Auction 77 Antiques & Works of Art


Conversion of King Totila by Saint Benedict at Montecassino

Diogo Teixeira – António da Costa (b. c. 1590)


35.000 - 50.000

Session 1

22 May 2018


Oil on panel

200x100 cm



Lot Essay

By Vítor Serrão
Art Historian

This important Portuguese Mannerist painting, since always attributed to the “school of Raphael” is mentioned (alongside other of the same dismantled retable) in the auction of the collection of João Marcelino Arroyo held in Lisbon in November 1905. In this famous collection, among a thousand and seven lots sold by the auction firm of José Libório dos Santos, were two large paintings on panel attributed to Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520), one of the most celebrated and highly priced names of the Italian Renaissance. They appear illustrated and with descriptions with such attribution in the sale catalogue: Lot 562: “A large Italian painting, Presentation of child Jesus, School of Raphael (first period). Painted and gilt wooden frame. 210cm hight x 90cm width” Lot 563: A large Italian painting, historic and religious, School of Raphael (first period). Painted and gilt wooden frame. 200cm hight x 96 width” Both sold at a high price (180$000 for the lot now offered for sale) to an intermediary of the auction house of José Libório dos Santos they later passed on various owners maintaining the attribution to Raphael. We had the opportunity to locate the first of these panels in poor condition at a private residence in Palmela, Portugal. It was then clear that it could not be the work of Raphael Sanzio, much less of his first Urbinate period (ca. 1500-1505), but definitely a Portuguese painting with characteristics of the late 1500s. Such Presentation of Child Jesus at the Temple as much as The Conversion of Totila attests recognizable features of style: they are of the workshop of Diogo Teixeira (ca. 1540- 1612), painter of the House of D. António, Prior do Crato who became one of the most prolific painters of Lisbon in the late 16th, early 17th century with a vast work and always faithful to the same principles. Preserved in good condition, the second panel of the Arroyo auction is a museum piece! It depicts the conversion of the king of the Goths, Totila, by Saint Benedict at Montecassino, miracle occurred in 530 when Saint Benedict received the troops of Totila, king of the Ostrogoths (who dies around 547). The painting is, as the one at the mentioned Palmela residence, typical work of Diogo Teixeira and his workshop. Both were part of a large retable of the main chapel of an exctinct Benedictine monastery, composed of several panels depicting scenes of Mary’s life and miracles of the Saint. Who knows if it was not the monastery of São Bento da Saúde in Lisbon (today the Portuguese parliament) that displayed these important decoration works in the late 16th century? (There is a report by the Flemish sculptor Estácio Matias, of that time, that mentions precisely retable decorations that were being done there)... But it is also possible that it was the monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro (Felgueiras) to where Diogo Teixeira worked (during his activity in Oporto and Arouca, ca. 1591-1597), where were left some workshop pieces, recently restored. It is not, for now, possible to determine the original provenance. Certain is that these two works went through the art market as works of Raphael of Urbino (moreover as the darkest first Perugini phase...) and with that attribution passed on, from collection to collection, throughout the 20th century… Representing a rare depiction of the Benedictine iconography (studied by Professor Flávio Gonçalves and known only in 18th century tile panels), the miracle of Totila is inspired by an engraving by Bernardino Passeri (painter and engraver active in Rome ca. 1576-1585) in the work Vita et miracula sanctissimi patris Benedicti (Roma, 1579). Passeri, which also executed fifty drawings for Aliprando Caprioli engravings that illustrate the work Speculum et exemplum christicolarum. Vita Beatissimi Patris Benedicti by Ângelo Sangrino (Florence, 1586), created the iconographic structure that inspired Diogo Teixeira and followed by the Benedictine Mannerist and Baroque imagery across Europe and the colonies. The workshop of Diogo Teixeira, that followed the steps of Passeri on the composition of the painting (and this evidence was enough to, per se, refute the traditional attribution) achieved in this work a high level of execution framed by the iconographic conventions imposed by the dominant formal repertoires of the counter-reform Mannerism. Everything testifies to the unmistakable characteristics of Diogo Teixeira's style, even with the collaboration with his son-in-law and disciple António da Costa (ca. 1560- 1623). Both have been involved, in similar dates, in the execution of the panels of the retable of the Misericórdia de Alcochete church (1586-1588). The Conversion of Totila is fruit of the collaboration of these two artists: as said by Adriano de Gusmão, António da Costa worked jointly with his father-in-law and master in a close collaboration that was extensively documented and the Arroyo panels attest. It is known that João Marcelino Arroyo (1868-1930), a prominent parliamentarian, ministry and talented musician, was an habitué of the aristocratic auction sales held in Lisbon it the late 19th century: he might have purchased the paintings (as Raphael works) at one of those dismantled collections. However, it is only reported that they were his until 1905, being the later possessors unknown.

Catalogue Collection J. Arroyo, Vente d’objets d’art et de mobilier ancien, Lisbonne – 2, Rue de Santo António dos Capuchos, imprimerie d’A Editora, 1905, pp. 104-105.
Adriano de Gusmão, Diogo Teixeira e seus colaboradores, Lisboa, 1955.
Vitor Serrão (coord.), A Pintura Maneirista em Portugal – arte no tempo de Camões, Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, CCB, 1995, pp. 473-474.
Vitor Serrão e José Meco, Palmela Histórico-Artística. Um Inventário do Património Artístico Concelhio, Câmara Municipal de Palmela, 2007, p. 435.
Teresa de Sande e Lemos, O leilão da coleção Arroyo e o Mercado de Arte em Portugal no final da Monarquia, tese de Mestrado, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, 2014.

Closed Auction