A Spring for the Old Masters

Observing the art trend of the last winter and with the arrival of spring, the Hispanic Old Masters market, has flourished the movements that have aroused the interest of the collectors.

Although we focus on Hispanic Old Masters, this factor has been evident throughout the European and American market, echoing in different magazines and publications.

We must also tale into account the magnificent results of the Tefaf Maastricht fair, where the presence of Medieval and Renaissance Works of Art has been highly celebrated due to their high quality level and their exceptional nature, many of them inedit and, therefore, quite a suprise for art lovers.

Is this situation, an evidence of the return of the interest for Old Masters becoming evident as a differentiatinf element among younger collectors?

The Art Newspaper already published its comment about the result of Tefaf Maastricht, announcing that the younger taste as observing variations from the influence of institutions related to the world of design and fashion that sought to diversify their collections, combining the formulas of the ancient universe with the most avant-garde and contemporary one.

Is this the cause for that the great Saatchi Gallery is making its way into this market from the growing demand?

Be that as it may, if somenthing is clear, it is that there is an evident interest in these masters who offer quality, distinction and stability to those who wish a life surrounded by top-level art. And this is evidenced by the different pieces by Hispanic Masters ( Catalan, Aragonese and Castilian) that have been released on the national and international market.

Photo Artcurial París.
Photo Artcurial París
Photo Artcurial París

Pere García de Benavarri in Artcurial, París.

The first piece to comment on is the one offered by Artcurial Paris.

It is a magnificent table painted by Pere García de Benavarri, in collaboration with the members of his workshop.

Born in Benavarri, a town in the Ribagorça – Aragonese county, this painter trained during the decade of 1440 in the Blasco de GRañén workshop.

Through the years 1445 and 1485 he was active in different locations such Zaragoza, Benavarri, Barcelona, Lleida and Barbastro.

The high level of demand for his works coincided with the presence of Dalmau de Mur, prelate ho promoted the arts while he helped the archbishop’s chair in Zaragoza and Tarragona.

A large number of works by this painter are known, among which the central panel of the retable of Bellcaire d’Urgell (Noguera), with the representation of the Virgin and Child enthroned under a canopy and surrounded by angels, two of them musicians who play the lute, while the other two offer silver trays with grapes and pears to the Virgin. The figure of the Virgin is placed on top the crescent moon, a symbol that refers to the Woman described by Saint John in the Apocalypse. The Child, as an apotropaic symbol, wears a pendant with a piece of coral.

This work, preserved in the Museu d’Art de Catalunya, presents the original cartouche with the painter’s signature : Pere Garcia de Benavarre ma pintat any [—]. ” Pere Garcia de Benavarre has painted me” The date was most likely erased when it entered the commercial circuit and an it was tryed to pass it off as a work of Italian origin. Even so, fortunately, according to the witness of J. Fiter Inglés, ho in 1876 still saw the piece in the parish church of Bellcaire, was able to transcribe it as MCCCCL.

In the year 1455 his activity in the city of Barcelona is documented, where he was hired by the wife and son of the painter Bernat Martorell to direct his workshop, coming to carry out, a year later, the altarpiece of saint Quirze and saint Julita, as well as that of saint Clara and Catarina for the cathedral of the same city.

Between 1459 and 1470 he settled and worked in the cities of Cervera, where he painted the altarpiece of saint Vincent Ferrer for the Dominican convent, later moving to Lleida, where he once again worked for the Dominican order.

In the last years of his life, he moved to Barbastre where he worked for the work of the main altarpiece of the Church of the Franciscan convent.

Works by this author, are preserved in the Barcelona Cathedral, the church of sant Joan of Lleida, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts of Cleveland, The Musée Goya of Castres, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs of París, the Museo Nacional del Prado and The National Gallery on London.

To all the known corpus, the table with the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple must be included, which on March 22, 2023 went on sale at the Parisian auction house

Of great quality and optimal state of conservation, it is worth noting the fine execution of the faces of saint Joseph and the Priest, as well as the group of parishioners who attend the ceremony.

The importance of the piece can be appreciated in the rich work of gold of the halos in relief, as well as the edging of the Virgin’s dress and tablecloth and the priest’s tunic, without failing to mention the importance of the representation of the reliquiary from the temple.

About the richness of the fabrics, also point out the brocades that the priest wears, as well as the one that covers the ara of the altar.

Although the piece is apparently slightly darkened by the oxidized varnish, the color palette is undoubtedly the one used by García de Benavarri, especially if one pays attention to the bright and luminous pinks and bluish-grey of the dresses, and to the greenish of the temple wall and the ceramic tiles on the floor.

Due to the proportions of the table ( 175cms high x 59 cm wide), we would be facing a side scene of an altarpiece destined to occupy a large space.

