CARDERO, MANUEL JOSÉ (Josef, Joseph) ANTONIO, artist and sailor; b. 31 Oct. 1766 in Écija, Spain, son of Salvador Dieguez Cardero and Antonia Romero; m. Gregoria Rosalia de la Vega, probably in 1798; d. in or after 1810 in Spain.
Little is known of the early life of Manuel José Antonio Cardero. In July 1789 he sailed from Cadiz as a cabin boy to Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano, On Alejandro Malaspina’s scientific and exploratory expedition, which was intended to circle the globe. The absence or disability of original members of the artistic corps provided Cardero with the opportunity to emerge from obscurity by demonstrating his talent. He made his first drawings at Guayaquil (Ecuador), more than a year after the departure of the expedition from Spain. With enthusiasm and increasing skill he drew many zoological illustrations and landscapes under the tutelage first of José Guío and then of Tomás de Suria*, two of the official artists. On 2 May 1791 Malaspina left Acapulco (Mexico) bound for the north. By the time the expedition had reached its first anchorage at Port Mulgrave (Yakutat Bay, Alaska) in late July, Cardero’s merit was evident. Malaspina described him as “a simple amateur, not devoid of taste or artistic feeling,” but his drawings from Port Mulgrave and from the expedition’s August visit to Nootka Sound (B.C.) are a historian’s delight in their fidelity of detail and their completeness. Incapable of the artistic licence of the trained specialist, Cardero produced highly realistic work in pencil, pen and ink, ink wash, and colour. As an unofficial artist, however, he received little recognition for his labours during this portion of the expedition.
In early 1792 Alcalá-Galiano and Cayetano Valdés y Flores Bazán were detached from the main expedition to explore Juan de Fuca Strait, which it was thought might be the entrance to the legendary northwest passage. For their small expedition, undertaken in the schooners Sutil and Mexicana, the officers requested Cardero’s services and insisted he receive double his previous salary. Though described by contemporaries as a small man of but little strength, he served the expedition well as artist, pilot, and scribe. There is strong evidence that he was the true author of the narrative of the voyage, Relaciôn del viage hecho por las goletas Sutil y Mexicana en el año de 1792 . . . , which has traditionally been attributed to Alcalá-Galiano or José Espinosa y Tello. Cardero’s artistic work included Indian portraits, a view of the new Spanish settlement at Núñez Gaona (Neah Bay, Wash.), and scenes along the inside passage as the schooners travelled from southeast to northwest. Some 25 drawings survive from this period, and they demonstrate increasing proficiency. Cardero was also responsible for producing a series of coastal profiles as aids to future navigation.
The Sutil and the Mexicana returned to Acapulco in the fall of 1792, and Cardero continued on to the Royal Academy of San Carlos (National Autonomous University of Mexico) in Mexico City, where he finished his artwork. In February 1794 he arrived back in Spain, and as a reward for his significant services he was promoted in May 1795 to a lieutenancy in the naval supply corps. He is not known to have turned his hand to art ever again and, if he did not, he was the first European artist to dedicate himself exclusively to drawings of the Pacific coast. Cardero served as a lieutenant in Cadiz until about 1810 when his name disappears from the register of Spanish naval officers, a circumstance suggesting either death or retirement during the Napoleonic occupation of Spain.
[Cardero’s baptism is recorded in the registers of the parish church of Nuestra Señora de Santa María (Écija, Spain). Details about his family and career can be found in the Archivo Museo Don Alvaro de Bazán (Viso del Marqués), José Cardero, expediente personal, and in the Archivo General Militar (Segovia), Joseph Cardero, expediente matrimonial. Artistic works signed by him or attributed to him are held by the Museo de América and the Museo Naval, both in Madrid. The Museo Naval’s ms no. 1060, “Relación del viage hecho per las goletas Sutil y Mexicana . . . ,” is in Cardero’s hand and has been published as Relación del viage hecho por las goletas Sutil y Mexicana en el año de 1792, para reconocher el estrecho de Fuca . . . (Madrid, 1802; repr. 1958). d.c.c.]
Voyages of enlightenment: Malaspina on the northwest coast, 1791–1792, ed. Thomas Vaughan et al. ([Portland, Oreg.], 1977). D. C. Cutter, “Early Spanish artists on the northwest coast,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly (Seattle, Wash.), 54 (1963): 150–57; Malaspina in California ([San Francisco], 1960); “The return of Malaspina,” American West (Cupertino, Calif.), 15 (1978), no.1: 4–19. D. C. Cutter and Mercedes Palau de Iglesias, “Malaspina’s artists,” El Palacio (Santa Fe, N.Mex.), 84 (1976), no.4: 19–27. [For another opinion on the authorship of the Relaciôn del viage, see the biography of Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano. dcb]