This altarpiece comes from the royal monastery of Valldecrist, founded by Martin of Aragon. Commissioned by a courtier named Dalmau de Cervellón, it adorned an altar in the chapel where he was entombed. The center panel juxtaposes a celestial vision of the Trinity with the expulsion of the rebel angels from heaven. Saint Michael and his legion of angels cast a horde of demons into the jaws of a fiery Hell mouth. The side panels commemorate All Saints, whose ranks include prophets, patriarchs, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, and women saints. The whole is topped by lunettes depicting the Annunciation and Crucifixion.
Inscription: Inscribed with the names of patriarchs, prophets, and saints [some repainted and some interchanged]
Monastery of Valdecristo, Altura, Spain; Étienne Martin, baron de Beurnonville, Paris (until 1881; his sale, Pillet, Paris, May 9–16, 1881, no. 654, as by Jacopo da Casentino, "Peinture religieuse en trois Panneaux," for Fr 2,000); Monsieur E. Vaisse, Marseilles (until 1885; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 5–8, 1885, no. 445, as by Jacopo da Casentino, "Peinture religieuse en trois panneaux," for Fr 1,620); Edmond Foulc, Paris (until d. 1916); Foulc collection, Paris (1916–33; cat. 1927, no. 1, as "The Last Judgment," Valencian School, about 1400; sold to Wildenstein); [Wildenstein, Paris and New York, 1933–39; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Saints and Their Legends," March 1–June 6, 1974, exh. brochure.
Henri Leman. La collection Foulc: Objets d'art du moyen age et de la renaissance. Paris, 1927, vol. 1, n.p., no. 1; vol. 2, pl. 1, as "The Last Judgment," School of Valencia, about 1400.
[August L. ] M[ayer]. and [Otto] v[on]. F[alke]. "The Collection Foulc." Pantheon (October 1928), pp. 76, 492, ill. p. 496, attributes it to the Valencian school, which is "clearly proven" by the spelling of the Saints' names, and dates it to the early 15th century; notes that it was formerly considered Italian, and shows French and Catalan influences; based on the escutcheon, suggests it may have originated in the border-district of Lérida.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 4, The Hispano-Flemish Style in Northwestern Spain. Cambridge, Mass., 1933, part 2, pp. 594, 596–99, fig. 242, calls it a retable of St. Michael and All Saints, dated about 1420; compares it to the MMA Saint Giles retable [76.10], but attributes it to an unknown artist, perhaps a follower of Pere Nicolau and Marzal de Sas, though "possessing a style largely his own"; stresses the unusual iconographic interest over the "average grade" of its artistic quality; believes this retable was executed for the cathedral of Valencia since it portrays several saints with cults in Valencia; observes that it "resembles in certain ways the last gasp of Florentine Giottesque painting at the end of the Trecento, particularly in the harsh and garish color"; calls the right uppermost scene of the Annunciation "one of the spots where the artist has risen above his ordinary abilities".
Margaretta Salinger. "A Valencian Retable." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (November 1939), pp. 250–54, ill. (overall and detail), notes that on stylistic grounds it appears to be Valencian, from about 1420, but that its origin cannot be definitively established; comments that the lozenge on either side of the Trinity panel indicates the heraldic arms of an unmarried or widowed woman, probably a member of the Cervellon family of Catalonia; finds a distinct German element in rows of prophets and the Crucifixion; identifies the iconography as a depiction of the Trinity Adored by All Saints, noting that in the All Saints scenes represented in 15th-century manuscripts of St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, "a special place of honor at the right hand of God is reserved as in our painting for the Virgin".
barón de San Petrillo. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. October 4, 1939, is certain that the retable is not from the Cathedral of Valencia and reports that Saralegui thinks it may originate from Majorca; identifies the coat of arms as belonging to the Cervellon family.
Erwin Panofsky. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. September 12, 1939, confirms the theme of this altarpiece as all saints worshipping the trinity; sees the strong influence of very early Flemish style, about 1400, particularly in the peacock feathers of Saint Michael.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 212–14, ill. (detail), dates it about 1420 and observes that it has many of the German characteristics typical of early 15th-century art in Valencia.
Chandler R. Post. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. March 29, 1940, relates that a letter from Leandro de Saralegui traces this altarpiece to a chapel in the cloister of the now ruined monastery of Valdecristo in the region of Segorbe, under the patronage of the Counts of Cervellon.
Manuel Trens. María: Iconografía de la virgen en el arte español. Madrid, , p. 304, fig. 188, interprets its subject as a type of the Virgin of the Rosary.
Erwin Panofsky. Early Netherlandish Painting: Its Origins and Character. Cambridge, Mass., 1953, vol. 1, pp. 213, 445 n. 2 to p. 214, dates it about 1420; mentions it among altarpieces that depict The Adoration of the Trinity and observes that the vacant space opposite the Virgin Mary (on God's left) is standard in 15th-century City of God manuscripts.
Joaquín Yarza Luaces inLa pittura spagnola. Ed. Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Milan, 1995, vol. 1, p. 123, fig. 141, finds it closer to the Catalan than to the Valencian school, and tentatively attributes it to Ramón de Mur.
Fernando Benito Domenech and José Gómez Frechina. El retaule de sant Miquel Arcàngel del Convent de la Puritat de València: Una obra mestra del gòtic internacional. Valencia, 2006, p. 40, fig. 18 (detail), dates it about 1400 and states that it originally came from the Carthusian monastery of Valdecristo in Altura, Spain.
Matilde Miguel Juan. Retablos, prestigio y dinero: talleres y mercado de pintura en la Valencia del gótico internacional. Valencia, 2008, p. 63, fig. 9.
The original engaged triptych frame is from Northern Spain and dates to about 1400 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This intact Gothic framework is made of pine and has its original lap-joined construction and water-gilded surface on a red bole with a thick gesso layer. The four square columns support arches with leafy crockets and finials. Though virtually identical, the center molding profile and the carved crockets are slightly larger but lower than those on the two wings in order to create perspective. A lateral astragal divides the center lunette from corner spandrels which are decorated with painted stags and punchwork. A punchwork pattern in the gilding on the panels also ornaments the arches and the frieze across the base. The plinth on which it rests is a twentieth-century addition.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
This quite early, nearly intact, small-scale retable by an anonymous painter in Valencia or Catalonia exemplifies the influence exerted there by Marzal de Sas, a German painter who went to Spain sometime before 1394. The retable, like Hubert and Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece, is a type of illustration of the City of God (the New or Heavenly Jerusalem) described by Saint Augustine. The lateral lunettes show the Annunciation and that in the center depicts a symbolic Crucifixion, with implements of Christ's Passion. Beneath it the Trinity is represented in the form known as the Throne of Grace, with the Virgin Mary at the left (God's right) and a vacant space at the right (as in illuminations in City of God manuscripts). Coats of arms of the Catalonian family Cervellon are displayed in the spandrels of the arch over the Trinity. The lowest scene at the center shows Saint Michael triumphant over evil. The lateral panels are divided into five registers each with sixteen figures—eight to a side—identified by inscriptions overhead. (A craftsman other than the painter may have been responsible for the lettering as some of the saints and their names are interchanged. Some of the spellings are Valencian and others Catalan.) The first register depicts prophets and patriarchs (distinguished by their octagonal haloes) with John the Baptist, Christ's precursor, the innermost at the left. The second shows apostles and Evangelists; the third, martyrs; the fourth, monastic and ascetic saints with the four Church fathers and two patron bishops of Christendom; and the fifth, women saints. A few of the saints represented, notably Honoratus and Narcissus of Gerona, are peculiar to Valencia.