An exhibition of more than one hundred works illustrates how art evolved in Aragon from the Gothic style favoured in the 15th century to the splendour of the Renaissance in the 16th century.
Section one of the show includes a small but valuable selection of works that reflect the influence of the international Gothic style and models from Flemish art. One outstanding sculpture is Pere Joan's Guardian angel in polychromed alabaster—an essential material in Gothic and Renaissance sculpture in Aragon. In painting, the panels Martyrdom of St. Engracia by Bartolomé Bermejo, in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum collection, the Descent attributed to Bartolomé Bermejo, in tandem with his disciple Martín Bernat, and The retable of the Holy Cross of Blesa, by Miguel Ximénez and Martín Bernat, are three fine examples of the heights these maestros were capable of.
The second section begins with a group of works that evidence the transition from the Gothic scheme of things to Renaissance ideals in a synthesis of the Flemish and Italian idioms. Contributions from the Museum of Zaragoza collection mean that the superb sculptor Damián Forment, one of the great figures of the Spanish Renaissance, is the artist best represented here. Particularly interesting are the St. Onuphrius and two Virtues, all in alabaster. In the early decades of the 16th century, the large group of sculptures by Forment and his disciples, together with others by contemporaries like Frenchman Gabriel Joly, the Italian Juan de Moreto and Aragon-born Gil Morlanes the Younger, consolidated the new style of the golden age of art in Aragon. Mostly executed in wood and alabaster, the sculptures and reliefs are generally polychromed pieces taken from retables. They undoubtedly set the standards and guidelines for the following generation.
Accompanying them are several works by the painter Jerónimo Cósida, one of the finest artists in Aragon at the time. After some early works influenced by Raphael, Cósida's Italianate style was particularly appreciated for its beautiful use of colour and the delicate modelling of the figures. Two Italian artists, Tomás Peliguet and Pietro Morone, well acquainted with the works of both Raphael and Michelangelo, introduced full-blown Renaissance forms in painting in Aragon through their contributions to retables and mural painting projects.
From 1570 on, the Rome-inspired new classicism appeared in the late stage of sculpture in Aragon. A major figure here was Basque sculptor Juan de Anchieta, who, in his monument entitled Christ for the church of the Hospital de Gracia and his Calvary, in the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum collection, synthesized the treatment of the nude as developed by Michelangelo with the emotional expressionism of Juan de Juni. Anchieta was an excellent maestro in the carvings for Christ Crucified, which ushered in the shift in the models used for this iconography in art in Aragon.
The interest of Martín de Gurrea y Aragón, Duke of Villahermosa, in the genre of the portrait is typical of Renaissance civilization. Highly cultured, a collector of antiquities and paintings, in his time in the Low Countries, Villahermosa persuaded painters Paul Scheppers and Roland de Moys to work for him in Aragon. The works of these two Flemish artists, who had previously visited Italy, signalled the main guidelines for painting in Aragon as the Renaissance drew to a close.