Fernando Gallego and his Studio, The Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo: Supper in the House of Simon, c. 1488; oil and tempera on panel. Lent by the University of Arizona Museum of Art, Tucson. Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation
DALLAS, TX.-The Meadows Museum presents the exhibit Fernando Gallego and His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo until July 27. The monumental altarpiece from the cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo by Fernando Gallego and Maestro Bartolomé is among the greatest artistic treasures created in medieval Iberia. Painted between 1480 and 1500 in the Castilian province of Salamanca, its 26 panels visualize Christian history from Creation to the Last Judgment. The work is now part of the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson. Since 2003, when the Meadows Museum initiated the altarpiece study, At the Meadows (Spring 2006 and Fall 2007) has kept our members abreast of the progress of this unprecedented undertaking, which involved close collaboration among scholars at the Kimbell Art Museum, the Getty Research Institute, and Madrid's Prado Museum. Last year the technical and art historical research concluded. This spring the Meadows Museum celebrates the project's culmination with a unique exhibition that features not only the paintings, but also the study. All 26 altarpiece panels are displayed on a curved wall in the central of the Jake and Nancy Hamon spaces. To emphasize the new scholarship, much of which was aimed at gaining insight into Gallego's and Bartolomé's workshop practices as well as identifying which artist completed each panel, the paintings are organized by artist rather than narrative subject matter. To the left side of the entrance, Gallego's works appear; to the right are Maestro Bartolomé's pieces. Presiding over the space, in the center of the wall, is Bartolomé's Chaos, flanked by The Temptation and The Creation of Eve. Although the altarpiece's inscription dates it to 1480-88, these three panels are the only ones that were added later, after 1493; their apocalyptic iconography is derived from a book called the Nuremberg Chronicle, which was printed that year in Germany. The paintings attributed to Fernando Gallego and his workshop, complete the altarpiece's narrative panels and highlight the individualized style and technique of the artists in Gallego's workshop who nevertheless worked in union to create a single, harmonious work of art. The three paintings from the predella (bottom row of the altarpiece) are the most accomplished, lavishly gilded, and representative of Gallego's artistic gifts. They are installed individually on specially-built pedestals. Their exceptional quality results from their original location in the bottom of the altarpiece because they are closest to eye level and to the altar. Each painting depicts two apostles. Although only three panels survive, a total of six - to accommodate all 12 of Christ's disciples - seem certain to have existed in the original altarpiece. Each saint's animated, individualized personality represents Fernando Gallego at his absolute best; these works are featured prominently in the center of the gallery. Wall text guides viewers through the display and introduces them to the artistic personalities who created the vibrant altarpiece. Complementing the central gallery paintings, all remaining spaces are devoted to the altarpiece's technical analysis. Fifteen full-sized infrared reflectogram mosaics (eight by Gallego, seven by Bartolomé) are installed on light boxes, illuminating the artists' underdrawings for the first time. Here the method used to reveal the preparatory sketches and an analysis of each painter's drawing technique are explained in illustrated text panels. Other galleries highlight the often significant compositional changes made between underdrawings and paintings, as artists developed their images, along with issues of style and attribution. The Kimbell Art Museum's conservation studio, where the technical analysis was conducted, is explored using photographs of the scientific equipment and other tools utilized in the study to acquaint viewers with the technology of art conservation. By exploring the altarpiece creators' artistic personalities using the latest technology and fresh art historical research, this exhibition offers a more comprehensive look at the Ciudad Rodrigo altarpiece than ever - opening new perspectives on Gothic painting in Spain - and inspires a revived appreciation for the individual talents involved in its production.
The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo