Gothic Painting

1. Introduction 2. Linear 3. Italo-Gothic
4. International Gothic 5. Hispano-Flemish 6. Illuminated Manuscripts

Introduction

In Spain the history of Gothic painting roughly coincides with the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This span of two hundred years can be divided into periods which correspond to four distinct styles, linear, Italo-Gothic, International Gothic, and Hispano-Flemish. The linear style, which has certain affinities with the late Romanesque, lasted until the middle of the fourteenth century. Italo-Gothic, as its name suggests, was strongly influenced by the schools of Italy, particularly those of Florence and Siena. International Gothic, introduced toward the end of the fourteenth century, is more mature and naturalistic, drawing most of its inspiration from France. The Hispano-Flemish style, which emerged during the second half of the fifteenth century, flourished mainly in Andalusia and Castile.

A remarkable feature of the evolution of Gothic painting in Spain is the extraordinary continuity of the Catalan school. Throughout the fourteenth century and the first half of the fifteenth, the Catalan painters preserved an impressive unity of style, one master succeeding the other without interruption. We know the names of many of the artists and a good deal about their work. In northern, western, and central Spain, on the other hand, progress was intermittent, depending on the appearance of individuals distinguished enough to establish a school. Some of these artists were foreigners, but their history shows that they were soon assimilated into Spanish life, acquiring a full share of the national characteristics, both good and bad. They had a predilection for the emotional aspects of the scenes they painted and displayed more interest in narration than in seeking formal beauty or technical perfection. In their later stages of development some of these artists schematized their figures to the point of expressionism.

Whereas frescoes formed the backbone of Romanesque painting, most Gothic painters worked on wooden panels. Nevertheless, some churches have mural paintings in chapels or cloister galleries. The retables were large constructions built to support a series of vertical compositions. These retables were painted in tempera or in oils on a wooden panel prepared with a coat of gesso. The color scale is richer and more varied than that of the Romanesque, and commonly includes vermilion, cadmium, violet, green, lilac, ocher, white, gray, and yellow. The backgrounds of the retables and decorative elements, such as mullions, friezes, and canopies, are gilded, punched, or faced with ornamental plaster. Hence their sumptuous appearance and curious combination of elegance and unwordly idealism.

The Gothic era produced many triptychs, small paintings on wood and canvas, and articles of furniture with paintings on the inside. Miniaturists were also active, particularly during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In the fifteenth century, however, the discovery, first of the woodcut, and then of printing led to a gradual decline in the production of illuminated books.

The Linear Style

Panel_from_the_tomb_of_Don_SanchoThis style is remarkable for its subtlety. It is characterized, particularly in northern Spain, by undulating rhythms and a refined color scale. The backgrounds, in which architecture, furniture, and occasionally utensils are schematically represented, are in monochrome, but the figures that occupy the foreground have an expressive humanity, very different from the hieratic formalism of the past. A typical and very ancient example of the calligraphic style is the decoration of the tomb of Don Sancho Saiz de Carrillo (Barcelona Museum). This comes from Mahamud (Burgos) and marks the beginning of the Gothic style in Castile (c. 1300).

One of the foremost masters of the linear style is Johannes Oliveri, a painter of Navarre. In his strikingly intense designs the artist has been wholly successful in releasing the expressive power of linear rhythms. Other mural painters of Navarre share the same spirit, among them Roque de Artajona and the Master of Olite, who decorated the church of San Pedro de Olite around 1350. In Navarre, this style of panel painting persisted throughout the fourteenth century, as may be seen in the retable that Pedro López de Ayala gave the monastery of Quejana in 1396.

Around 1300, in Catalonia, the calligraphic style gave an important demonstration of its narrative powers, particularly in the murals of the Old Cathedral of Lérida, in which a taste for anecdote is combined with a curious formalism, and in the mural decorations of Santo Domingo de Puigcerdá. Other regions of Spain possess interesting specimens of the same art, for example, the murals of the churches of Daroca, so strongly reminiscent of the Romanesque.

