Alonso Berruguete, Reinassance Sculptor - Page 51



The artistic personality of Alonso Berruguete
Alonso Berruguete absorbed everything he had learned in Italy and
created a personal style based on proportion, the importance of
drawing, multiple perspectives, complex compositions and, above
all, the distortion of the figure. When he returned to Spain, he was
obliged to adapt the secular principles of Italian sculpture to the
Spanish artistic spirit. His creative force was so strong, however, that
in doing so he became an artist of great personality. His proportions
are extended (ten heads long according to Juan de Arfe),36 and
his stylized and agitated models reflect a fast working pace more
concerned with expression than with accuracy – so much so that
his forms, as has been said before, are often incorrect. The intended
Fig. 47. Alonso Berruguete, Tomb of
point of view, though unique, is not frontal but lateral, the effect of
Cardinal Tavera, Hospital de Tavera, Toledo.
which displaces the arms and legs in impossible ways.37
Fig. 48. Alonso Berruguete, Charity, Tomb of
Cardinal Tavera, Hospital de Tavera, Toledo.
In drawing, Berruguete’s lines are clear, quick and concise, an
achievement only associated with the greatest artists. This style can
be admired in the Christ tied to the column,– in the Uffizi in Florence
(fig. 49), and in the studies of horses (attributed to Berruguete) that
Again in Toledo Berruguete made at the end of the 1540s a retable
of the sides there are scenes from the life of John the Baptist – the
appear in the so-called Album of the Dukes of the Infantado, conserved
dedicated the Visitation, in the church of Saint Ursula. He was
Baptism of Christ and the Beheading of Saint John – and in the centre
in Madrid in the library of the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, that
also in charge of a few works within other large projects such as
is a roundel with the figure of the saint. On the other side, there is
show surprising skill (fig. 50).38
at the church of Saint Salvador of Úbeda,31 and the high altar
a Life of Saint James the Apostle – an allusion to Tavera’s bishopric in
retable for the church of Saint James in Cáceres (1557) which was
that city –, Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor-Slayer,) Translation
Nevertheless, in his painted works, – Berruguete is more
never completed. But it was without a doubt the tomb of Cardinal
of the remains of Saint James, and, in the centre, Saint James the Pilgrim.
conventional, firstly in his Italian period, where he followed
Tavera – described by Azcárate as “the most exquisite and, at the same
At the corners there are griffins and on the front, seen from the main
the models of the great masters, and then in Spain, clearly
time, most pathetic art” – that won him the most acclaim (fig. 47).
apse of the church, there is a roundel with a relief of the Imposition
emphasizing his character as a sculptor with strong, almost stiff,
of the Chasuble on Saint Ildefonsus; seen from the entrance to the church,
models. This is visible in the sculptural figures of the evangelists Luke
The sepulchre of cardinal Tavera was situated in the Hospital
however, there is a roundel with a relief of Charity (fig. 48). Figures
and Mark against gilded backgrounds on the retable from San Benito
de San Juan. Tavera had funded the hospital which was known
of the Virtues appear seated, resting on the corners of the slab
in Museo Nacional de Escultura in Valladolid (fig. 51).
as the “Hospital outside,” having been constructed outside the
upon which the cardinal’s effigy lies, and his portrait is true-to-life
walls of the city of Toledo. Tavera died in 1545, and in 1551
although not very expressive as a death-mask was used. On the
Alonso Berruguete’s personal sculptural style can be clearly
the architect of the hospital, Hernán González, completed a
sides, there are small cupids humbling themselves in front of skulls
appreciated in the reliefs of the choir stalls of Toledo Cathedral.
design for the tomb. Alonso Berruguete was contracted in 1554
which allude to triumph of death. On the ends there are standing
Having been left unpainted, these show the marks of the gouge
by the hospital’s patrons to complete the work; it was decided that
cherubs at the tomb’s head, holding the cardinal’s coat of arms,
used by the artist, records of a spontaneity similar to that that is
the monument would be made from Carrara marble, following
and, at its foot there is an inscription.35 Lastly, it is noteworthy that
more common in wax and clay (fig. 52).
the tomb of Cardinal Cisneros in the catedral-magistral of Alcalá
although Berruguete followed the model of the tomb of Cardinal
de Henares (Madrid) produced between 1518 and 1524 by
Cisneros in terms of form and iconography, there are significant
Another fundamental characteristic of his artistic personality is
Bartolomé Ordóñez.
differences in terms of detail, such as the hands of the effigy
the importance given to polychromy. Gold covers all the superficial
which lie tensely at his side instead of the praying hands of the
details of Berruguete’s sculptures except for areas of flesh. It
Situated underneath the dome of the crossing and free-standing
Cisneros effigy. The tomb was finished in 1561 and was the last
appears on the clothing, tree trunks, in the background scenery,
so that it could be seen from all sides, the sepulchre of Cardinal
work by Alonso Berruguete, who died in the same hospital in
and even in beards and hair, intensifying the works’ expressive
Tavera features reliefs of several different compositions. On one
which he stayed from 13 to 26 September that year.
impact – no doubt further amplified by the effect of candlelight.
32
33
50
34
Fig. 49. Alonso Berruguete, Christ tied to the column,
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Fig. 50. Alonso Berruguete (attributed), Study of horse,
Drawings album of the Duques del Infantado,
39
Library of the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid.
51





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