Altarpiece of Saint Vincent by Bernat Martorell

Altarpiece of Saint Vincent by Bernat Martorell
Altarpiece of Saint Vincent by Bernat Martorell

Bernat Martorell was an important Catalan painter of the 15th century, with works as outstanding as his Wedding at Cana. The exact date of birth of the artist is not known, although it is knows that he was active from 1427 to 1452, the year of his death. A period in which he enjoyed considerable prestige inCatalonia, where he did not lack commissions.


Saint Vincent Altarpiece by Bernat Martorell

Proof of this is this retable of Saint Vincent painted on board and currently on display at the National Art Museum of Cataloniain Barcelona. Although it was originally found in a small hermitage near the town of Balaguer, although historians suggest that it was made for the Cistercian monastery of Poblet, where one of its chapels was dedicated to this saint. In addition to the fact that the hermitage where it was found was owned by said monastery.

On the other hand, its dimensions and quality are typical of a construction of more substance than a simple hermitage.

The altarpiece is complete. In its lower part is the bench or predella with scenes from the life of Jesus separated by columns and sheltered under highly decorated arches, typical of the International Gothic style in which we can circumscribe Bernat Martorell. These five scenes are the Arrest, Jesus before Pilate, the Flagellation, the Improper and the Via Dolorosa.

On this bench there is a tall body whose central table is occupied by the image of Saint Vincent, which is surrounded by four scenes of his life and martyrdom. And as a finale at the top is the Virgin of Mercy who literally shelters Saint Benedict and Saint Bernard under her cloak, Cistercian saints par excellence, in addition to other royal characters with which patronage and donations are alluded to. who received the Císter by the monarchy that ruled in the Crown of Aragon.

Without going any further, the monastery of Poblet had received in the 13th century the donation from King Jaime I of a temple to the outside the city of Valencia where Saint Vincent is supposed to have been martyred. A tremendously bloody martyrdom as it is presented to us in the tables, where it is graphically recounted how Saint Vincent was burned on the grill and was also crucified on a cross in the shape of a cross. Some scenes that are shown to us quite realistically and with all their crudeness, although as usual at the time, the holy protagonist resists all those sufferings in a quite stoic way, setting an example for the faithful and reinforcing the message that something awaits him. better in the afterlife.

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