(b. ca. 1360, Gerona, d. 1425, Barcelona)

St Peter is Walking on the Water

Tempera on wood, 102 x 65 cm
Sant Pere, Terrasa

In 1377 Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome and the magnificent palace of Avignon became only the residence of antipopes. The popes' "captivity in Babylon" had terminated, but Avignon continued to act as a channel through which Italian Gothic art gradually penetrated further and further into the rest of Europe. It was in Avignon that Luis Borrassá first came into contact with 'court' Gothic, in the period around 1400, when this style was widely adopted in numbers of countries; it became in fact an international style founded upon all that Borrassá has learned from the brothers Serra.

The painting in the church of Santa Maria in Terrasa illustrates the text from St. Matthew: 'And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. And he saith unto them: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him' (4, 19-20). This scene is connected with another one from the Gospel: 'Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship... the ship was now in the midst of the sea... Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled... And Peter said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?' (Matthew 15, 22-31). Christ's face and his gesture are very beautiful, but the figures of both Christ and the two disciples are still stereotyped, differing in size in the traditional manner of early religious paintings: on the other hand, his treatment of the fishermen, particularly the one who is rowing, testifies to his own acute observation and his ability to make use of it.

This altarpiece manifests a mixture of archaic technique and new characteristics of the International Gothic. The colour technique is Byzantine, but the shortening of the boats, the less sized figures in the background give some feeling of the perspective.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 12 minutes):
Gregorian chants