Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 120

Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
Indeed, the Altarpiece of Saint George and the Princess
became the central work of the painter’s Aragonese
period, with a series of other paintings from Aragon
grouped around it. Nevertheless, recent literature
on this group has established that they are in fact by
different masters.12
Jaume Huguet’s putative journey to Aragon not only
added novelty to the artist’s historiography, it also
influenced the study of Aragonese painting in the
following decades.13 Formal relations between Aragonese
and Catalan Late Gothic painting attracted a great deal
of attention, although it is now clear that a mistaken
– or at least poorly focused – interpretative paradigm
prevailed. Huguet was thus was considered to have
exerted a decisive influence over a large group of painters
active in Saragossa and Huesca through the works he
produced in Aragon. This led to his “canonization” as
both the main Catalan painter of the second half of
the fifteenth century and a leading light amongst a large
proportion of the painters active in Aragon.
Today this hypothesis is no longer accepted. Huguet’s
influence over such painters as Pere García de
Benavarri, Tomás Giner, the Zahortiga brothers
(Martín and Nicolás), Martín de Soria, Bernardo
de Arás, the Master of Belmonte, and the Master of
Morata or Juan de la Abadía, has been relativized. The
similitudes of their work to that of the great Catalan
master is explained by means of other factors. These
artists, whose paintings are relatively homogenous from
a stylistic point of view, were grouped together as part
of the “naturalist current or style” or as “followers of
Jaume Huguet in Aragon”. They were differentiated
from a second set of painters aligned with Bartolomé
Bermejo, including Martín Bernat, Miguel Ximénez,
and Pedro Díaz de Oviedo, identified as part of the
“Flemish or Hispano-Flemish current”. A third group
– in fact, an amalgamation of the other two – has also
appeared in the literature, represented by painters from
Calatayud including Juan Rius and Domingo Ram.14
It was Chandler Rathfon Post who in 1938, and more
forcefully in 1941, first suggested that the Altarpiece of
Saint George and the Princess was not the work of Jaume
Huguet, but of an Aragonese painter connected
stylistically with the Catalan context. Post mistakenly
attributed it to Martín de Soria, a painter documented
in Saragossa between 1449 and 1487.15 Although this
proposal was not quite right – and was not followed
up for many years – the Harvard professor deserves
Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
recognition for having intuited the Aragonese origin
of the master. It was not until 1991 that Joan Sureda
followed the path opened up by Post, proposing to
remove the Aragonese works and the Altarpiece of
Saint George and the Princess from Huguet’s catalogue.16
Nevertheless, the monograph dedicated by Sureda to
the artist in 1994 continued to list the altarpiece within
the master’s works, based on a putative trip to Italy.17
The previous year, Joan Ainaud de Lasarte’s catalogue
entry for the panel in the Museu Nacional d’Art de
Catalunya’s exhibition dedicated to Jaume Huguet had
defended the traditional attribution, although he had
expressed a slight hesitation and pointed tentatively
towards Martín de Soria.18
More recently, there has been increasing agreement
that the work should be attributed to the Master of
Saint George and the Princess, an artist who, little by
little, is being recognized as one of the key figures of
Aragonese painting in the second half of the fifteenth
century.19 This master’s ability to capture subtle
detail and depict emotion distiguished him from his
contemporaries. Rosa Alcoy in 2003 was the first art
historian to separate the painting decisively from the
production of Jaume Huguet and associate it instead
with the Master of Saint George and the Princess.20
Nonetheless, Alcoy did this in a very confusing way,
appearing to merge his personality with that of the
Master of Alloza to whom are attributed two panels
of the Annunciation and the Epiphany from the church
of Alloza (Teruel), today in the Museo de Zaragoza,
as well as a painting on cloth (sarga) of the Virgin and the
Custodian Angel from the Saragossan monastery of the
Holy Sepulchre (also in the city’s museum).21 In her
book on the painting (published a few months after her
original catalogue entry on Huguet), Alcoy comments
that the works of the Master of Saint George and the
Princess and those attributed to the Master of Alloza,
must be placed “… under the same star, possibly that of
a master who led an important workshop in Aragon;” 22
elsewhere in the book, however, she underlines “the
need to distinguish between both painters,” especially
when referring to the author of a Prophet at the Museo
del Prado whom she relates to the Master of Alloza.23
Perhaps as a result of this confusion, some authors have
continued to maintain the traditional attribution of
the Saint George and the Princess to Jaume Huguet.24 It is
argued in the present article that both the Prado Prophet
and the Saint George and the Princess are by the same artist
who is not, however, the same person as the painter
of the Alloza panels and the sarga from the monastery
identity behind the Master of Alloza, since he was
documented in Aragon between 1458 and 1489.27
Later, when she expanded the works attributed to
Master of Saint George and the Princess, “Bernat
Ortoneda” also became a possible name to be identified
with this anonymous master.28 Her suggestion remains
hypothetical, and for this reason it seems prudent to
continue to refer to our principal subject as the Master
of Saint George and the Princess.
of the Holy Sepulchre of Saragossa.25 There is no
doubt that the two artists in question were responsible
for different workshops, even if they were stylistically
connected through a shared geographic and temporal
Fig. 4 / Master of Saint
George and the Princess,
Prophet Daniel, 30 x 26 cm,
Madrid, Museo Nacional
del Prado.
Alcoy made it clear in 1993 that the panels from Alloza
and the sarga of the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre
were the work of a painter familiar with the pictorial
culture of Barcelona led by Jaume Huguet, although
without relating these paintings to the panel of Saint
George and the Princess. Searching for the identity of the
Master of Alloza, Alcoy proposed Bernat Ortoneda,
the son of the Tarragona painter Pascual Ortoneda.
Pascual is documented in Aragon from 1423, and
Bernat – who trained in Catalonia, having entered
Bernat Martorell’s workshop in 1446 – corresponds to
the profile of a painter active in Aragon and familiar
with the art of Jaume Huguet. In Alcoy’s opinion,
Bernat Ortoneda was the ideal candidate for the
The present author concurs with the view that the
Master of Saint George and the Princess was of
Aragonese origin. The lack of evidence for Huguet
having visited Aragon, the removal of the Saint
George and the Princess from his catalogue, and other
arguments in the literature indicate that the genesis
and implantation of the Flemish model in Aragon
came about through a juxtaposition of agents and
causes rather than through the powerful influence of
a single painter who dominated the artistic scene in
both Catalonia and Aragon. Moreover, it is likely that
Huguet’s influence reached Aragon after his success
in Catalonia, probably not before 1455.29 By that time
there were already painters in Aragon experimenting
with the new Flemish forms, especially in the circle of
Blasco de Grañén and Archbishop Dalmau de Mur.30
The Master of Saint George and the Princess appeared
on the scene shortly afterwards.
Excluding the works of the Master of Alloza, only
two additional paintings have been attributed to the
author of the Altarpiece of Saint George and the Princess: a
small panel of the Prophet Daniel preserved in the Museo
del Prado (30 x 26 cm) (fig. 4),31 formerly related to
Huguet’s Aragonese phase; and a set of two panels
of Saint John the Baptist and Saint James preserved in
the church of the monastery of San Pedro de Siresa
(Huesca) (figs. 5a & 5b).32 It is significant that the two
panels in Siresa remain in situ, as this supports the
argument for the Aragonese origin of their author.


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