Alonso Berruguete_Reinassance Sculptor - Page 49

Period in Toledo
In 1534 a new phase in the life and work of Berruguete began with
the naming of Juan Pardo de Tavera (1472-1545) as Archbishop
of Toledo. It was then that negotiations began on the cathedral’s
choirstalls, carved between 1539 and 1542, reuniting him with his
former partner, Felipe Bigarny.
The plan for the choir was made by Alonso de Covarrubias,
Master of the cathedral, and included seventy-one arches
supported by seventy-two columns of red marble. In addition,
there were smaller columns of jasper between the backs of
the stalls which were of unpolychromed walnut. Half of the
stalls were commissioned from Bigarny and the other half, on
the Epistle side, from Berruguete. The seats include thirty-six
panels on which there are representations of Old Testament
figures and the twelve apostles. The seats are crowned by thirtyfour niches decorated with alabaster figures carved in relief.
Although all the figures are all very expressive, the differences
in style amongst them indicate the involvement of the masters’
The representation of Eve has been considered one of the most
accomplished for its melancholy beauty (fig. 44). In this work one
can discern the influence of bronze reliefs by Pollaiuolo on the
tomb of Sixtus IV in the Vatican Grottoes. Eve is especially close
to the figure of Rhetoric, whose face and naked body as well as the
landscape behind it show numerous similarities (fig. 45).
Bigarny had been commissioned to complete the choir with
the archbishop’s throne but, due to his death, the commission
was given to Berruguete. On 19 February 1543, a contract was
signed in Madrid to finish the throne with an alabaster canopy
depicting the Transfiguration, not completed until 1548. This is a
masterpiece of its kind, the Saviour appearing with the prophets
Elijah and Moses and accompanied by the apostles Peter, James
and John, as narrated in the Gospels (fig. 46).29 On the back
there was an original roundel with a relief of God the Father in the
centre and the four evangelists in the spandrels. It is likely that
one of the canons, Diego López de Ayala, a patron of the arts
Fig. 44. Alonso Berruguete, Eve, Choirstalls, Toledo Cathedral.
Fig. 46. Alonso Berruguete, Transfiguration, Archbishopic Throne, Choirstalls, Toledo Cathedral.
and translator of Boccaccio and Sannazaro, intervened in the
creation of the iconographic programme, the richness of which
Fig. 45. Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Rhetoric, detail from the Tomb
has been seen as a model for works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in
of Sixtus IV, Vatican Grottoes, Rome.
Roman churches.30


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