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Juan Fernandez Navarrete
called El Mudo, because he was deaf and mute

Spanish, Mannerist Painter

Education - received basic instruction from Fray Vicente de Santo Domingo, studied under Titian in Venice, Italy

Stylistically influenced by the following painters - Titian and Andrea del Sarto

Cause of Death - White Death also know as Tuberculosis


Juan Fernandez de Navarrete was born in the beautiful town of Navarre, Spain near the mountain range of the Pyrenees. He was called El Mudo (the mute) since childhood. He lost his hearing at the age of three and never learned to talk. Juan's amazing drawings skills became evident when he began communicating his needs by drawing them out with charcoal on paper.. The young artist never allowed his disabilities to hamper his dreams or ambitions and allowed his art to become his voice.

Like many Spanish painters he journeyed to Italy to soak up the rich traditions of painting and culture.  Navarrete spent several years studying under Italian Master Titian in Venice.  In 1568 he was selected to become the official court painter to monarch Philip II of Spain. Once in Spain the majority of his career was spent working on altarpieces for the Escorial.

The ungrateful king never valued the brilliance of Navarrete nor the great vision of Titian whom he had commissioned to paint a Last Supper. When the childish Monarch  insisted on mutilating Titians great masterpiece by cutting it so it would fit into a church. Navarrete begged the king to allow him to paint a smaller version of Titians painting but Philip II was adamant and the masterpiece was cut and forever changed. According to historian and scholar, Clara Erskine Clement "When the “Last Supper” painted by Titian reached the Escorial, it was found to be too large for the space it was to occupy in the refectory. The king ordered it to be cut, which so distressed El Mudo that he offered to copy it in six months, in reduced size, and to forfeit his head if he did not fulfill his promise. He also added that he should hope to be knighted if he copied in six months what Titian had taken seven years to paint. But Philip was resolute, and the picture was cut, to the intense grief of the dumb Navarrete. While the painter lived Philip did not fully appreciate him; but after his death the king often declared that his Italian artists could not equal his mute Spaniard."

The paintings of Navarrete are rare. He was prolific but several were burned, lost or simply painted over by lesser artists. Navarrete major art-works were Nativity, Abraham and the Three Angels, and Baptism of Christ, 1568, now at the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. He became known as the Spanish Titian and died in Toledo.

Description of the Mannerist Style

Originating in Italy, the term mannerism comes from the Italian 'maniera', which translates to 'style'. Mannerism is an artistic style that was born in the early 1500s.  The style originated in Rome and later widened to all of Europe. Mannerists paintings are characterized by elongated limbs, thin aquiline noses,  overly stylized figures, undersized heads, electrifying, vibrant colors and elaborately mannered, theatrical compositions.  The Mannerists in Italy worked on generous commission for a restricted audience of Vatican powerbrokers and royalty. The subjects they were allowed to portray was controlled and restricted to biblical themes, portraits and occasionally mythology.  El Greco said to hell with the money went off to Spain to pursue his own spectral vision.

Masters of The Mannerist Style

Paolo Veronese

Jacopo da Pontormo

El Greco

Giorgio Vasari

Giovanni Rosso Fiorentino

Agnolo Bronzino



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References:  A History of Art for Beginners and Students: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture: Painting, by Clara Erskine Clement