Antonio María Reyna Manescau

Coin, 1859 - Rome, 1937

  • Venice

  • View of Venice

  • Venetian Canal


Born in Coín (Malaga) on 31 December 1859, Antonio María Reyna Manescau was a pupil of Joaquín Martínez de la Vega in the painting department the latter directed at the Liceo Artístico in Malaga. His solid grounding led to the acquisition of one of his works by the council and the staging of a local exhibition. In December 1882 he was awarded a grant to study in Rome, initially until December 1886, but once there he remained in Italy for the rest of his life.

The first work he sent during his scholarship period was a rather mediocre copy of a fragment of Raphael’s Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, followed by a Joseph in the Pit [like the previous painting, now in the Diputación (provincial council) headquarters], which in fact was an academic exercise in painting a nude from life adapted to a biblical-historical theme. Like so many other Spaniards, in Rome he also frequented the company of Villegas and worked on Oriental themes (some set in Tangiers) and tableautins. These latter works – of which El cardenal tomando chocolate (“The Cardinal Drinking Chocolate”) and another painting of a cardinal in a library are cited – are exquisitely executed in a varied palette. Although the Eternal City appears to have been his base, he soon went to Venice, from where he sent a view of the Grand Canal in 1885, and there are many vedute of the city by him dating from 1887. Indeed, captivated by its beauty and picturesqueness, he enthusiastically produced small urban landscapes, often repeating them with slight variations. Venice held great appeal for Spaniards at the time thanks to Fortuny’s widow and the importance of Villegas’s Venetian output, as well as the effect of the summer sojourns (and subsequent permanent residence) of Martín Rico, whose précieux landscape art influenced Reyna.

A large canvas that is no longer extant, Floralía, earned him a medal third-class at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in 1887 and was at one point held to be his finest painting. Despite living permanently in Italy, he preserved his contacts with his native city. He is reported as sending over many paintings, which perished in the fire at the Malaga customs building. The Santi barati in the Museo de Málaga, a masterpiece of skill, observation and technique according to reviews of the period, was a gift from the artist. Rancho andaluz (“Andalusian Ranch”), which was shown at the Mostra Internazionale in Rome in 1911, also ended up in the Malaga museum, as did several landscapes executed that year. Earlier on, in 1895, the queen regent María Cristina of Habsburg awarded him the cross of knight of the order of Charles III for some overdoor paintings that later passed to the Athenaeum in Madrid, although it appears that they are no longer preserved there.

Reyna also exported his work to London, where his views of Venice were exhibited on several occasions. His regular exhibitions in Rome paved the way for the acquisition by the city’s fine arts museum of three of his paintings entitled Roma Sparita, and of two portraits of Pope Benedict XV by the Vatican Museum. His aforementioned skills at portraiture were enhanced by the modernity of his Self-Portrait, a gift from the artist to the San Telmo Academy in Malaga (and now in the Museo Provincial). His travels were not limited to Venice and, like some of his fellow Spaniards, he also spent periods in Assisi in the company of the Benlliures, but above all he went down to Naples, where he was in contact with the School of Posillipo and painted in a Veristic style. He died in Rome on 3 February 1937.

Esteban Casado