Italian Influence

The Italo-Gothic style, which arose in Catalonia during the second quarter of the fourteenth century, is characterized by balanced forms and a grave mannerism. Figures are painted against monochrome or gold backgrounds in a formula that barely hints at a third dimension. The style was introduced by Ferrer Bassa of Barcelona, a miniaturist and painter in the service of Alfonso IV and Pedro IV of Aragon. His known works cover the period from 1324 to his death in 1348. Most important are the murals of St. Michael's Chapel in the monastery of Pedralbes (Barcelona). Though clearly in the Gothic tradition, he departs from earlier practice by placing greater emphasis on the distribution of masses than on the play of lines. The rhythm that animates his forms is slow and restrained.

Bassa's style was fully developed by his own son, Arnaldo (panel in the Cathedral of Manresa), and by Ramón Destorrents. Italo-Gothic was popularized by the Serra brothers, who dominated the Barcelona school during the second half of the fourteenth century (Madonna and Child. Working singly or together, they executed many fine retables, placing their somewhat shallow but not ungraceful lyricism at the service of the Gothic narrative taste. One of their nephews, Francisco Serra, established himself in Valencia, bringing with him the family style.

Barcelona was not the only Catalan city to accept new ideas from Italy. Sometimes these were received directly from Italian painters working in Spain, like Francesco d'Oberto, who was active in Tarragona about the middle of the fourteenth century. Juan of Tarragona was his most talented successor. In Lérida, the Italianizing trend first appears in the retable of San Vicente de Estopinán.

International Gothic

International Gothic style is characterized by a growing interest in the representation of real environments and the possibilities of livelier rhythms. Some of the sinuousness of linear Gothic was restored, though firmly subordinated to a new awareness of the natural model. Gold backgrounds lingered on only in the retables.

This style was brought to Catalonia by Luis Borrassá, a painter born in Gerona. In 1383 we find him settled in Barcelona. A master of stylization, Borrassá also possessed a strong and personal color sense, his palette betraying a fondness of lively reds and greens. These qualities are discernible even in the retable of the Archangel Gabriel (Cathedral, Barcelona), one of his more archaic works. His narrative range was greatly extended by his skill in manipulating space. This is particularly apparent in the scenes depicted in the retable of San Pedro de Tarrasa, painted in 1411, and in the retable of Santa Clara (Museum, Vich). The International style spread rapidly through Catalonia. At the same time it flourished in Roussillon, Tarragona, and Lérida, as the result of Burgundian influence. Ramón de Mur and Mateo Ortoneda, who worked in Tarragona, and Jaime Ferrer of Lérida were all affected, to a greater or lesser degree, by Borrassá's example.

Borrassá was succeeded as central figure of the Barcelona school by Bernat Martorell (died 1452), a painter in whom scrupulous attention to detail is combined with touches of poetry. In spite of the limitations of his empirical and conventional perspective, he was able to convey an impression of depth and space, and to give life to every element of his composition. One of the finest works of his early period is the retable of St. George (Louvre and Art Institute of Chicago), painted with extraordinary sensitivity and a subtle use of glazes. Martorell employed a color scale very different from that of Borrassá, preferring rare and delicate lilacs, violets, yellows, greenish grays, and whites to the vivid and even violent hues of the latter. A central position in the career of the artist is occupied by his only documented work, the retable of San Pedro de Pubol, commissioned in 1437. His last known project is the great retable of the Savior in Barcelona cathedral, which he completed shortly before his death. The spirit of refinement that illuminates his major works is equally evident in his miniatures. His influence extended far beyond his immediate circle of colleagues and disciples.

In the middle of the fourteenth century the Majorcan school fell under the influence of Catalan painting, without losing the contacts with Italy which had been so important during the previous fifty years. This period is chiefly characterized by the work of an anonymous miniaturist and painter of outstanding quality, known as the Master of the Privileges after he had illustrated the famous Majorcan Book of Privileges of about 1334. He is also the author of the retable of St. Eulalia in Palma cathedral and of another in Santa Quiteria. His style is related to the art of Pietro Lorenzetti and Duccio.

