The Valencia Fine Arts Museum contains some of the most important paintings in Spanish history. As soon as you walk into the main gallery, a monumental painting of San Miguel Arcángel takes your breath away.

This work of art has been in the museum's collections for a long time and has been seen by many generations of Valencians and foreigners. Because of its size, it is very compelling and captures your attention immediately. 

The work is by Miquel Esteve, a Spanish Renaissance painter active in Valencia in the first quarter of the 16th century.  The style of painting follows the aesthetic principles of the Italian Renaissance painters, which is not surprising as Valencia was a popular port for many Italian artists coming to the Peninsula. 

Article by Karla Darocas, Hons. B. A. Fine Arts (

The composition fits with all the traits of the early Renaissance art. It is perfectly balanced in the frame. The latitude line is marked at the 2/3rds ratio, or Golden Ratio. The body propositions of San Miguel Arcángel are realistic. The demon on the floor is foreshortened (the artistic effect of shortening lines in a drawing to create the illusion of depth). The background is blurred with layers upon layers to give atmosphere. The bottom half of the painting applies the chiaroscuro technique and conveys a sense of depth. 

However modernised San Miguel Arcángel is in his artist style, his place in history and the symbolism of his image is timeless. San Miguel Arcángel stands relaxed over a demon and subdues him with little to no effort. He is a victorious soldier for his boss, God. 

He is represented with a naturalistic face. His soft, almost feminine features with a perfect Roman nose, which was popular at the time. His armour is modern with bendable joints. His smile is reposed without pride as he needs no grand gesture to celebrate his heroic deed. 

The demon, on the other hand, is not so pretty. His face is neither human nor animal but something other and unknown, and the unknown is always frightening. His body parts do not match. He is obviously dead, with a spear stuck through is head via his mouth, and his tongue hangs out the side. 


Miquel Esteve was well known in the city of Valencia because of his activism. In December of 1520 he went to campaign for his fellow painters in Valencia within his Chapter or Guild. As a trustee, he presented a document to the governor of Valencia to allow his Chapter to become a university.

And again on June 15, 1521, together with 26 other other painters, they rallied under the Belén Brotherhood, a guild who masterfully created the nativity scenes, to take up weapons and join the uprising of the regional Artisan Guilds or Germanias (from germà, meaning brother in Valenciano), against the King's Royal Council, Regent, soldiers and the regional Dukes. 

Luckily, Ferdinand the Catholic, during his reign, gave the artisans of the kingdom of Valencia the privilege of forming armies in case of need to fight against the Berber fleets. However, the guilds were eventually defeated in battle by Royal soldiers. 

Read more about this conflict HERE