(b. 1450, Paredes de Nava, d. 1504, Ávila)
Prince Federico da Montefeltro and his Son1480-81
Oil on panel, 134 x 77 cm
Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino
The first historical references to Berruguette relate to his stay at Urbino.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.
After a century of debate there is still no consensus on the authorship of this remarkable painting. Recently many experts attributed it to another Spanish (Castilian) painter, referred to as Pietro di Spagna (Pedro of Spain), who in 1477 was living in Urbino and was closely associated with the ducal court.