Alonso Berruguete, Reinassance Sculptor - Page 46

A short time afterwards, once the retable of Mejorada was finished
In addition to the great profusion of elements that made up the
and had brought him great success, Berruguete received the
retable from San Benito, the ornamental decoration as well as
commission for what has been considered his masterpiece, the
the motifs repeated from the Mejorada retable, grotesques and
retable from San Benito el Real, Valladolid, produced between
colonnaded balustrades with lush foliate decoration, in the top
1526 and 1532 and today exhibited in the Museo Nacional de
section there was a series of six reliefs with pairs of children
Escultura.22 This ensemble was made up of paintings, reliefs and
standing in different positions and four busts of prophets that rose
sculptures of scenes from the lives of Christ and of Saint Benedict,
from roundels. On either side of the scallop shell crowned by the
to whom the retable was dedicated. The architectural structure
Calvary there were two pediments with a prisoner seated on top of
presented an important innovation in being crowned by a large
each, and a pair of sibyls carved in relief inside (fig. 41).
scallop shell, undoubtedly inspired by the works of Bramante in
Rome, more specifically the niche in Bramante’s Belvedere in the
The style that Berruguete developed in the retable from San
Vatican. Berruguete took the modelling of the figures even further
Benito was so personal and so different from what had been
than in the Mejorada retable, working with complete freedom
produced in Spain by that time that it was neither understood
and creating nervous figures, in motion, that seem to want to
nor widely accepted. The evaluation of the work was thus
escape the spaces in which they have been placed. In this sense we
problematic and delayed payment for six years. Felipe Bigarny,
are again reminded of Michelangelo, each figure with a unique
one of the evaluators, described the work as “highly defective.”24
personality that seems to go beyond the intentions of the author.
Felipe de Guevara did not understand it either, describing
The central panels of the retable housed a large and imposing
Berruguete as “melancholic, Saturnine, and poorly adjusted,”
sculptore of Saint Benedict (fig. 37), which has been compared to
adding that “the works of this man, although his intention is
the terracotta Habakkuk or “il Zuccone” by Donatello, now in the
to paint angels and saints, his natural disposition... brings him
collection of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, one
thoughtlessly to paint terrible and sad things imagined by no one
of the most impressive figures by this master sculptor of the
other than himself.”25
Italian Renaissance (fig. 38). The influence of another Florentine
Fig. 37. Alonso Berruguete,
Saint Benedict, Central figure of
the retable on the main altar of
San Benito el Real (Valladolid),
Museo Nacional de Escultura,
sculptural ensemble has also been noted, the Sermon of Saint John
Nevertheless, despite the ensuing polemic, evidence has also
the Baptist by Giovanni Francesco Rustici, displayed over the north
survived of some appreciation, such as that of Cristóbal de
portal of the Baptistery. The Assumption of the Virgin (fig. 39) above
Villalón who, in 1539, wrote the following:
the statue of Saint Benedict, is yet another tribute to Donatello.
Finally, the Calvary which was situated above the scallop shell,
Aquí en Valladolid, reside Berruguete, que los hombres que pinta no
is composed of a group of sinuous, supplicant figures which
faltan sino que Naturaleza les de espíritu con que hablen, el qual ha
manage to convey a great sense of drama.
hecho un retablo en San Benito, que aueys visto muchas veces; que si
los Príncipes Philippo y Alexandro bivieran agora, que estimavan los
For the iconography of the retable, Berruguete repeated the
trabajos de aquellos de su tiempo, no ovieran thesoros con que se le
Fig. 38. Donatello,
episodes of the Mejorada work which included painted scenes
pensaran pagar.26
The prophet Habakkuk, “Il Zuccone”,
from the infancy of Christ such as the Nativity, Flight into Egypt and,
Museo dell’Opera
in relief, the Adoration of the Magi and the Circumcision, in addition to
Alonso Berruguete’s trajectory continued with other commissions,
del Duomo, Florence.
six figures in niches and four reliefs on new themes: the Imposition
such as that of the retable of the colegio de Santiago el Mayor
Fig. 39. Alonso Berruguete, Virgin Mary, central figure of
of the Chasuble on Saint Ildefonsus, Saint Benedict’s Conversion of the Goth,
in Salamanca that contracted him in November 1529 through
Retable on the main altar of San Benito el Real (Valladolid),
Zalla, the Cure of Pope Leo IX, and the Mass of Saint Gregory. On the
Alonso de Fonseca y Ulloa, Archbishop of Toledo. Although
Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid.
second level, with paintings representing the evangelists Saint Mark
this it had a different structure to his previous works – especially
(see fig. 51) and Saint Luke, this is one of Berruguete’s more elaborate
with relation to the sculpture – he maintained his style and did
works, the Michelangelesque models projecting out from the gilded
not abandon the models used for the retable from San Benito.
backgrounds. The reliefs show the full rein of his imagination, with
Nevertheless, in 1537, in the retable of the Epiphany in the
compositions teeming with figures as in the Miracle of the water: Saint
church of Santiago in Valladolid, he adjusted this scheme to
Maurus saving Saint Placidus from drowning (fig. 40).
accommodate the tastes of the clientele around him.

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