Utrecht who stayed in Lisbon between 1659 and 1662 and who was apparently the official Chamber painter to Catarina of Bragança (1638-1705), whom he accompanied on his trip to England for her wedding to Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Alongside the portrait of the Portuguese bride, Dirk Stoop produced some cityscape paintings and engravings which recorded both the capital’s architectural features ​​and the city’s life and customs. One such work is the well-known 1662 view of the Terreiro do Paço, the large square dominated by the vast royal palace and the lively bustle which took place in the heart of the city. It has already been noted that Dirk Stoop’s sojourn in Lisbon is later than the painting in the Lisbon museum, so one should look elsewhere for Lobo’s introduction to themes belonging to genre painting, which are nevertheless closely linked to contemporary Dutch visual culture.

This new painting by Filipe Lobo – signed and dated (partially visible) in the lower right corner, “Philippus Lupus Fecit A[n]o 165[?]” – provides new information on Lobo’s artistic production, even considering that this painting, which has only become more widely known in recent years, is a variant of the painting in the Lisbon museum. It is also a high-viewpoint perspective of the Jerónimos Monastery, with the painter placed virtually to the west, next to the beach, yet with the large monastic structure depicted in a more distant and imprecise way. The famous Chafariz da Bola is not depicted in this new painting – a public fountain which was removed in the mid-nineteenth century – while the public road that ran parallel to the monastery is here highlighted, with a sketchy Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém) also visible in the background, together with the Quinta da Praia palace (which belonged to the Marquis of Marialva) and the convent of Bom Sucesso. In addition to the scenic quality of the place, the painter also captured, in this suburban area of ​​the city, scenes of urban conviviality – people engaged in romantic chit chat with idle dandies present in both paintings – as well as more rustic scenes with wandering beasts of burden and popular characters, in a contrasting allusion to their arduous daily tasks.

It should be underscored that throughout the seventeenth century the monastery of Santa Maria de Belém kept intact its symbolic dimension as an imperial and dynastic building, treasured even by the “usurper king” Felipe II of Spain, who financed major interventions inside the edifice where his  grandfather, king Manuel I, lay. Felipe remodelled the royal pantheon and constructed the new monastic vestibule and also the so-called Sala dos Reis (King’s Hall). Concomitantly with some of these construction works, in 1625 the royal architect Teodósio de Frias, proposed a more dignified planning of the churchyard, which should be enclosed by a parapet, with the construction of a wall that hindered the public use of the pathway that ran close to the monastery’s dormitory, so as to prevent the resulting “inconveniences and indecencies”. Alternatively, it was suggested that people and animals – who went as far as to “disrespectfully” enter the church! – use the “royal road”; the wide dirt road so clearly depicted in Lobo’s painting.

The survival of two different compositions on the same theme by the same painter, albeit of different dimensions, is certainly not fortuitous. There are similarities between the works: for instance how the figure in profile, hat and sword hanging from his belt, depicted on the left, next to the fountain`s basin, in the painting in the Lisbon museum, is also depicted in the present painting in the foreground, to the right. The group of ladies seated in conversation with the idle dandy are similar in both paintings. It is perhaps indicative of the relative success, which continued until the eighteenth century, of a “landscape” theme dear to the fledgling national art market, which was nonetheless already capable of assimilating and accepting the new pictorial values associated with “genre painting” in its multiple the public use of the pathway that ran close to the monastery’s dormitory, so as to prevent the resulting “inconveniences and indecencies”. Alternatively, it was suggested that people and animals – who went as far as to “disrespectfully” enter the church! – use the “royal road”; the wide dirt road so clearly depicted in Lobo’s painting.

The survival of two different compositions on the same theme by the same painter, albeit of different dimensions, is certainly not fortuitous. There are similarities between the works: for instance how the figure in profile, hat and sword hanging from his belt, depicted on the left, next to the fountain`s basin, in the painting in the Lisbon museum, is also depicted in the present painting in the foreground, to the right. The group of ladies seated in conversation with the idle dandy are similar in both paintings. It is perhaps indicative of the relative success, which continued until the eighteenth century, of a “landscape” theme dear to the fledgling national art market, which was nonetheless already capable of assimilating and accepting the new pictorial values associated with “genre painting” in its multiple thematic variations.

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