Jaume Huguet in Artencheres.

A panel by Jaume Huguet and collaborators, studied by the Eric Turquin Cabinet in Paris, came out in the liyonese auction house, Artencheres.

Jaune Huguet, painter born in Valls (Tarragona) around 1415, settled in Barcelona in 1448, when he was over 30 years old.

At this time Huguet moved to Zaragoza, where he painted the altarpieces of Cervera de la Cañada, Alloza, and the Holy Sepulcher of the same city.

Due to the strenght and novelty of his artistic style, numerous local painters followed his schemes and spread his legacy in Aragonese territory.

During his subsequent stay in Tarragona he painted the panels from the Vallmoll altarpiece, currently kept in the Museu Diocesà de Tarragona.

The table that we are talking about represents the scene of The kiss between saint Anne and saint Joachim on the golden door. Painted around 1465 – 1479, it would correspond to the same set as the piece that was released on the Barcelona market in 2011, represententing the birth of the Virgin Mary, although it was classified as the Birth of saint John the Baptist.

In this chronology, Jaume Huguet was elected “bonihomine” of the saint Stephen brotherhood of freners and painters of Barcelona and he was painting ensebles of saint Stephen of Granollers, of saints Andón and Senén from the church of saint Pere of Terrasa, preserved in the church of saint Mary of the same town.

Commissioned by Francesc Joan de Santa Coloma, he signs the contract for the painting for the altarpiece dedicated to saint Anna, saint Bartomeu and Maria Magdalena for the parish church of saint Martí of Pertegàs in Sant Celoni, currently kept at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya MNAC).

Also painted were the altarpieces of saint Bernardí and the guardian angel of the chapel of the guild of glassakers of Barcelona cathedral, which is currently in the Barcelona Cathedral Museum, as well as the altarpiece of saint Agustí from the main altar of the church of the convent of saint Agustí the elder in Barcelona.

Although the piece presents certain touches in different parts such as the anatomies, the fabrics and the architectural background, the formal and stylistic characteristics are those of the painter and his workshop.

It presents the added interest of preserving a good part of the work on the crests that frame it.

Photo Artencheres, Lyon
Photo Artencheres, Lyon

Juan de Borgoña, "The Younger" in Koller Auktionen.

The swiss auction house Koller, offered a piece attributed to Juan de Borgoña “the Younger”, a master active between the areas of Cuenca and Toledo who worked in the wake and influence of teachers from Northern Europe and with a strong irradiation towards his contemporaries, active in the rest of the Castilian territory.

Follower of Juan de Borgoña (painter of the generation immediately before him), the chronology of his activity must be located from the second quarter of the XVIth Centrury.

And as can be seen, the precedent of his art can be found in the different ensembles headed by Juan de Borgoña between 1508 and 1511, such as the altarpieces os sanit Caterina in the church of El Salvador in Toledo and some tables preserved in diocesan museum of Cuenca, reaching his followers present in the altarpiece of the collegiate church of Bolea (Huesca).

This work presents models that correspond to little- known formal and stylistic approaches, typical of the Castilian School in a chronology between 1525 – 1530, and with few copies on the market.
Koller Auctions Ltd., Zurich
We must not forget the table attributed to Juan de Sevilla with the scene of the Holy Supper that appears in auction market in Madrid.

One of the best preserved examples of this painter is the one preserved in la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano. We are talking about the triptych dedicated to the Virgin, which is extraordinarily signed with the initials ·JOHNS· ·ISPALENSIS·

The delicacy of the shapes and figures is evident in the central panel in which the enthroned Virgin holds her son in her lap with a sweet affectionate expression, who in turns his head towards his mother while, with his hands, hold the phylactery with the inscription ·Ego·suum·alpha·et·omega·

The scene is flanked by figures of four musician angels holding the instruments with which they play songs to the Virgin and her son.

The two wings are occupied by the apostles Peter and Paul, pillars of the Church.

The entire composition shows a rich chromatic palette with the use of high- quality pigments, where pink, ocher and green turn out to the identifiers of the master in his best compositions.

From this example, the author’s corpus of work is clearly identified. Active in the diocese of Siguenza, between 1400 and 1430, the altarpiece of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine was commissioned by Gastón de la Cerda, IV Count of Medinaceli, for the chapel of Saint Catherine of the Sigüenza Cathedral.

Of this same author would be the sets conserved in the Museo del Prado (central panel with the titular Saints, four side panels) and predella, the Musum of Toledo in Ohio (retable of saint Andrés and saint Antolín) or the Cerralbo’s Museum (Martirdom of saint Sebastián), the Hyacinthe Rigaud of Perpignan (Coronation of the Virgin).