During the second half of the fourteenth century the Majorcan school included a number of interesting painters, in particular, Juan Daurer, the Mayol family, the Master of San Mateo, and Francisco Comes, an artist in whom archaizing elements contend with the realistic form and detail of the International Gothic. More important are two painters active about 1400, the Master of Santa Eulalia and the Master of Montesión. The former is the author of one of the most refined paintings of the Majorcan school, the Virgin of Slumber in Santa Eulalia de Palma. The Master of Montesión painted the well-preserved retable dedicated to the Virgin in the church of Montesión, in the same city. The style is strongly Italian, the drawing sober, precise, and elegant.

In Valencia, after an Italo-Gothic phase largely imposed by Francisco Serra (nephew of the Catalan painters Jaime and Pedro Serra), the International style began with great brilliance. It was encouraged by the considerable talents of artists like Lorenzo Zaragoza, an Aragonese by origin, whose works include the beautiful retable of Jérica (1394-95), Pedro Nicolau, active around the turn of the century and author of the characteristic Coronation of the Virgin in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Miguel Alcaniz, whose Gospel scenes are so full of movement, and the lyric Gonzalo Peris, noted for the beauty of his saints and Virgins as well as for the sinuousness of his designs. The Barcelona Museum possesses one of his best paintings, the retable dedicated to St. Barbara.

However, the painter chiefly responsible for the transition from the style of the fourteenth to that of the fifteenth century, was Marzal (Marçal) de Sax, who was of German origin. The most important of his works to be preserved is the splendid retable of St. George, one of the treasures of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The central scene depicts the conquest of Valencia by James I of Aragon. A distinctive feature of the work of this artist is his great skill in composition. The figures are grouped with great freedom, but without loss of order or clarity and without sacrifice of detail. The battle scene is a careful study of the weapons and military pomp of the period. It is clear that the art of Marzal de Sax must have contributed heavily to the spread of International Gothic style in Valencia and the consequent abandonment of a tradition of static images and delicate, but ingenuous compositions.

The evolution toward methods of representation more effective than the images of the Italo-Gothic style, with their decidedly decorative flavor, is illustrated in the work of a number of interesting artists. Some of them we know by name, as Benito Arnaldín, and Nicolas Solana. Others remain anonymous, and, as usual, are identified by titles derived from the site of their most important works, like the masters of Retascón, Teruel, Langa, and Lanaja.

At the heart of this movement, and its finest representative, was the painter Bonanat Zaortiga, who was active in Saragossa from about 1403. Several of Zaortiga's retables have been preserved, one of the best being that of the Virgin of Hope in Tudela cathedral. The carefully elaborated grouping and the sometimes almost aggressive primitivism of the details make his style an unusually striking one.

By 1400 International Gothic had spread, quite rapidly, though somewhat haphazardly, through the different regions of Spain, driving out the primitive ideas that even Italo-Gothic had largely retained. Excellent paintings in this style are to be found all the way from Navarre to Andalusia. The latter province, for example, has some beautiful studies of the Virgin, such as the Virgin of the Remedios (Cathedral of Seville), and the Virgin of Rocamador, preserved in the church of San Lorenzo in the same city.

In the broad regions of central Spain, Gothic painting of the pre-1450 period lacked Catalonia's close-knit organization of studios and skills that were often handed down from father to son. In Castile and León progress was almost always the result of the sudden emergence of an outstanding master who served as an inspiration to the local artists and craftsmen. In about 1379 the Florentine Gerardo Starnina painted the altarpiece of the Savior in Toledo cathedral, bringing to his work the clarity of form typical of Italian painting. Rodríguez of Toledo, who signed the frescoes in St. Blaise's Chapel in the same cathedral, begun in 1395, has obviously adapted Starnina's style to the prevailing Spanish taste. His hagiographic and Gospel scenes, arranged in two zones, cover the full width of the walls with massive and monumental forms. Rodríguez is also thought to be the author of the huge retable of Archbishop Sánchez de Rojas from the church of San Benito de Valladolid, now in the Prado. Its chief qualities are the naturalism of the figures and the relatively advanced treatment of space. An air of serene harmony pervades these compositions, from which every hint of drama has been banished.

