Angel María Cortellini Hernández
Sanlucar de Barrameda, 1819 - Sanlucar de Barrameda, 1887
Born in Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cadiz) on 27 September 1819, Ángel María Cortellini Hernández began his academic training at a very early age in 1828 at the local School of Fine Arts and shortly afterwards furthered his technical skills under the painter Joaquín Domínguez Bécquer (1817–1879). In 1837, under the tutelage of his Italian relatives, he moved to the Piedmont region and continued his artistic studies in Genoa, Turin and Milan.
In 1842 he returned to Sanlúcar and, on the advice of Joaquín Domínguez Bécquer, enrolled for classes in working with plaster and modelling from life at the Seville Royal Academy of Fine Arts while training under Manuel Barrón in landscape techniques. He also studied the oeuvre of Murillo and is known to have made copies of The Flight into Egypt and The Holy Family. Dating from this formative period are his genre scenes depicting majos, bullfighters, dancers, popular spots with architectural landmarks, dances and taverns, all of which are distinctive features of the paintings from Cortellini’s period in Seville and Cadiz.
In 1848 Cortellini went to live in Madrid and took part in the exhibitions at the San Fernando Academy and the Liceo Artístico y Literario (Lyceum), entering two paintings, one of which was a Portrait of Francisco Montes. His artistic career progressed in a new direction after the painting was viewed by the king and queen, as he was sent for to the palace to paint a portrait of King Francisco de Asís. Later, in 1850, he was appointed honorary court painter and made portraits of the king and queen and occasionally copied royal portraits executed by the first court painters.
In 1854, obeying royal instructions, he returned to Italy to further his studies of the works of the Italian great masters, but his stay was soon cut short by the critical political events of the time. Back in Madrid, following the official portrait style established by the great Federico de Madrazo, he secured a large clientele among the nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie.
From 1856 onwards Cortellini was a regular participant in the National Exhibitions, to which he submitted portraits of this kind. He obtained an honorary mention for the portrait of his wife in 1860 and won a medal third-class for that of the actress María Muñoz in 1867.
In 1871 he began to explore new subjects and submitted still-life paintings and group portraits in historical settings such as The Battle of Wad-Ras, a painting that is in fact a succession of small portraits with a distant war scene in the background.
The last known information dates from his participation in the National Exhibition of 1887, although Gaya Nuño establishes the date of his death at 1899; however, the fact that this author dates Cortellini’s birth to 1840 leads us to think that he may have confused the dates of the birth and death of his son, also called Ángel Cortellini, a seascape painter who trained in his father’s studio and enjoyed a certain amount of fame as a specialist in paintings of naval battles.