PROPERTY FROM SAM FOGG LTD, LONDON
June 25, 01:23 PM GMT
80,000 - 120,000 GBP
PROPERTY FROM SAM FOGG LTD, LONDON
MAESTRO DE LOS FLORIDA (JUAN DE BONILLA? DOC. 1442–78)
SAINT MICHAEL VANQUISHING THE DEVIL
tempera on panel, gold ground
unframed: 149 x 54.3 cm.; 58 5/8 x 21 3/8 in.
framed: 155.7 x 63 cm.; 61 1/4 x 24 3/4 in.
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Alexandre Soler i March (1873–1949), Barcelona, 1933;
With Rafael Forcada, Barcelona;
Private collection, Spain;
M. Reeves, On Earth and Heaven. Art From the Middle Ages, Sam Fogg, London, 2018, 16;
A. Velasco Gonzàlez, Retablos: Spanish Paintings from 14th to 16th centuries, exh. cat., Sam Fogg, London, and Caylus, Madrid 2019–20, pp. 102–07, no. 9, reproduced in colour pp. 103 and 105 (detail).
London, Sam Fogg, and Madrid, Caylus, Retablos: Spanish Paintings from 14th to 16th centuries, Madrid 2019–20, no. 9.
"This seems to have been a subject particularly favoured in Aragon and Catalonia. I have seen numerous 15th century panels on the theme during my travels there and the bizarre depiction of the devil here is typical of them. I love the nonchalance with which St Michael is taking care of business: all in a day’s work for this archangel warrior."
Among the most frequently depicted saints of late-medieval Spanish art, this arresting image of Saint Michael the Archangel is a commanding example of Aragonese painting. Attributed to the so-called Maestro de los Florida, sometimes identified with Juan de Bonilla (c. 1420–1500), who is documented as a painter in Daroca and Teruel from 1442 to 1478,1 the work combines pronounced Flemish influences with the courtly archaism that pervaded regional styles until the end of the fifteenth century. Poised and resplendent in a brocaded cuirass embellished with pastiglia decoration and trimmed with bright red fringing, the Archangel Michael is depicted as he plunges his lance into the mouth of the devil, whose grotesque body is formed of a second head that gapes at the waist. The saint’s rainbow-like wings and billowing cloak, edged with pearls and jewels, create a rich effect against the gilded background of the panel, which is decorated with a pattern of incised floral motifs and distinctive concentric circles. The figures are set within a miniaturized rocky landscape occupying the lower third of the composition. The overall effect is one of elegant richness and carefully balanced colour.
Stylistic traits such as the pose of Saint Michael, his face and hairstyle, and the grooved halo, all point to the work of the so-called Maestro de los Florida, whose name piece is the retable of The Coronation of the Virgin, c. 1480–90, for the chapel of the Counts of La Florida in Teruel cathedral, Aragon.2 An image of Saint Michael from that work, flanking the altarpiece’s central compartment, makes a convincing comparison with the present piece, which, given the three-quarter aspect of the saint, is also likely to have formed part of a large, multi-panelled retable for a south-eastern Aragonese church. Another panel of similar format showing Saint Bartholomew has been connected to the present work (formerly private collection, Seville), as well as a Saint Catherine now in the sacristy of the church of Ródenas (Teruel).3 The Teruel cathedral panel was dated somewhat later than the present work by José Camón Aznar, while more recently, Velasco Gonzàlez has proposed a dating for both of about 1460–73.4
The Maestro de los Florida has been linked both to a certain Juan del Villar,5 and more convincingly to Juan de Bonilla. First documented as working in Teruel, Juan de Bonilla is known to have collaborated with leading painters from elsewhere in Aragon, including Miguel Ximénez of Zaragosa and the great Bartolomé Bermejo, whose earliest documented painting housed today at the National Gallery, London, is arguably the most masterful treatment of this subject in Spanish Renaissance painting.
We are grateful to Dr Antoni José i Pitarch, Professor in Art History, Universitat de Barcelona, for endorsing the attribution to the Maestro de los Florida on the basis of a photograph.
1 F. Mañas Ballestín, Pintura gótica aragonesa, Zaragosa 1979, pp. 156–58.
2 For an in-depth study of the Coronation altarpiece, see T. Mezquita Mesa, ‘El retablo hispano-flamenco de La Coronación (Catedral de Teruel)’, Teruel: Revista del Instituto de Estudios Turolenses, 1982, 67, pp. 73–118.
3 Velasco Gonzàlez in London and Madrid 2019–20, p. 107.
4 J. Camón Aznar, Pintura medieval Española, Madrid 1966, p. 545; and Velasco Gonzàlez in London and Madrid 2019–20, p. 107.
5 C.L. de la Vega, Identificación de Juan del Villa como ‘Maestro de la Florida’, Teruel 1974.