Alonso Berruguete, Reinassance Sculptor - Page 12

Spanish sculpture and the
beginnings of Renaissance style
Nicola Jennings
Manhattan’s upper west side is perhaps a surprising starting point
for an introduction to the arrival of Renaissance style in latefifteenth century Castile.1 Here, in the Hispanic Society of America,
are two carved alabaster wall-tombs from the monastery of San
Francisco in Cuéllar which perfectly illustrate the transition from
Late Gothic and reveal what a complex process it was (figs. 1 & 2).
This chapter provides an overview of Castilian sculpture in the
transitional period, which only came fully to an end with the works
of Alonso Berruguete. It considers some of the greatest works
produced in this period in alabaster, marble and wood, touching
briefly on how they relate to what came before and prepared the
way for what would come later.
The Cuéllar tombs were commissioned by the nobleman Beltrán
de la Cueva (ca. 1443-1492) for his brother Gutierre (d. 1469) and
second wife, Mencía Enríquez de Toledo (d. 1497). As Patrick
Lenaghan sets out in a recent article, these tombs have confused
scholars for many decades.2 The first, largely produced ca. 1498,
is typically Late Gothic, the effigy lying beneath a flattened arch
decorated with elaborate tracery, pinnacles and Hispano-Flemish
statuettes.3 The second, probably not finished until about 1510,
is in Renaissance style, with a semi-circular arch, wide pilasters
carved with leaf scrolls, sphinxes and cornucopia, and Italianate
figures in niches lined with scallop shells. Despite these differences,
the effigies from both appear to have been carved by the same
hand in a tradition dating back to the 1440s, with portrait-like
faces, hands folded in prayer, and garments extensively carved
to simulate embroidery. As a result, both tombs were attributed
in 1931 by Manuel Gómez-Moreno to one sculptor, Vasco de la
Zarza (d. 1524).4 Suggesting that Zarza must have trained in Italy,
Gómez-Moreno explained the tombs’ stylistic differences in terms
of the demands of different patrons.

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