Colnaghi Foundation Journal 02 - Page 132

Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
one of the authors of the altarpiece of the hermitage
of the Coronation of Erla (Saragossa) – nowadays in
the parish church in the same village, next to Tomás
Giner. In a previous study of the work I proposed its
attribution to Huguet’s “Aragonese circle,” although I
have since rejected the link to the altarpiece in Erla due
to the scarcity of knowledge about Castellnou’s activity
apart from his work on the said altarpiece.
As already noted, the painting is of reduced dimensions
and was not part of an altarpiece. The theme represented
is suited to private devotion, presenting Mary’s anguish
expressed through the dagger stuck in her chest as in
the Lamentation from Sitges. In her lap lies the inert body
of Christ, bloodied and with the marks of the Crucifixion
clearly visible. On the crossbeam of the Cross we find the
Arma Christi, reinforcing the relationship of this painting
with the Passion. It is a work of highly emotional content,
related to the spirituality preached by Devotio Moderna
on the basis of texts like the Meditationes Vitae Christi
of Pseudo-Bonaventure. This type of representation
sought to inspire the most profound feelings of religious
faith, encouraging the viewer to empathize with the
pain experienced by both the Virgin and Christ.
Mother and Son are accompanied by Saints Benedict
of Nursia and Bernard of Clairvaux, the founder of the
Benedictine Order and figurehead of the Cistercians,
each identified by an inscription in the lower part of the
panel. They kneel holding croziers that identify them as
abbots of their respective communities. As saints revered
for their great spirituality, their presence reinforces what
is expressed above.
Decoratively, the painting stands out on account of the
abundant use of gold leaf which gives it a radiance and
otherwordly atmosphere. The frame, background and
haloes of Mary, Benedict, and Bernard, made from
embossed gesso with punchwork motifs on the insides, are
all gilded, as is the halo of Christ, which is configured from
rays. The same technique has been used for the croziers
of the saints, and – as we have seen in the Lamentation from
the Museu Maricel in Sitges – for the nails that still remain
on the crossbeam of the Cross, as well as for another on
the ground on top of Mary’s mantle.
Fig. 14 / Master of Saint
George and the Princess,
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
and Saint Benedict Flanking
the Pietà, 39 x 27 cm,
Barcelona, Fundación
Francisco Godia.
Despite the reduced format, which requires subtle
changes in the configuration of the characters, the style
of this Pietà with saints refers directly to the Master
of Saint George and the Princess. The head of Mary,
covered with a toque and mantle, follows the model of
Rediscovering the Master of the Saint George and the Princess: new paintings
the Lamentation from Sitges, where we also find the detail
of the dagger stuck in the chest of the Virgin. Mary
raises her left hand, with fine and stylized fingers, in a
manner similar to that in the Annunciation from Saragossa.
The self-absorbed glances, with half-opened eyes and
subtle colouring, are those of the master, as is the
treatment of mouths and noses. Together these features
create a facial type very similar to those discussed
over the course of this article. This especially applies
to Saint Benedict who closely resembles the figure of
Mary on the left side of the Sitges Lamentation and the
Virgin Annunciate in the Museo de Zaragoza, as well
as Gabriel (although the similarity between the saint
and the archangel is not so direct). The position of
the heads and the downcast gaze of both saints also
reappear in the Saint Peter in the fragmentary panel on
the art market in Madrid, and in the Saint James in the
monastery of Siresa.
The faces of the figures in this small painting are less
carefully executed and finished than those by the same
painter in his larger-scale works. This is no doubt due
to the different technical requirements of working on
big altarpieces, versus producing paintings for private
devotion which could be sold by the master “on spec”
directly from his workshop as a source of extra income.
However, with a few examples of the latter preserved
in the Crown of Aragon (such as a few triptychs), it
is evident that the Master of Saint George and the
Princess also dedicated himself to the realization and
sale of these kinds of modest works for private clients.
Finally, mention should be made of a panel from
the parish church of Tosos (Saragossa) which has
not been seen for years and is known only through
an old publication.56 The present author has certain
doubts about this panel. It depicts Saints Fabian and
Sebastian, and it is clear from a photograph published
in 1967 that it had by then been completely repainted,
distorting its original style. Despite this, the faces of
both figures relate directly to the Master of the Saint
George and the Princess, especially comparing Saint
Fabian’s face with Saint George’s in the painting that
gives the master his “name”. Further research into this
matter – including a physical analysis of the work – is
necessary, but the painting was sold after 1967 and is no
longer preserved in Tosos. Scholars will have to hope
for its appearance on the art market in order to confirm
if it is a new work by the painter whose oeuvre has been
examined and expanded in this article.


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