An early death prevented Juan Manchola from holding a significant position in the history of painting in his country. He was one of the young hopefuls of the first generation of artists trained by Pelegrín Clavé (1811-1880) at the Academia de San Carlos, in Mexico City. This Catalan master, who trained in Rome with Pietro Tenerani and Tommaso Minardi, initiated by the latter in the art of the Nazarenes, and then in contemporary French painting with a trip to France, had been invited to direct the Mexican academy in 1846. Manchola had an honourable academic career, was distinguished with a first prize in the model class in 1850 and was awarded a grant, but did not receive the scholarship to Rome that was in such demand and was awarded to his fellow student Santiago Rebull (1829-1802) – the only known portrait of the painter is by him (ill. 1). Manchola had a short career as professor of ornament drawing for the preparatory course in architecture from 1856 until his death in 1861, a position that was simply to pay the bills given his ambition to be a history painter, as confirmed by the few works known by him today.
A product of the establishment of international academic standards on the American continent, Manchola would have had access to contemporary European creation through prints, as seems to be suggested by the Moses Abandoned on the Nile exhibited at the Academia de San Carlos in 1858. The year is in fact that of the publication by the Maison Goupil of a print by Henriquel-Dupont after Moses Exposed on the Nile painted by Paul Delaroche in 1853, now lost, as well as a photographic reproduction by Robert Bingham. Without creating a literal quotation, the similarity of the right section of Manchola’s painting to the French artist’s composition is strong enough indicate it as a source of inspiration and also proof of the universal fame of Delaroche, of all the contemporary painters he was able to implement the most effective strategy of self promotion thanks to his collaboration with Goupil. But rather than a fragmentary depiction of the story, passive and succinct, calculated to seduce the viewer, like Delaroche’s, the Mexican painter has offered a more literal interpretation of the famous passage from Exodus
Mexico, 1858, Exhibition of the Academia de San Carlos.