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Vision of Afonso Henriques at the Battle of Ourique

 

Vision of Afonso Henriques at the Battle of Ourique

Author: Friar Manuel dos Reis

Date: 1665

Material: Oil on canvas

Dimensions (cm): H 173 x W 152

Provenance: Guimarães, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

Inventory No.: MAS P 51

 

This canvas alludes to the legendary episode of the vision of Christ by Afonso Henriques before the Battle of Ourique against the Moors, in 1139. Afonso Henriques in a complete armour, uncovered head and the hands in position of prayer, is kneeled and looking up towards the sky. There, in the middle of a strong flash, one can see the image of the crucified Christ, surrounded by angels’ heads and a full- body angel. On the floor, there’s the feathery helmet, the sword and the gauntlets. On the right side, one can see a battle scene, while in the left superior corner, there’s a monk and a warrior in the centre of a dark cloud.

This canvas from the 17th century was commissioned, together with three others (MAS P 50, MAS P 52; MAS P 53), to the friar-painter Manuel dos Reis by the Dom Prior of the Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, Dom Diogo Lobo da Silveira. The purpose of this commission was to make a big altarpiece for the high altar of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. After sixty years under the Spanish rule and right after the Restoration war, Dom Diogo Lobo da Silveira wanted to propagate the deeds of the Portuguese and to stimulate the patriotic spirit.

The four paintings that formed the altarpiece had two important kings in the History of Portugal represented: Dom Afonso Henriques, the first Portuguese king, and Dom João I, the first king of the second dynasty. These paintings acted as political ex-votos, that is, offerings to thank Our Lady of the Olive Tree for Her intercession in difficult moments undergone by the Portuguese.