Francisco Pacheco (1564–1644), the foremost Spanish art theorist of his generation, worked on his manuscript Libro de verdaderos retratos (Book of true portraits) for more than forty years. This essay addresses how the visual cultures of Pacheco’s Seville, especially the city’s reimagined imperial Roman past, Catholic Counter-Reformation image praxis, and visual conventions of Renaissance humanism, shaped his conception of how an illustrious past could be recovered and shown.

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