(active 1363-1399)

Madonna with Angels Playing Music

Panel, 196 x 130 cm
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Italo-Gothic style, which arose in Catalonia during the second quarter of the fourteenth century, is characterized by balanced forms and 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 rythm that animates his forms is slow and restrained.

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

On this Madonna of Serra the influence of the Sienese masters is obvious, however, the Serra brothers learnt this style not in Siena but in Avignon where the Papal Court was the most important northern centre of the late Gothic Italian painting.