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Berruguete, Pedro

Paredes de Nava, Palencia (Spain), ca. 1445/1450 - Madrid? (Spain), 1503

There are very few documentary references to the life and work of this Spanish painter born to minor nobility in Paredes de Nava (Palencia), probably around 1445. His generally accepted birth date is somewhat later, but 1445 would be correct if, in fact, he was the “Perus Spagnolus” documented in Urbino on April 14, 1477, when he was already twenty-five years old, or older. His grandfather had arrived in Palencia from the Basque shire of Las Encartaciones as a member of Rodrigo Manrique’s retinue, soon after Manrique was named Lord of Paredes by John II of Castile in 1430. There is no direct documentation of his place of death, but the testament of his grandson, Lázaro Díez, Master of Araujo, was published by Ceán Bermúdez in 1800, and that document, dated September 17, 1611, suggests that he must have died in Madrid some time in December 1503. In fact, news of Berruguete’s death reached Paredes de Nava early enough for guardianship to be established for his six children on January 6, 1504. While there are various hypotheses about his artistic training, it seems most likely that he studied in Castile—not in Flanders, as some scholars have supposed—with a teacher familiar with Northern models. He must have completed his studies in 1470 if, in fact, he made the works attributed to him in those years before he left for Italy. Among those paintings are two panels of The Story of the Holy Cross (Parish Museum of Santa Eulalia, Paredes de Nava, Palencia) and Trial by Fire (Museo del Prado). It seems probable that Berruguete was the Spanish painter who worked in the studiolo of Duke Federico de Montefeltro, as cited in later documents from Urbino that do not, however, mention him by name. If that is the case, he must have left for Italy by 1472 at the very least, and his initial destination was probably Rome, but certainly not Urbino. He probably arrived in Urbino in 1473 or 1474, where he made paintins for the duke, including Double Portrait of Federico de Montefeltro and his Son, Guidobaldo (Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, Urbino), before returning to Castile. According to Ceán Bermúdez, he was back in Castile by 1483, when documents indicate he was producing images for Toledo Cathedral’s Old Tabernacle, now sadly lost. He continued to work in Castile until his death in 1503. The catalog of his work has been reconstructed on the basis of four extant documented works: the main altarpiece at the Church of Santa Eulalia in Paredes de Nava (Palencia), from around 1490; the mural painting of the exterior of the chapel of San Pedro at Toledo Cathedral, from 1497; the main altarpiece at Avila Cathedral, documented from 1499 and unfinished at the time of his death; and the altarpiece of Guaza de Campos (Palencia), documented in 1501. Of this final work, the only surviving panel is a Salvador Mundi from its base (Ibercaja, Zaragoza). These pieces, as well as the paintings attributed to Berruguete on their basis, bear witness to his eclecticism, his debt to the Flemish art he studied, and the influence of Italian art with which he was later in contact. The works he made in Castile between 1483 and 1503 reveal his Italian influence but lack the quality and technical precision of those he had made in Italy, as his Castilian clients commissioned a very different kind of work than their Italian counterparts. Nonetheless, all of the works he made after returning from Italy show some Italian influence, although he never abandoned his Flemish training and Castilian identity. What Berruguete learned in Italy was not so much the representation of space with orthodox linear perspective as the depiction of the human body in motion. And, of course, his time in Italy also allowed him to study classical models. Moreover, while Renaissance architecture and decorative elements appear in his work, the tastes of his clients and his own desire to capture everyday reality in his Castilian surroundings justify the presence of gothic and Mudejar elements as well. This is clear in his Virgin and Child (Museo Municipal, Madrid). Among the works from his last two decades are The Beheading of the Baptist at the church of Santa María del Campo (Burgos), from around 1485; and his best-known work: the six Kings-Prophets from the base of the main altarpiece at Santa Eulalia in Paredes de Nava (Palencia), from around 1490. Others include The Annunciation at the Miraflores Charterhouse (Burgos), from around 1495, which reveals a predominantly Flemish influence; The Fathers of the Church and The Evangelists from the base of the main altarpiece at Avila Cathedral, Jesus’ Agony in the Garden and The Flagellation, which reveal his Italian influence; and the three altarpieces at the church of the convent of Santo Tomás in Avila, which were painting between 1493 and 1499. Of these altarpieces, the ones dedicated to Saint Dominic of Guzmán and Saint Peter, Martyr, are at the Museo del Prado. Cruzada Villaamil saw twelve panels from those two groups in the convent’s upper cloister, but only nine arrived at the Prado. Five are from the retable of Saint Peter, Martyr, including the panel of the saint himself, and four small masterpieces with episodes from his life that reveal Berruguete’s mastery at depicting landscapes, mystical ecstasy and urban perspectives. The four panels from the retable of Saint Dominic are: the image of the saint himself, Saint Dominic and the Albigensians, Saint Dominic Resurrects a Young Man and The Apparition of the Virgin to a Community. Other important works by Berruguete are his Auto da Fe, which was at the sacristy of Santo Tomás in Avila; and four canvases from San Pedro in Avila (now at the Museo del Prado), in which the Italian influence is much clearer (Silva Maroto, P. in E.M.N.P., 2006, vol .II, pp. 496-499).

Artworks (19)

Resurrección de Cristo
Oil on panel, Second half of the XV century
Berruguete, Pedro
La Virgen con el Niño
Mixed method on panel, 1480 - 1500
Berruguete, Pedro (Circle of)
La prueba del fuego (Santo Domingo y los albigenses)
Mixed method on panel, Late XV century
Berruguete, Pedro
Saint Peter
Tempera on twill / twill weave canvas, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro
Saint Dominic
Oil on panel, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro
Saint Peter Martyr
Oil on panel, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro
Saint Peter the Martyr praying
Oil on panel, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro
Apparition of the Virgin to a Community of Dominicans
Oil on panel, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro
Saint Paul
Tempera on twill / twill weave canvas, 1493 - 1499
Berruguete, Pedro

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