The great retable in the Old Cathedral of Salamanca is perhaps the most important Spanish work of art to bear the marks of Italian influence. The impressiveness of this retable, with its fifty-three compartments, framing as many paintings, is further enhanced by a great series of frescoes covering the vault of the apse above. All this is the work of Dello di Niccolo Delli, referred to as Nicolas Florentino in the contract of 1445. In spite of the restrictions imposed by his subject and his obligation to retell each Gospel story in plain and concrete terms, Delli showed himself a skillful draftsman, capable of adding delicious poetic touches to the simple narrative vein. His extended range of forms and sinuous, varied rhythms are in the typical spirit of the International style. The most ambitious part of the work is undoubtedly the frescoes of the vault, where the problems are resolved with a combination of decorative feeling, brilliant rhythms, and splendid harmony.

In León, the International style was first introduced by a painter of great refinement, whose French origin is reflected in his name, Nicolás Francés. He was already living in León during the episcopate of Alfonso de Cusanza (1424-37). In the cathedral records he is described as an artist in stained glass, though he is also the author of the great retable, executed in 1434. Nicolás Francés painted extensively and well. His work includes the mural decorations in the cloister and two compositions in the ambulatory of León cathedral, together with various paintings on wood, the best of which is in the Cincinnati Art Museum. His style appears to derive from that of the Paris school of the first quarter of the fifteenth century. In particular, he possesses the same subtlety of tone, the same grace in arranging the elements of his composition against a landscape background, and the same neatness of detail, but above all the same harmony of color. Until his death in 1468, he was for thirty years the foremost painter of the school of León, which also included followers such as Juan de Burgos, who signed his name to a small Annunciation now in the Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, Massachusetts), and the Master of Palanquinos, author of several paintings on wood.

Hispano-Flemish

Hispano-Flemish is a synthesis of International Gothic, in its Spanish form, and the influence of the great Flemish masters of the fifteenth century. The Hispano-Flemish style was prevalent throughout the latter half of the fifteenth century, but its geographical penetration was unequal and fluctuating. Thus, in Castile and León the influx of new ideas from Flanders brought a lasting transformation in the art of painting. In the states of Aragon, on the other hand, Hispano-Flemish not only failed to make ground, but even provoked a reaction toward Italianism and ultimately the Renaissance.

The Hispano-Flemish style is remarkable for its tendency toward naturalism, its substitution of landscapes for the customary gold background, its interest in atmospheric values, and its use of oils rather than tempera. Textures are carefully studied and faithfully reproduced. Details, even though simplified and poeticized, tend to be taken from the real world.

Chronologically, the first exponent of the Hispano-Flemish style was Luis Dalmau, a native of Valencia, who must have been born around the year 1400. Though most of his work has been lost, the few paintings that survive are of great significance. In 1445 he painted the Retable of the Councillors, an altarpiece for the chapel of the municipal council of Barcelona. His technique, precise and painstaking, though not without brilliance and even inspiration, embodies various elements adapted from Van Eyck. This painting, executed in oils, has all the characteristics of the style it represents, including the sensation of viewing the world through an optical instrument.

Dalmau's influence on the Catalan school of painting was shortlived. A group that still clung to the gold backgrounds and narrative tastes of the beginning of the century could not be expected to accept the innovations of the Hispano-Flemish style without fear and hesitation. In spite of this, primitivism was gradually overcome. The essential step in this direction was taken by the painter Jaume Huguet (1414-1492). Huguet was a sensitive painter, the creator of profoundly human types, whose features and expressions produce an unforgettable effect. His figures, serene and grave, their gestures marked by a spiritual elegance, are suffused with a singular idealism. Technically, from the almost miniaturistic scenes of the epiphany in the Museum of Vich to the huge figures of the retable of St. Augustine executed between 1465 and 1480 (Museum, Barcelona), the work of this painter is a development of the formula evolved by Martorell.

