Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 128

Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
The treatment of the hair is again characteristic of
the painter, emphasizing Gabriel’s loose brown mane
tinged with darker tones as in the Prophet Daniel in the
Museo del Prado, the Saint James in Siresa, and the
no-longer-extant Saint Paul from Berlin. Eyebrows, lips
and profiles also match those in the works mentioned
above. Thus, although the panel of Saint George and the
Princess is better finished, the faces of the archangel and
Mary closely resemble those in the master’s eponymous
painting. The concomitances with this work are evident,
not only in the aspects already indicated, but also in
the configuration of the heads and their orientation.
Moreover, the archangel’s face faithfully replicates the
characteristics of the face of the donor accompanying
Saint John the Baptist in one of the missing panels from
the Kaiser Friederich Museum in Berlin.
Another work that can be attributed to the Master
of Saint George and the Princess is a panel of Saint
Sebastian today in Gaasbeek Castle (Lennik, Belgium)
(fig. 10). This panel was published by Post who linked
it (with a certain amount of equivocation) to Martín
de Soria, noting that the stylemes on the saint’s face
were the same as those of the male donor of the panel
in Berlin.48 The painting is of exceptional quality and
stands out as one of the best works by the Master of
Saint George and the Princess. The saint is portrayed in
full length, wearing olive green calzas (a type of trousers)
as well as a carmine tunic bordered with ermine.
Above the figure there is a luxurious layer of gold
with floral decorations made in estofado which imitates
contemporary silk fabrics. In his hands he holds a bow
and an arrow, his most usual iconographical attributes,
rendered in embossed and gilded gesso. This technique
was also used in the gold background, for the spurs
on the saint’s boots, and for some of the elements
of the sheath that hangs from his belt. The halo also
features embossed gesso with concentric shapes very
close to those of the paintings previously analyzed.
Saint Sebastian appears here in a more or less credible
space, standing on a distinctive tiled floor and before a
majestic wooden throne.
Fig. 10 / Master of Saint
George and the Princess,
Saint Sebastian, Gaasbeek
(Lennik, Belgium),
Gaasbeek Castle.
The overall result is very effective. The saint appears
as a true medieval knight with spurs like those of the
donor in the Altarpiece of Saint George and the Princess. His
status is evident from his clothing, as well as from the
golden cape and ermine cuffs of his tunic. He is the
archetypal fifteenth-century nobleman. This type of
representation was a successful model in Aragonese
lands during the Late Gothic period, also seen in
some works by the painter Martín Bernat (doc. 14501505) such as the Saint Sebastian from the church of
Piedratajada (Saragossa), today preserved in the Museo
Diocesano de Jaca; in another work formerly conserved
in the collection of Dámaso Escudero de Corella;49 and
in an anonymous painting which was many years ago in
the Esteve Collection (Barcelona).50
Stylistically, the face of the saint exhibits many of the
details discussed above. Two of the clearest parallels
are with Saint Peter and with the soldier who holds
Christ by his right arm in the Betrayal auctioned at
Christie’s. The Saint Sebastian also shares with that
work the curious chromatic treatment of unrealistic
and dingy skin-tones, which in the case of the panel in
Gaasbeek are greyish. The facial features of the Saint
Sebastian in Gaasbeek are furthermore concomitant
with those of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter
formerly in Berlin. Sebastian’s face is also not far from
that of Saint John the Baptist in Siresa, although the
latter is a work of less quality. In short, the face of the
figure in Gaasbeek is a type similar to that of Saint
George in Barcelona and of the prophet at the Prado,
with whom it shares, additionally, the same-shaped ear
which in Gaasbeek is half hidden by the saint’s hair.
This detail also appears in Saint John the Baptist in the
monastery of Siresa, and is a constant in the works of
the painter.
Another outstanding work presented here is a
Lamentation over the Dead Christ preserved in the Museu
Maricel de Sitges (Barcelona) (fig. 11). It is a little
known painting which has sometimes been related
to the Master of Belmonte,51 a painter active in the
Calatayud area in the second half of the fifteenth
century. My recent revision of the oeuvre of that
master has led me to discard such an attribution.52
Instead, this panel seems to me to be one of the most
interesting works by the Master of Saint George
and the Princess. Although nothing is known of its
provenance, an Aragonese origin seems beyond doubt
not only on the basis of its formal characteristics,
but also on account of the fact that it belonged to
the collection of Jesús Pérez Rosales which included
numerous Gothic paintings from Aragon.53
The painting has a horizontal composition and
format, meaning that it is likely to have been the main
compartment of a predella. Mary presides over the
composition, holding in her lap the dead Christ. The
Virgin’s affliction is evident from her facial expression


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