Madrid, 1834 - Madrid, 1896
The son of the painter and engraver of Italian origin Gaetano Palmaroli (1801-1853), Vicente began his training at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1848. In 1857 he travelled to Rome under the patronage of the king consort Francisco de Asís with his painter friends Eduardo Rosales (1836–1873) and Luis Álvarez Catalá (1836–1901). For the king he painted one of his first compositions based closely on the guidelines of academic purism, a spectacular Sacra Conversazione (Aranjuez, Real Convento de San Pascual) which won him a medal second-class at the National Exhibition of 1862. But Palmaroli also entered a figure study, Pascuccia (private collection), for which he received a first-place medal, a fact which points to the secondary interest history painting would hold for him thenceforward. Nevertheless, he would obtain a further two brilliant first prizes in this genre for two outstanding paintings, in 1866 for Sermón en la capilla Sixtina (“Sermon in the Sistine Chapel”, Salamanca, Cajaduero Collection) and in 1871 for Los enterramientos de la Moncloa (“The Burials at the Moncloa”, Madrid, city hall); these works explain very well his rich and versatile assimilation of the language of history painting, which was highly sensitive to the cosmopolitanism around which his entire career revolved.
In 1873 Palmaroli again abandoned Spain to settle in Paris, following in the brilliant footsteps of Mariano Fortuny (see the related biography). In direct contact with the international market of the French capital, he devoted himself above all to small and medium-size genre paintings under the direct influence of the Catalan master, enjoying a resounding commercial success that continued for much of his career. His artistic language became extremely adaptable and he focused his interest above all on anecdotal scenes set in historical contexts. Beginning in the same decade during some of his summer holidays on the beaches of Trouville (France), he also painted scenes inspired by the reality around him, which reflect a sophisticated and elegant social life. It was not until ten years later, when he moved to Rome as director of the Accamedia di Spagna, that Palmaroli produced sincerer scenes, such as those depicting dancers at the Tor di Nona theatre, which he painted while still working on other compositions set in Greco-Latin Antiquity. In 1889 he was appointed president of the International Artistic Association of Rome owing to his highly prestigious management of the academy and on the basis of his personal influence on the different international art scenes.
Back in Madrid he was appointed deputy director of the Museo del Prado in 1893 and its director in 1895, taking over from his master Federico de Madrazo (1815–1894). He was at the helm of the institution when he died of a stroke.
Carlos G. Navarro