The chef d'oeuvre of Huguet's first period is the altarpiece of St. George, now in the Museum, Barcelona. During his second period (1445-48) he may have been influenced by Dalmau's technical innovations, but these he soon renounced in favor of his own method of working. The third period (1454-70) is that of full maturity and is marked by works as splendid as the retable of Sarriá, showing St. Vincent at the stake, the Last Supper, both in the Barcelona Museum, and that of the SS. Abdón and Sennen (1459-60), preserved in the church of Santa Maria in Tarrasa. In these paintings the sumptuousness and ultra-refinement of the colors are a sign of Huguet's advance toward the new culture of the Renaissance. Adjacent color zones have their own modulations of light and shade that are never allowed to become confused; the effect is grandiose, but never harsh.

The Hispano-Flemish style reached Majorca with Pedro Nisart, perhaps the most outstanding personality of the period. He is the author of the altarpiece of St. George in the Diocesan Museum of Palma, commissioned in 1468. This work is said to be based on a lost painting by Van Eyck, once in the possession of Alfonso the Magnanimous.

The final form of Majorcan Gothic is the creation of other painters, who displayed more sympathy for the Italian style and Huguet's humanism than for the premises of Hispano-Flemish. This is true of the Master of Las Predelas, and even more so of Martín Torner and Pedro Terrencs, both of whom were influenced by Alonso de Sedano.

Strangely enough, Castile, which had the oldest and firmest relations with Flanders, was the last to receive the new ideas that were to crystallize in the Hispano-Flemish style. The chief contribution in this direction was made by a painter known to history as Jorge Inglés. In 1455 he was engaged in painting a magnificent altarpiece of the Virgin for the hospital of Buitrago (now in the collection of the Duque del Infantado). The donor, whom the artist shows kneeling at the Virgin's feet, was Don Inigo López de Mendoza, marquis of Santillana, a poet and one of the richest and most important men of his age. In these paintings a vigorous handling of space and realistic portraiture go hand in hand with a keen awareness of the tactile qualities and texture of the materials: velvets, brocades, and metals.

Jorge Inglés, as his name implies, was an Englishman, or possibly a Fleming, who had settled in Spain. His career is typical of that curious process of assimilation so frequently experienced by the foreign painters who came to Spain and made their home there. The lyrical refinement of his earlier work gradually gives way to an overriding concern for narration and feeling that borders on expressionism. This artist is also regarded as the author of the altarpiece of San Jerónimo de la Mejorada (Provincial Museum, Valladolid), and of a picture in which a saint is shown preaching, now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.

One of the greatest of the Castilian painters to adopt the Hispano-Flemish style was Fernando Gallego, who was active, mainly in Salamanca, approximately between 1466 and 1506. There are certain resemblances between Gallego's paintings and those of Dieric Bouts, although the former's types are decidedly Spanish. Gallego was primarily interested in achieving a convincing representation of space, arranging his figures with a certain freedom, though still with Gothic angularity. He had that sculptural conception of form that leads to close and intensive modeling and that has long been one of the hallmarks of Spanish painting.

The earliest of Gallego's altarpieces is that of San Ildefonso in Zamora cathedral, an oil painting made about 1466, in which bright colors are combined with subtle grays. In about 1470 he painted the altarpiece of the Virgin, St. Andrew, and St. Christopher for the Old Cathedral of Salamanca, and the Pietà in the Prado Museum, both of which he signed. In these paintings we are strongly aware of his interest in sculptural modeling and in the rendering of different textures.

In the period between 1480 and 1490 he completed some very important projects, in which he was forced to enlist the aid of assistants. This, a common enough occurrence in medieval Spain, owing to the vast amount of work commissioned by patrons and donors, resulted in some distortion of his style. His chief assistant was a Francisco Gallego, who may have been his brother. The finest works of this period are the altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo, now in the University Art Gallery, Tucson, Arizona, and that painted for Zamora cathedral between 1496 and 1506. At the same time, we should not forget a work by Gallego that stands apart, both in subject and in technique, from all those mentioned above. This is the ceiling of the library of the University of Salamanca, painted between 1473 and 1494. Here Gallego used tempera for the blue backgrounds and oils for the signs of the zodiac and personifications of the planets.

