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The Museo del Prado will be exhibiting the first documented Hispano-Flemish painting by a Castilian artist for a period of ten years Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Museo del Prado will be exhibiting the first documented Hispano-Flemish painting by a Castilian artist for a period of ten years

The Museo del Prado will be exhibiting the first documented Hispano-Flemish painting by a Castilian artist for a period of ten years

Altarpiece of the Gozos de Santa María (Altarpiece of the Marquis and Marchioness of Santillana), Jorge Inglés. Doc. 1455. Oil on panel, 497 x 463cm. On deposit with the Museo del Prado from Don Íñigo de Arteaga, Duque del Infantado

The display at the Museo del Prado of the Altarpiece of the Gozos de Santa María, also known as the “Altarpiece of the Angels”, will allow visitors to see a work of primary importance within Castilian Hispano-Flemish painting. The altarpiece’s significance lies in the fact that it is the first documented work by a known artist of this school to survive and also because the composition includes the portraits of the Marquis and Marchioness of Santillana and the literary work known as the Gozos de Santa María [verses in praise of the Virgin].

Having entered the Museo del Prado on 9 April 2012, the altarpiece spent time in the Museum’s restoration studio before going on display in Room 57 of the Villanueva Building, which will now be devoted to Spanish and Flemish portraits of the nobility and burgher classes.

The Altarpiece of the Gozos de Santa María or of the Marquis of Santillana was commissioned by the Marquis from Jorge Inglés prior to June 1455 for the church of the hospital in Buitrago (Madrid), as recorded in the codicil of the Marquis’s will (6 June 1455). For many years it was to be seen on the high altar, after which the Dukes of Infantado, heirs of the Marquis of Santillana and patrons of the hospital, installed it in other locations on their estate.

The altarpiece retains part of the original structure and traceries and all the paintings executed by Jorge Inglés. Above the predella with depictions of the Four Fathers of the Church we see Íñigo López de Mendoza, Marquis of Santillana, in what is the only surviving painted portrait of a Castilian nobleman. Also depicted is his wife, Catalina Suárez de Figueroa, kneeling before the Virgin, of which the original, mid-15th-century Flemish image is lost and has been replaced. The two figures are accompanied by their page and maid, respectively. In the upper section of the altarpiece, consisting of two panels, are twelve angels bearing scrolls with texts from the Gozos de Santa María written by the Marquis in proof of his devotion to the Virgin.

Don Íñigo López de Mendoza, Marquis of Santillana

In addition to being the first documented work by a known artist of this school, the importance of the patron, the 1st Marquis of Santillana, who was a key figure in Castile during the reign of Juan II, makes this a work of particular significance.

Íñigo López de Mendoza, a major poet and devotee of science, was seen as the great exemplar of the Castilian nobility of this date and a figure whose dedication to literature “did not dull the iron of his sword”. His two areas of interest, weaponry and literature, took concrete shape in the two collections that he initiated, an armoury and a library, which would have been a source of pride to his successors, the Dukes of Infantado. López de Mendoza also had two particular subjects of devotion: his family (his wife, Catalina Suárez de Figueroa, depicted with him in this altarpiece, and their children) and the Virgin. The latter is reflected in his devotional verses known as the Gozos de Santa María, which are inscribed on the scrolls carried by the angels in the present work.

Jorge Inglés

With the exception of the document that links him to the Marquis of Santillana, little is known of Jorge Inglés, who was both a painter and miniaturist. Due to his surname it has been suggested that he or his family were English, but there is no information at the present time on his place of birth or where he trained. For this reason the starting point for a definition of his style and for a reconstruction of his oeuvre is the present “Altarpiece of the Angels” in the collection of the Duque del Infantado.

To judge from the present work and others attributed to him, particularly the Saint Jerome Altarpiece commissioned by Alonso de Fonseca, Bishop of Ávila from 1469 to 1485 for the Hieronymite monastery of La Mejorada in Olmedo (Valladolid), it seems most likely that Jorge Inglés trained in the international style or with a transitional master and that he had early access to Flemish models such as the donor figures by Rogier van der Weyden, undoubtedly via intermediary sources (which explains why the Marquis is depicted in Burgundian dress in the present work). Although the figure types, the realism with which they are depicted and the forms of the folds in the drapery recall Flemish painting, works attributed to Jorge Inglés do not reveal any direct contact with a specific Flemish painter. Furthermore, the figure types that he repeatedly used reflect an expressive tendency not characteristic of the Low Countries and closer to Germanic and English painting. This may once again suggest that the artist was English, as his surname indicates.

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