(active 1390, d. 1408, Valencia)

Altarpiece of the Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary

c. 1398
Tempera on pine panel, 259 x 221 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

This altarpiece from Tortosa represents the seven spiritual joys, i.e., the transcendental moments in the life of the Virgin Mary - the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost and the Dormition - though not in chronological order, for their initial positions were altered. The attributes of the figures depicted on the predella enable us to recognise them as archangels and saints. According to the usual iconography of such altarpieces, the central painting (now missing) would have portrayed the figures of the Virgin Mary and Child, while the ensemble would have been crowned with a Crucifixion.

The work is a fine example of the International Gothic style, as we see in its main features: the stylised forms, the precious description of details and textures and the bright colours.

Nicolau represents symmetrical compositions enlivened by a few diagonal lines in the architectural forms, depicted synthetically. The way in which he describes features - wide foreheads, round eyes and small noses brightened with touches of light - is one of his characteristic traits.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.