In some instances, the task of painting narrative scenes and sacred images to fill the several compartments of a retable was entrusted to two or more painters. This is true of the retable of the Luna Chapel in Toledo cathedral, an excellent example of the Hispano-Flemish style. The contract of 1488 mentions the names of two artists, Juan de Segovia and Sancho de Zamora. The latter may perhaps be identical with the Master of San Ildefonso, one of the most characteristic figures of the last phase of the Gothic. Without relinquishing the spiritual qualities expressed in the angularity of the style or the legacy of a centuries-old tradition, he managed to imbue his work with true human feeling. To this painter we owe the panels showing St. Anastasius and St. Louis, in the Provincial Museum of Valladolid, and the panel of San Ildefonso receiving the chasuble, in the Louvre, in which smooth modeling proves perfectly compatible with a sharp delineation of form.

These were not the only talented artists at work in Castile and León during the last third of the fifteenth century. Another painter of note was the Master of Avila, who carried expressionism even further than Gallego, combining it with foreshortening to achieve some unusual effects, which nevertheless remain compatible with a notable precision of composition and form. His finest work is the Nativity in the Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid, which forms part of a triptych.

The extent to which certain Spanish painters of the late fifteenth century assimilated typically Flemish characteristics is illustrated by Diego de la Cruz. His most distinctive qualities are skillful execution, a distaste for expressionistic narrative with its attendant distortions, a sweetness that does not detract from the intensity of the forms, and a gift for balancing groups of figures against their surroundings and in space. Diego's personality is revealed by a signed panel in Palencia. His most important work is the great altarpiece of the Catholic Kings, now divided among several museums in the United States.

There can be no doubt about the extent of Diego's influence during the last fifteen years of the fifteenth century. Of his immediate followers the most important were the Master of Los Balbases and the Master of Burgos. The work of the latter represents an evolution toward an Italian style more in keeping with the ideas being advanced in Spain shortly before the year 1500.

In the last quarter of the fifteenth century the Hispano-Flemish style reached Andalusia, where its features were somewhat modified to suit the softer temperament of the south. The principal schools were those of Seville and Cordova. The former included a number of interesting artists, among them Antón and Diego Sánchez, who signed the Road to Calvary now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (England), and Pedro Sánchez, author of the Entombment now in the Budapest Museum.

The central personality of the Cordovan school was the painter Pedro of Cordova, who in 1475 signed the great panel of the Annunciation in the cathedral of that city. His style is related to that of the schools of southern France, but its essential Spanishness is apparent in the sculptural modeling of the forms and the ornamentalism of the details. Andalusian imagination, grace, and elegance find expression in his treatment of space. The middle ground is occupied by the figures of the Virgin and the archangel in dazzling brocades, the background by a suite of rooms gleaming with tiles, and the foreground by a series of eight figures, separated from the middle zone by the baroque tracery of a balustrade. Well-studied lighting effects add to the beauty of this original painting, in which ochers and carmines predominate.

One of the leading Spanish artists of the last third of the fifteenth century was Bartolomé Bermejo. The signature "Bartolomeus Vermeio Cordubensis" on the Pietà in Barcelona cathedral, one of his later works, completed in 1490, indicates that he was born in Cordova. At the same time, there is nothing in the Andalusian art of that period to explain the origin of his style or the source of his technique. We believe that Bermejo must have studied in Flanders, perhaps in direct contact with Dieric Bouts (1420-75), with whom he has certain stylistic affinities. In spite of this Flemish training, Bermejo's work leaves us in no doubt concerning his Spanish origin. Robust, virile, and dramatic, it is characterized by a profound gravity, the counterpart of the lyrical refinement so typical of the Spanish genius.

