Bartolomé Bermejo at the National Gallery
As part of its Spanish season, the National Gallery is exhibiting a small yet splendid array of seven works from the 15th century Spanish artist Bartolomé Bermejo. Born in Cordoba, he has life-works that span over 30 years, his pieces existing to combine his own nomadic lifestyle with deistic representations and an acutely sensitive use of detailed and technical prowess.
Despite the painter’s prolific career, there are only around 20 surviving pieces. Six in this exhibition have never been seen outside of Spain and the seventh underwent recent scientific examination and conservation after being acquired by the National Gallery in 1995.
This recently restored masterpiece is titled Saint Michael Triumphs over the Devil (1468) and it remains at the very heart of the exhibition, giving visitors a wonderful example of the artist’s Netherlandish influences and realistic depictions of gilded armour, impossibly shiny jewels and richly coloured cloths. A monstrous creature emerges from under the portrait of this saint and the comical manner of the devilish creatures seems a reoccurring attribute through his other paintings seen here too.
A three-panel work forms Triptych of the Virgin Montserrat (circa: 1470-75), which appears on loan after being hung in its previous resting place at the Cattedrale di Nostra Signora Assunta and has suffered a slight searing to one of the panels from one of the church candles. Nonetheless, it is a brilliant example of Bermejo’s visionary depth. A serrated-edge, stone seat for the young virgin to sit upon, the legible inscriptions on the prayer book and the beautiful and sumptuous use of gold paint over the popular gilded relief frequently used by so many other artists of this time.
Each piece tells its own little story, with expressive, opulent painting that hides layers of ingenuity. Under-drawings are still faintly visible, and hidden religious symbolism lies within the landscapes and thunderous skies above. Bartolomé Bermejo was a hugely accomplished painter of the Spanish Renaissance and visitors will thoroughly enjoy the discoveries of his depth in this small-scale exhibition.
Featured Image: Detail from Bartolomé Bermejo, Desplà Pietà, 1490 © Catedral de Barcelona
Bartolomé Bermejo is at the National Gallery from 12th June until 29th September 2019. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.