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Compartments from an alt...
Room 9



Gothic

Bernat Martorell

Compartments from an altarpiece

Barcelona
1427 - 1437
Tempera on wood
70 x 71 cm; 68.5 x 71.5; 68.5 x 172 cm
Probably from Vic Cathedral (Osona)
MEV 10739, 10738, 10740

The death of Lluís Borrassà in 1425 more or less coincided with the beginning of the artistic activity of Bernat Martorell who, from his workshop in Barcelona, was to introduce the stylistic innovations of the second phase of International Gothic which remained in force in Catalonia during the second quarter of the 15th century. The presence of Florentine artists in the city of Barcelona during the 1430s, plus the strong influence exerted by the painter Van Eyck and Flemish painting in the closing stages of his career, make it possible to relate his style to the International Gothic art of his time. The main innovation contributed by Bernat Martorell consists in having abandoned the excess of movements, gestures and contrasting colours of the scenic compositions of the painters of the previous generation in order to introduce a more serene, harmonious and balanced atmosphere. The incipient humanism that was beginning to impose itself on the European culture of the time is reflected in the painting of Martorell in the way he treats the faces of the figures. For the first time there appear figures with individualised psychological features with faces that reflect a human beauty different from that idealised beauty of the Italianate Gothic world of the 14th century. These panels with scenes from the life of Saint Eulàlia and the predella with scenes from the life of Saint John the Baptist were moved from Vic Cathedral to the Museum in 1936. Of interest is the fact that we have documentary evidence that in 1436 Martorell signed the contract to make an altarpiece for the chapel of the brotherhood of Saint Eloy and Saint Eulàlia in the church of La Mercè in Vic, which we know was installed in this church in 1442. Due, however, to the different hagiographical dedication it does not seem to be the same altarpiece. By its style it corresponds virtually to the same period when he made the famous altarpiece of Saint George in the Chapel of the Palace of the Generalitat, considered his masterpiece and now kept in the Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Art Institute of Chicago. The scenes depicted are: Saint Eulàlia on the rack before the prefect Dacian (exhibited in the study galleries given its fragmented state), the flagellation of the saint, and the death of the saint on the cross with the falling snow covering her body. On the predella dedicated to Saint John the Baptist there are scenes of Saint John in the wilderness (fragment), the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan, the preaching of the Baptist and his beheading.


Room 9
Floor 1
9-10-11 Gothic Art
12-13-14 Renaissance
15-16 Textiles and Clothing
17 Glass

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