Baltasar de Echave Orio o el Viejo (Zumaya, Guipúzcoa, 1548-Mexico, c. 1620) was a Basque Spanish painter and writer established in New Spain at least since 1582. A prominent figure in colonial art and the head of a dynasty of painters, his Self-portrait stamped in front of his Discourses of the antiquity of the Cantabrian bascongada language, carrying a brush and a pen in the hand, is illustrated with the inscription A patria, the brush and the pen, the artist dedicated equally. As there was a painter of the same name, thought to be his son, he is known as Echave the Elder.
Born in the manor house of Aizarnazabal near Zumaya, he was able to travel to New Spain as early as 1573, when he made a will in Seville “not knowing what might happen” in the company of his older brother, Juan Martínez de Echave. In 1582 he is already documented with residence in Mexico when he married Isabel de Ibía, daughter of his countryman the painter Francisco de Gamboa or Ibía, known as Francisco de Zumaya, with whom it has been assumed that he could form in the tradition of Mannerist painting. Of the marriage were born two children, Baltasar, father of Baltasar de Echave and Rioja, and Manuel, painters all of them.
The problem of Echave’s artistic training, however, is far from being solved, for Zumaya seems to have been primarily a gilder and upholsterer, and in the abundant documentation relating to his work in the cathedral of Mexico in 1585, aided by painters Indians, Echave does not appear quoted. But in any case, the first documented work, the painting of the altarpiece of the cathedral of Puebla that Simon Pereyns could not finish, was contracted by Echave in 1590 along with his father-in-law. This was followed by some minor works, and in 1596 and 1597 he provided sambenitos and other objects for the Carriages of faith of the tribunal of the Inquisition.
Of his preserved work, consisting of some twenty paintings signed or attributed, destined almost entirely to the Church and of a somewhat archaic Florentine mannerist taste, stand out the oils of the Adoration of the Kings and the Prayer of the garden, painted towards 1595 for The Protestant House of the Jesuits (National Museum of Art), from which also came a Martyrdom of Saint Aproniano dated in 1612, with the characteristic mannerist resource of the figures cut in the foreground.
There was also an important work in the main altarpiece of the church of Santiago de Tlatelolco, originally made up of fourteen oils, of which only the Visitation and the Porziuncola are preserved.8 The architect, the Franciscan Fray Juan de Torquemada, praised the painter Occupied in his Indian monarchy of the settlement of the altarpiece, completed in 1609, in which, he said, many duchies have been spent “in materials and brush made by a Biscayan Spaniard named Baltasar Echave, unique in his art.” In addition, in private collection is kept in 1606 a Virgin of Guadalupe and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, where they have been attributed two portraits of bishops, a Christ tied to the column with St. Peter and a donor, signed oil In 1618.
Author of some texts of the antiquity of the Cantabrian bascongada language, composed by Balthasar de Echave, native of the Villa of Çumaya in the Province of Guipúzcoa and vezino of Mexico, published in Mexico, in the printing of Enrico Martínez, 1607, that presented / displayed In the form of a dialogue introduced by the language itself, “in the form of a venerable and elderly Matron, who complains, that she being the first to be spoken in Spain, and general in all of her, she has forgotten her natives, and admitted others Foreigners. He speaks with the Provinces of Guipúzcoa and Vizcaya that have been faithful to him, and sometimes with the same Spain ». He defended there that the Basque or Cantabrian language was the one spoken by Tubal, grandson of Noah and his descendants, mythical first settlers of the peninsula and, therefore, the first language spoken in her.
Echave, whose subjects are chiefly religious, had especial skill in composition, and his best works are compared to Guercino.
The Academy of San Carlos, Mexico City, has some of his major works: “The Adoration of the Magi”, “Christ in the Garden”, “The Martyrdom of San Aproniano”, “The Holy Family”, “The Visitation”, “The Holy Sepulchre”, “Saint Ann and the Virgin”, “The Apparition of Christ and the Virgin to San Francisco”, “The Martyrdom of San Ponciano” and “Saint Cecilia”. In the church of San José el Real, generally known as the “Profesa”, several others exist, including “St. Isabel of Portugal”, while he executed for the church of Santiago Tlaltelolco fifteen altar-panels. In the cathedral is his “Candelaria” and a “San Sebastian”, believed to be by his wife. Among the smaller paintings of Echave is one of San Antonio Abad with St. Paul, the first hermit.
The artist also had a reputation as an author, among his works being one on the Basque language (Discursos de la antigüedad de la lengua cántabra Bascongada, Mexico, 1607).