The career of the artist is roughly marked out by the traces of his influence and a few recorded dates. Restless by temperament, he worked in various centers, the chief of these being Valencia, where he painted an admirable St. Michael, originally intended for Tous and now in the collection of Lady Ludlow (England). This is an intensely stylized work with accurately rendered textures, marvelously decorative by virtue of its color harmonies and rhythms. The portrait of the kneeling donor is a powerful affirmation of that celebrated Spanish realism, of which Bermejo was to provide other splendid examples. The center panel of an altarpiece of the Virgin now in Acqui (Italy) is evidently of later date. The background is a beautifully observed landscape, but the chief interest of the painting lies in the strong sculptural modeling of the figures.

Between 1474 and 1477 Bermejo must have worked in Aragon, on the altarpiece of Santa Engracia, originally in Daroca and now divided among various collections, and on the impressive altarpiece of St. Dominic of Silos, now in the Prado Museum. His influence is apparent in the work of Martin Bernat, Miguel Ximénez, and other Aragonese artists. In 1486 Bermejo was in Barcelona. The Pietà, already mentioned, was painted in 1490. That this is a work of Bermejo's maturity is clear both from the inimitable quality of the background landscape, with its grazing light, advanced naturalism, and spatial freedom, and from the dramatic severity both of the figures and of the atmosphere that surrounds them.

The Gothic style and an essentially medieval, narrative naturalism continued to characterize Castilian painting until well into the sixteenth century. This survival of archaic formulas is partially attributable to certain painters of foreign origin, for example, the Flemish painter known as Juan of Flanders, who from 1496 was employed in the service of Isabella of Castile. This artist was the author of a handsome portable altarpiece. The various miniatures of which it was composed are now dispersed, some to the Royal Palace in Madrid and others to various collections in Europe and America. Juan of Flanders remained essentially an expressionist painter beneath the virtuosity of his Flemish technique.

After the death of the Queen of Castile in 1504, Juan worked in Salamanca and Palencia, where he died in about 1519. During this last period of his life he painted altarpieces for the University of Salamanca, for the cathedral, and for the church of San Lázaro in the city of Palencia. These paintings, the size of which must have appeared excessive to an artist with notions of space derived from a fifteenth-century Flemish training, are a tribute to his versatility. The change of scale and the rapidity of execution, required by local circumstances, obliged the artist to create a new style, in which he releases, in surprising form, the expressionism that lurked behind the scrupulous technique characteristic of the paintings of his youth.

Pedro Berruguete

Self_portraitAmong the painters whose style may be regarded as transitional between Gothic and Renaissance, the foremost is undoubtedly Pedro Berruguete, a native of Paredes de Nava in the province of Palencia. His pre-eminence derives from the eclecticism and the spirit of humanity that permeate his art. Even during his apprenticeship, Berruguete had to struggle to master a number of divergent influences. After an early period in Flanders, or in the profoundly Flemish atmosphere of the Castilian Gothic, he went to Italy, where he remained for several years. These different elements of his training, perfectly assimilated by his unusually receptive, but stoutly Spanish nature, led him to a style rooted in Gothic ideals and Gothic forms, but Renaissance in the warmth of its humanism. Renaissance characteristics are more apparent in the work of Berruguete's Italian period. His later painting reveals a certain progression toward a Hispano-Flemish Gothicism.

The first historical references to Berruguette relate to his stay at Urbino. The great condottiere, Federigo di Montefeltro, duke of Urbino, had summoned Joos van Gent to decorate the library and study of his magnificent palace with allegories of the liberal arts and portraits of Biblical and pagan thinkers. Berruguete may have collaborated with him, but there is no doubt that the allegories and many of the more vigorous portraits of the series are by his hand alone (National Gallery, London, and the Louvre). He also painted the solemn portrait of Federigo and his son (Ducal Palace, Urbino), which gives some idea of his mastery of tactile values and of the airy qualities of physical space, perfectly suggested in depth. These paintings were all executed between 1480 and 1481. During his stay at Urbino, Berruguete completed a certain amount of work which has since remained in Italy. Moreover, he also painted the hands of the portrait of Montefeltro in the famous picture by Piero della Francesca in the Brera Gallery, Milan.

