These panels, from an altarpiece for the Valencian church of San Juan del Hospital, are among the earliest works of Miguel Alcañiz, an artist whose style is marked by the presence of Gherardo Starnina during the 1390s. The influence of Starnina’s lyrical Florentine manner on that of the younger Spanish painter is unmistakable, especially in the brightly colored scenes of Christ casting demons from heaven and sending his apostles to evangelize the world. These unusual depictions of spiritual conquest are fitting subjects for a church of the Hospitallers, an order of monk-knights dedicated to both warfare and charity.
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Fig. 1. Altarpiece reconstruction
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Title:Saint Giles with Christ Triumphant over Satan and the Mission of the Apostles
Artist:Miguel Alcañiz (or Miquel Alcanyís) (Spanish, Valencian, active by 1408–died after 1447)
Medium:Tempera on wood, gold ground
Dimensions:Overall 59 5/8 x 39 1/2 in. (151.4 x 100.3 cm); upper left panel, painted surface 24 1/8 x 16 7/8 in. (61.3 x 42.9 cm); lower left panel, painted surface 24 5/8 x 16 7/8 in. (62.5 x 42.9 cm); right panel, painted surface 46 1/8 x 16 7/8 in. (117.2 x 42.9 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of J. Bruyn Andrews, 1876
Inscription: Inscribed: (upper left, on scrolls) ·iste·e[st]·d[omi]n[v]s·rex·glori[a]e· / ·et dominvs·fortis·inp[rae]lio (This is the Lord, King of glory, and the Lord mighty in battle [Psalms 24:8].); (lower left) ·hite·per·vniversvm·mvndvm· / ·p[rae]dicate·evangelivm·o[mn]i·creatvr[a]e· (Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature [Mark 16:15].)
J. Bruyn Andrews (by 1875–76)
Alfred Woltmann and Karl Woermann. Geschichte der Malerei: Die Malerei des Mittelalters. Ed. Morton H. Bernath. 1916, p. 224, fig. 320, call these panels French and date them 1400–30; identify the saint as Benedict.
Cecil Bruyn Andrews. "The Valencia Altar-piece from the Priory of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem." Connoisseur 59 (January–April 1921), pp. 146–48, ill. pp. 146 and 148 (details), partly reconstructs the altarpiece and calls it Valencian.
Tancred Borenius. A Catalogue of the Pictures, Etc. at 18 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, Collected by Viscount and Viscountess Lee of Fareham. Vol. 2, [Oxford], 1926, p. vi, no. 71, ill., considers the altarpiece to be by a Florentine artist active in Valencia—perhaps the Master of the Bambino Vispo—and dates it about 1400.
Walter Hugelshofer. "Eine Gruppe valencianischer Gemälde um 1400: Ein Beitrag zur spanischen Malerei." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst 62 (1928–29), p. 142, ill., attributes the altarpiece to Pedro Nicolau; notes its similarity to panels of Saint Michael in the museum in Lyons and to the work of Marzal de Sas.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 3, Cambridge, Mass., 1930, pp. 83–89, fig. 280, comments on the iconographic peculiarities of the altarpiece; reconstructs its form, notes the Italian traits of the Ascension in particular but considers the rest to show the influence of Marzal de Sas and Nicolau; dates it about 1420.
Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. Catalogue of Paintings (14th and 15th centuries) in the Collection of the Hispanic Society of America. New York, 1930, pp. 21–34, ill, p. 25, reconstructs the altarpiece; notes that in 1400 a retable by Pedro Nicolau for the church of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem is mentioned, and that the present altarpiece is Valencian, came from that church, and is at least by a follower of Nicolau about 1400; identifies the coats of arms on the Noli Me Tangere as possibly of the family of Armengol.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 4, The Hispano-Flemish Style in Northwestern Spain. Cambridge, Mass., 1933, part 2, pp. 584, 590–600, maintains that the altarpiece is by a follower of Pere Nicolau and probably not identical with that mentioned in 1400; attributes panels from an altarpiece of Saint Michael in Lyons to the same hand.
Leandro de Saralegui. Archivo de arte valenciano 19 (1933), pp. 34 ff., attributes it to the painter responsible for the retable of the Holy Cross (Museo de San Carlos, Valencia), whom he calls a follower of Pedro Nicolau.
Leandro de Saralegui. Archivo de arte valenciano 22 (1936), p. 36, demonstrates that the altarpiece was painted for a side chapel in the church of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem.
barón de San Petrillo. "Filiación histórica de los primitivos valencianos." Archivo español de arte y arqueología 12 (1936), pp. 248–51, pl. II, identifies the coat of arms on the Noli Me Tangere as those of Vicente Gil, and thinks that the altarpiece dates around 1428, when Gil made his will.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 7, The Catalan School in the Late Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass., 1938, part 2, pp. 790–93, dubs the artist the Gil Master, listing other works from the same hand; dates ours about 1428.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 214–15, ill., attributes these panels to an unknown Valencian painter of the early 15th century.
