Spanish Painter (ca. 1400)
Medium: Tempera and gold on wood
Dimensions: Central panel, overall 67 1/2 x 22 in. (171.5 x 55.9 cm); left panel, overall 67 3/4 x 20 1/8 in. (172.1 x 51.1 cm); right panel, overall 67 7/8 x 20 1/8 in. (172.4 x 51.1 cm)
Credit Line: Fletcher Fund, 1939
Accession Number: 39.54
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 626
This altarpiece comes from the royal monastery of Valldecrist, founded by Martin of Aragon. Commissioned by a courtier named Dalmau de Cervellon, it adorned an altar in the chapel where he was entombed. The center panel juxtaposes a celestial vision of the Trinity with the expulsion of the rebel angels from heaven. Saint Michael and his legion of angels cast a horde of demons into the jaws of a fiery Hell mouth. The side panels commemorate All Saints, whose ranks include prophets, patriarchs, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, and women saints. The whole is topped by lunettes depicting the Annunciation and Crucifixion.
Inscription: Inscribed with the names of patriarchs, prophets, and saints [some repainted and some interchanged]
Monastery of Valdecristo, Altura, Spain; Etienne Martin, baron de Beurnonville, Paris (until 1881; his sale, Pillet, Paris, May 9–16, 1881, no. 654, as by Jacopo da Casentino, "Peinture religieuse en trois Panneaux," for Fr 2,000); Monsieur E. Vaisse, Marseilles (until 1885; sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, May 5–8, 1885, no. 445, as by Jacopo da Casentino, "Peinture religieuse en trois panneaux," for Fr 1,620); Edmond Foulc, Paris (until d. 1916); Foulc collection, Paris (1916–33; cat. 1927, no. 1, as "The Last Judgment," Valencian School, about 1400; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1933–39; sold to MMA]
This quite early, nearly intact, small-scale retable by an anonymous painter in Valencia or Catalonia exemplifies the influence exerted there by Marzal de Sas, a German painter who went to Spain sometime before 1394. The retable, like Hubert and Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, is a type of illustration of the City of God (the New or Heavenly Jerusalem) described by Saint Augustine. The lateral lunettes show the Annunciation and that in the center depicts a symbolic Crucifixion, with implements of Christ's Passion. Beneath it the Trinity is represented in the form known as the Throne of Grace, with the Virgin Mary at the left (God's right) and a vacant space at the right (as in illuminations in City of God manuscripts). Coats of arms of the Catalonian family Cervellon are displayed in the spandrels of the arch over the Trinity. The lowest scene at the center shows Saint Michael triumphant over evil. The lateral panels are divided into five registers each with sixteen figures—eight to a side—identified by inscriptions overhead. (A craftsman other than the painter may have been responsible for the lettering as some of the saints and their names are interchanged. Some of the spellings are Valencian and others Catalan.) The first register depicts prophets and patriarchs (distinguished by their octagonal haloes) with John the Baptist, Christ's precursor, the innermost at the left. The second shows apostles and Evangelists; the third, martyrs; the fourth, monastic and ascetic saints with the four Church fathers and two patron bishops of Christendom; and the fifth, women saints. A few of the saints represented, notably Honoratus and Narcissus of Gerona, are peculiar to Valencia.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anonimo. Retablo de san Miguel, la Trinidad y Todos los Santos. Ca.1399-1405. Metropolitan Museum de Nueva York.