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Sánchez Cotán was born in the town of Orgaz near Toledo on June 25, 1560. He was a friend and perhaps pupil of Blas de Prado. Stylistically, he falls within the school of El Escorial, with Venetian influence. For approximately twenty years he pursued a successful career in Toledo as a painter, patronized by the cityís aristocracy, painting religious scenes, portraits and still lifes, the latter having a severe naturalism unlike the prevailing artistic style, and having its roots not in contemporary artistic trends but in the Renaissance intellectual currents awakening to a more secular, this-worldly, scientific view of Nature. These paintings found a receptive audience among the educated intellectuals of Toledo society.
In 1603 Cotán abandoned his artistic career and moved to Grenada, where he became a lay brother of the Carthusian Order. The reasons for this are not clear, though such action was not unusual in Cotánís day.
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