In 1483 Berruguete was busy in Toledo cathedral, working on the now-lost mural decoration of the cloister. Judging from its style the retable of Santa Eulalia in his native village must have been painted during the last ten years of the fifteenth century. Its narrative scenes, the naturalism of which reflects the life of contemporary Castile, gave the artist an opportunity to demonstrate his ability and the final victory over primitivism. The figures of kings and prophets on the predella establish Berruguete as the forerunner of the Spanish portraitists of the seventeenth century. His retable of St. John the Baptist, preserved in Santa Maria del Campo (Burgos), is impressive in the strength of the figures and the clarity of the construction, which lend the subject, by dint of realism, a surprising air of unreality. Even more important, as an ensemble, is the retable of St. Thomas in Avila, the best of its numerous scenes being the vision of the saint overcoming temptation. The persistence of the Gothic tradition is revealed in the free use of gold and the abundance of brocades.

We have cited only a few of Berruguete's numerous works. Hardly less important are the Annunciation in the Carthusian monastery of Miraflores, and the Holy Family signed and dated in 1500, now part of a private collection in Paredes de Nava. Berruguete's influence is strongly apparent in the work of various painters who were active in Castile and León during the first third of the sixteenth century.

Applied Arts in the Gothic Period

During the latter part of the Middle Ages, conditions strongly favored the growth and development of the applied arts. The little workshops that arose in the shadow of palaces, cathedrals, and monasteries transformed not only jewels, gold, and silver, but also modest household goods and simple utensils into works of art. It appears as if a sound aesthetic sense and refined taste had penetrated the very depths of the people's spirit. The most insignificant pieces of furniture and the humblest earthenware pots shared the same beauty as costly jewelry. The popular art of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries reached beyond its immediate iconographic or utilitarian purpose to the more exalted level of the creative arts.

Illuminated Manuscripts

The introduction of the linear style coincided with another important process begun during the final period of the Romanesque, the transfer of part of the work of the monastic scriptoria to lay miniaturists. The services of these artists were available not only to the cathedrals and religious communities, but also to the court, the nobility, and bibliophiles in general. The most important codices of the thirteenth century are the 'libros Alfonsíes', created under the direct influence of Alfonso the Wise. Among these, the finest are the Cantigas (Escorial Library, National Library of Florence, National Library of Madrid), manuscripts profusely illustrated with scenes of an anecdotal and narrative character, depicting men of every social condition and a wide range of medieval backgrounds. The work of a number of miniaturists, they are remarkable for their wit and gay coloring.

During the fourteenth century the miniaturists produced numerous manuscripts on profane and religious themes; some of these were of outstanding artistic merit, particularly the Chronicle of Troy, the Dominical Oscense, the Breviary of King Martin, and the Valencia Missal. The Missal of St Eulalia in Barcelona cathedral contains an admirable version of the Last Judgment. Dating from 1403, it is the work of Rafael Destorrents. The so-called Bible of Alba, completed in 1430, is an important fifteenth-century volume with paintings by various artists, some of them Jews. During the later Middle Ages, many of the painters who enjoyed the patronage of the royal courts of Aragón and Castile or the protection of the more powerful nobles were also miniaturists. This is true of Destorrents, Arnau de la Pena, and Bernat Martorell in Catalonia, and of Jorge Inglés and Nicolás Francés in Castile. Several magnificent libraries were formed, the finest being those of King John II of Castile, the Duke of Béjar, Don Alvaro de Luna, and Don Inigo López de Mendoza, marquis of Santillana.

In spite of increasing competition from prints, which from the fourteenth century (and especially from the last third of the fifteenth, with the introduction of the printing press) had been gradually asserting themselves as the principal medium for the diffusion of iconography, pages of manuscripts continued to be ornamented with large illustrations and decorative initials right up to the sixteenth century. This late period produced some magnificent examples of the miniaturist's art in its Books of Hours, Choir Books, and Missals. Its masterpieces include the Book of Hours of the Royal Chapel of Granada, and the Misal Rico of Cisneros. The churches of Seville, Granada, Guadalupe, and Avila possess fine collections of anthem books.