Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance at the National Gallery from 12 June to 29 September 2019

Exhibition Review – Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance at the National Gallery from 12 June to 29 September 2019

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The National Gallery presents a select number of works by Bartolomé Bermejo (about 1440–about 1501), the artist was considered one of Spain’s most innovative and accomplished painters in the second half of the 15th century.

Bartolomé de Cárdenas was more commonly known as ‘Bermejo’ was born in Cordoba but was active in the Crown of Aragon, working in Tous, Valencia, Daroca, Zaragoza, and Barcelona. Very little is known about his life but it seems likely that he was a converso (a Jew converted to Christianity) which may expain his nomadic lifestyle where he often partnered with local artists to access painters’ guilds and obtain religious commissions.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This small free exhibition includes six loans that have never been seen outside of Spain, including two of Bermejo’s masterpieces: Triptych of the Virgin of Montserrat (probably 1470–75), painted for the Italian cloth merchant Francesco della Chiesa, from the Cattedrale Nostra Signora Assunta in Acqui Terme, Alessandria (Italy), and the recently restored ‘Desplà Pietà’ (1490), named after the man who commissioned the work – Lluís Desplà, archdeacon of Barcelona Cathedral, where the painting has been since the 15th century.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

In addition, four panels depicting scenes from Christ the Redeemer (Descent of Christ into Limbo and Resurrection from Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), Barcelona; Christ entering Paradise and Ascension from the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, Barcelona, all about 1470–5) are displayed.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

At the centre of the exhibition is the National Gallery’s own painting by Bermejo, Saint Michael Triumphant over the Devil with the Donor Antoni Joan (1468) which is considered one of the most important early Spanish painting in Britain, it is displayed here for the first time following its recent conservation. Painted in 1468, the Saint Michael Triumphant is thought to have once formed part of an altarpiece dedicated to Saint Michael in the church of the same name in Tous, near Valencia. It is the first of some twenty known works by Bermejo, produced over a career spanning just over thirty years.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The first surviving document relating to the artist, in the form of a receipt for partial payment for the Saint Michael Triumphant, is displayed alongside the painting for the very first time in this exhibition.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The painting shows an elegant archangel Michael covered in a embroidered, jewel-encrusted cape defeating the devil who depicted in the form of a grotesque being. Antoni Joan, lord of Tous and the donor who commissioned the work, kneels at the archangel’s feet and looks up from his prayer book to witness Saint Michael’s victory over the devil.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The works on display demonstrate Bermejo’s considerable technical talent that was considered superior to his Spanish contemporaries. Such was his expertise, it was thought that the artist may have been trained in the Netherlands or had closely studied Dutch paintings of the period.

This fascinating exhibition is the latest of a series of exhibitions at the National Gallery where a certain artist or picture are showcased which allows the viewers to really understand some of the stories behind the artist or picture. The work of Bartolomé Bermejo is not widely known but the exhibition provides some insights into early Spanish painting and highlights the work of an artist who life and work still remains a mystery.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the National Gallery website here

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