Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Our family traces our lineage to the founder of St. Augustine Florida, in 1565. In 1975, at the age of eighteen years old, I painted this oil portrait (see below) of our ancestor, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, as a gift to my father. In August of the year 2000, my father and I donated the portrait to the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, and it was permanently hung above the empty coffin of the founder, where you may see it today.
To read more about Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
On June 10, 2000, Mark Menéndez, an artist, who traces his family back to the Adelantádo, and Cathy Menéndez, his wife, visited the display for the first time. They mutually agreed that an oil portrait of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, completed by Mark, would be a handsome addition to the room, hung over the Menéndez coffin. Mark originally offered the portrait as a gift in 1975 to his father, Jose Menéndez. Mark was eighteen years old when he painted the portrait.
After being removed from the Chapel of Nuestra Señora de La Léche, at Mission of Nombre de Dios, the Menendez coffin was brought temporarily into the Mission’s Gift Shop. Due to lack of display space, the coffin is moved from time to time. Eventually, an addition was made to the building, a small room custom designed to house the coffin.
Mr. Menéndez, trained in the techniques of the masters of painting of the 16th and 17th centuries, employed these in the portrait. After much research, he created the painting using the methods of Titian, specifically, the technique of glazing. In his paintings, Titian was known to layer over forty veils of translucent color, suspended in medium. In Mark's copy, this is especially evident in the scarlet curtain behind the Adelantado. Much attention was given to the lighting and brushwork, as well.
After some correspondence, Mr. Eric Johnson, director of the Shrine and Mission Nombre de Dios, graciously accepted the donation of the portrait. On Founder’s Day, Saturday, September 9, 2000, after a Mass offered in the Nativity Church on the grounds of Mission Nombre de Dios, the painting was carried by the Knights of Columbus in procession to the room housing the Menéndez coffin, and was installed over it. José Menéndez was graciously thanked by the Monsignor and he offered José the gift of a handsome bronze crucifix. The portrait hung over the coffin for 10 years in the Menéndez Room in the Gift Shop.
In the year 2010, which marked the 445th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the Musuem, located on the grounds of the Mission Nombre de Dios was dedicated and opened its doors. The painting is on permanent display in the central exhibit hall of the musuem.
The original Menéndez portrait was created in 1574 by Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian. My 30” x 40” oil portrait on canvas, was derived from the ubiquitous 1791 engraving (see above) made by Francisco de Paula Marti from a drawing by artist José Camerón, who drew his image directly from an original portrait by the famous court painter Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian. The Titian portrait was destroyed soon after the engraving was created, when the Escorial Palace suffered extensive damage to fire. The Marti engraving is the only known existing copy that was made of the portrait before it was destroyed. All subsequent images have been derived from this 1791 engraving.
Thirty seven years after the first painting was created, Mark painted a second 30" x 40" oil portrait of his ancestor in 2012. Having spent these years improving his skills in portrait painting, his goal was to remain as faithful as possible to the original engraving. However, Mark endeavored to not depart from the classical methods of Titian he had employed in the 1975 version. Mark created this new portrait due to the fact that his original was now in the Museum Nombre de Dios, and thus the portrait was no longer in the family's possession. It now hangs in his home art studio. Placed here side by side with the engraving, you can judge for yourself whether Mark achieved the goal of remaining faithful to the original.
Mark also participates in re-enactments of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida, held annually in September at the 1565 landing site, at the Mission Nombre de Dios and The Fountain of Youth Historical Park. He has portrayed Pedro Menéndez de Avilés at these events, and similar celebrations in Beaufort, SC, the location of the second colony, Santa Elena, founded by Menéndez in 1566. Below is a photo of Mark Menéndez in his 16th century clothing, standing next to his second portrait of his ancestor.