Roberto Longhi. "Fatti di Masolino e di Masaccio." Critica d'arte, part 2, 25–26 (July–December 1940), p. 183 n. 2, considers this altarpiece and other works attributed by Post to the Gil Master to be by the Master of the Bambino Vispo when he was in Spain, or by assistants of his.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 8, The Aragonese School in the Late Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass., 1941, part 2, pp. 648–49, dates the altarpiece to the early years of the 15th century and considers it possible that the Gil Master could also be the Master of the Bambino Vispo, though only if that Master were not Italian.
Leandro de Saralegui. "Pedro Nicolau." Boletin de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones 50 (1942), pp. 118–23, suggests that the Gil Master may be Miguel Alcañiz, lists a group of cognate works, and notes the influence of Marzal de Sas.
Leandro de Saralegui. "Comentarios sobre algunos pintores y pinturas de Valencia." Archivo español de arte y arqueología 26 (1953), pp. 237–42, suggests that the Gil Master may be Miguel Alcañiz.
Leandro de Saralegui. El Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes de San Carlos. 1954, pp. 115–17, identifies the Gil Master with Miguel Alcañiz and notes affinities with Marzal de Sas.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 92.
Leandro de Saralegui. Archivo de arte valenciano 27 (1956), pp. 28 ff., figs. 62–64 (details), identifies the artist as Alcañiz and suggests an alternate reconstruction for the altarpiece based on the mistaken notion that the two scenes of Christ Triumphant over Satan and the Mission of the Apostles did not originally form a unit with the Saint Gil.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 12, The Catalan School in the Early Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass., 1958, part 2, pp. 597–98, accepts Saralegui's identification of the Gil Master with Alcañiz.
A. de Bosque. Artistes Italiens en Espagne: du XIVme siècle aux rois catholiques. Paris, 1965, pp. 57, 62 ff., ill. p. 78, attributes the altarpiece to the Master of the Bambino Vispo, but considers the hands and face of Saint Gil to be later; dates it about 1420.
Chandler Rathfon Post. A History of Spanish Painting. Vol. 13, The Schools of Aragon and Navarre in the Early Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass., 1966, pp. 310–15, affirms that the Gil Master is Alcañiz and not the Master of the Bambino Vispo.
Miklós Boskovits. "Il Maestro del Bambino Vispo: Gherardo Starnina o Miguel Alcañiz." Paragone 26, no. 307 (1975), p. 6, accepts the altarpiece as by Alcañiz, whom he identifies as the Master of the Bambino Vispo.
M. H. Dubrueil. "Importance de la peinture valencianne autour de 1400." Archivo de arte valenciano 46 (1975), p. 19, accepts the altarpiece as by Alcañiz, whom he thinks was trained by Starnina (i.e., for him the Master of the Bambino Vispo), and dates them about 1428.
Fiorella Sricchia Santoro. "Sul soggiorno spagnolo di Gherardo Starnina e sull'identità del 'Maestro del Bambino vispo'." Prospettiva 6 (July 1976), p. 29 n. 52, attributes the altarpiece to Alcañiz but notes that his chronology is still very uncertain.
Antonio Jose Pitarch. "Pintura gótica Valenciana." PhD diss., Universitat de Barcelona, 1981, pp. 18, 23–24, proposes Pere Nicolau as the author of the retable of Saints Giles and Vincent, observing that it may be the work mentioned in a document of December 16, 1400; attributes to Pere Nicolau all works associated with this retable.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 148, ill.
Antoni José i Pitarch. Letter to Dulce Roman. January 14, 1998, rejects the attribution to Alcañiz and suggests calling the artist "Master of the Retable of the Holy Cross"; believes two or three artists were responsible for the retable at the church of San Juan, Valencia, from which this painting originates: one for the central panel of the Ascension, a second for the panels of Saints Giles and Vincent and the predella; a third for the scenes of angels and apostles.
Antoni José i Pitarch. Letter to Dulce Román. January 14, 1998, rules out an attribution to Alcañiz on stylistic grounds, dates it no later than 1410, and suggests an attribution, for the moment, to the "Maestro del retablo de la Santa Cruz" (after an altarpiece in the Museu de Sant Pius V, Valencia [Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia (they attribute their retablo to Alcañiz)]; at the same time suggests that the altarpiece divided between the Metropolitan and the Hispanic Society is the work of at least two, and more likely three, separate artists.
José Gómez Frechina inMuseu de Belles Arts de València: Obra selecta. Valencia, 2004, p. 28.
José Gómez Frechina inEl retablo de San Martín, Santa Úrsula y San Antonio abad: Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia. [Madrid?], 2004, p. 60.
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, pp. 45, 66 n. 77.
Together with an Ascension, a Saint Vincent, an Entombment, a Noli Me Tangere (all Hispanic Society, New York), and a Flagellation (now lost), these panels have been identified with a retable from the church of San Juan del Hospital (the church of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem) in Valencia, where they were purchased by J. Bruyn Andrews (the pieces cited above passed to Andrews's son, C. B. Andrews, and thence to Viscount and Viscountess Lee of Fareham prior to acquisition by the Hispanic Society). The coats of arms (gules, a griffon rampant or) are those of Vicente Gil, who probably commissioned the retable and whose will dates from 1428. Two masters seem to have been involved. One was almost certainly Miguel Alcañiz. The other, author of the central Ascension, was probably the Master of the Bambino Vispo, who, according to the most recent hypothesis, is to be identified as Gherardo Starnina (born about 1354, died before 1413).
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