Hannibal victorious sees Italy from the Alps for the first time - Aníbal vencedor contempla por primera vez Italia desde los Alpes

Aníbal Victor contemplates Italy for the first time from the Alps , oil on canvas, 87 x 131.5 cm. Selgas-Fagalde Foundation ( Cudillero , Asturias ).
First model (oil sketch) of the painting Aníbal victor contemplates Italy from the Alps , oil on canvas, 30.5 x 38.5 cm, Zaragoza Museum .
Second model or painted sketch of Hannibal crossing the Alps , oil on canvas, 31.1 x 40.6 cm. Auctioned on January 28, 2000 at Sotheby's . [ 1 ]

Aníbal Victor contemplates Italy from the Alps for the first time is an oil painting with a historical theme that Francisco de Goya presented to a painting competition organized by the Academy of Parma on May 29, 1770 . The work, considered the painter's earliest masterpiece, is found in the Quinta de Selgas located in El Pito ( Cudillero , Asturias ), a palace and garden complex managed by the Selgas-Fagalde Foundation . There are two previous models, also on canvas, of which the first was acquired by the Zaragoza Museum a few years ago and the second is in New York.


Goya went to Italy , paying for the trip by his own means, in 1770 in order to learn from the great Italian masters. During one of his stays, in Parma , he decided to take part in a competition whose subject was compulsory and consisted of representing in a painting " Annibale vincitore, che rimiro la prima volta dalle Alpi l'Italia " (Hannibal victorious contemplating Italy for the first time from the Alps). Goya conformed with precision to the detailed conditions proposed by the convocation of the Academy of Parma, which included:

We would like Hannibal to pose in such a way that, raising the visor of his helmet and turning to a genius, who takes him by the hand, he would hint at the beautiful countryside of subject Italy from afar, and from his eyes and from his whole face the inner joy leaked, and the noble confidence of the next victories (...)

'Deberá verse a Aníbal dispuesto de so que, raising the visor of the helmet y volviéndose hacia un geniio, que lo toma de la mano, señale a lo lejos los bellos campos de la Italia sometida, y en sus ojos y en todo su rostro reflejarse el interno gozo y la noble confianza en sus cercanas victorias'
Preparatory note of the painting Hannibal victorious ... , Italian notebook , p. 37.
The construction of the Alcántara bridge in Toledo (1766), by José Arias, could inspire the composition and the figure of Aníbal in the Goyesque work.

Indeed, the painting shows Hannibal upright in a dynamic attitude, turning his body towards an angel (or genius) who points out the Italian landscape —that the spectator cannot see—, from a rocky knoll, and raising the visor of his helmet. To his left side (right of the spectator) there is a standard-bearer rider and behind him a cloudy sky from which Victory descends in her chariot, with her hand on the wheel (possible allusion to the changing Fortune ) who wears a Laurel wreath. Part of Hannibal's cavalry begins to descend towards the valley at the extreme right of the painting and in the background and in the left a battle is glimpsed. In the foreground and from the back, contemplating and framing the composition, a robust human body with the head of an ox appears, an allegory of the river Po, which pours a container from where the sources of this river flow, as prescribed by the representation of Lombardy in the iconological figuration of Cesare Ripa . A strong wind blows up the knight's white flag and Hannibal's cape.

The initial composition could be inspired by the bas-relief by José Arias , The Construction of the Alcántara Bridge in Toledo, which the author had submitted in 1766 to the second-class sculpture competition organized by the Royal Academy of San Fernando , and which won the first prize in its category. In this contest, Goya also took part in the painting modality, so it is very likely that the Aragonese would have taken notes on the relief of Arias that he later reused in the design of the character of Aníbal (greatly coinciding, even in the position with the Trajano who focuses the composition of the sculptor) and in the general lines of the composition of the painting.

As for the chromaticism, soft blues, pinks and pearl gray dominate, which has been seen as an expression of the classic and unreal character of the scene, which thus acquires heroic overtones.

Although Goya did not win the contest, he did obtain a special mention from the jury, who attributed a lack of realism in color and detail. However, the work shows the perfection that he had already achieved in 1770 in all the technical aspects of oil painting, as evidenced by the satisfactory solution of the extraordinary complexity of composition that the painting demanded, which should also expose the relationship with the past and future events at the time represented at the same time as it had to show some countryside that was necessarily behind the viewer of the canvas. It is also a testimony of the mastery achieved in the quality of the drawing, of which the notes that the Italian Notebook collects are shown , or the skillful use of glaze, the chromaticism of the pink light and the creation of an impression of atmospheric effects of great richness.

In addition, Goya managed to increase the significant and intellectual invention of the work beyond what the bases of the competition demanded, since he added the symbolic figure of Victoria and the Po river, in order to represent the geography of most of the battles that Hannibal would maintain with the Roman legions also alluding to the frequent result of these.

Acquired as anonymous

In the 19th century, the painting presented in Parma was acquired as an anonymous work by the magnate Fortunato de Selgas Albuerne , who hung it in his lavish mansion in the so-called Quinta de Selgas in El Pito ( Cudillero , Asturias ). It was not until 1993 when Jesús Urrea , at that time deputy director of the Prado Museum , revealed his authorship and the Madrid museum included him in an exhibition the following year.

In September 2011, the Prado obtained a temporary loan for the painting, valid for six years, by signing an agreement with the Selgas-Fagalde Foundation . This agreement included the restoration of several works in the palace and the organization of two exhibitions.


  1. File of the work in the Goya Foundation in Aragon (online).


  • ALCOLEA BLANCH, Santiago, Aníbal, masks and anamorphosis in Goya's Italian Notebook [online], Barcelona, ​​Instituto Amatller de Arte Hispánico, 1998 «Archived copy» . Archived from the original on May 5, 2017 . Retrieved February 12, 2014 . [Consultation: 26.10.2007].
  • BOZAL, Valeriano, Francisco Goya, life and work, 1 vol. , Madrid, Tf., 2005, pp. 28-30. ISBN 84-96209-39-3 .
  • GLENDINNING, Nigel, «A picture of history», in Francisco de Goya , Madrid, Cuadernos de Historia 16 (col. «Art and its creators», nº 30), 1993, pp. 26-30. DL 34276-1993

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