Madrid, 1660 - Madrid, 1737
Although very little known, this painter must have been a prominent member of the Madrid painting scene of the early 18th century judging by the research published to date (Piedra 1985 and Agulló and Cobo 1987). According to his own testimony, he was born in Madrid between 1659 and 1662, and died in that city on 18 February 1733. He was the son of an unknown Lucas de Ezquerra from the town of Pomar (Burgos), who was unrelated to the world of painting, and not of the painter Domingo de Ezquerra as has sometimes been assumed. Although Ceán Bermúdez (1800) states that he trained with Palomino, his life and painting indicate a clear link with Carreño. In her will of 1686, Carreño’s widow bequeathed him a sword and dagger that had belonged to her husband – an obvious testament to their close personal relationship – while their artistic link can be seen in his Immaculate Conception, signed in 1710, in the convent of Clarissan nuns in Olite (Navarre), which is faithfully based on the models created by Carreño. In 1725 Ezquerra was appointed official appraiser of paintings by the Council of Castile, a post for which he had competed the previous year with other Madrid painters, who complained of the monopoly so far enjoyed by Palomino and García de Miranda in this activity, to which Ezquerra had devoted himself since 1688 at least. The known documents do not allow us to state with certainty that he became painter to the king, but it is known that he was an “archer” of His Majesty’s guard, an appointment which, together with that of official appraiser, indicates an important social position in Madrid of the day. This assumption is confirmed by the inventory of his possessions compiled at his death, which points to an educated man who was comfortably off. He owned many books and prints – by Dürer, Maarten de Vos, Rubens and Carlo Maratti, among others – and a series of paintings by prominent artists such as Alonso Cano and Claudio Coello, which were valued by Miguel Jacinto Meléndez, a foremost painter of the period and a friend of his, like Andrés de la Calleja (1705–1785), of whom he was furthermore master and whom he taught the language of Carreño in his religious compositions. After Ezquerra died his post of official appraiser went to the Rioja-born painter Francisco Zorrilla (1679–1747).
Owing to the very few known examples of his output, little can be said about his style. However, the Allegory of Water in the Museo Nacional del Prado gives an idea of his loose, fluent brushwork – traits inherited from Carreño – and his skills at the depiction of landscape, in which he was clearly influenced by the world of Venice and Velázquez that prevailed in the aesthetic of court landscape paintings at the end of the century. One of the salient features of his art was probably his ability to merge the seicentista painting tradition with the new language of the early decades of the 18th century, which already displayed some pre-Rococo elements.
Trinidad de Antonio