Combined with the temporary exhibition of gothic paintings Fernando Gallego and His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo—Paintings from the University of Arizona Museum of Art (March 30–July 27, 2008), this exhibition of medieval and early renaissance paintings on long-term loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston constitutes one of the greatest assemblies of medieval Spanish art in the country, providing a broader chronological and geographic context for the Ciudad Rodrigo altarpiece.
The Middle Ages is among Iberia's richest artistic periods, one in which diverse cultures, shifting politics, and seemingly combative faiths produced unprecedented objects of beauty with unparalleled harmony. In the 10th through 15th centuries, power was fragmented across the peninsula, including the caliphate in Córdoba, less unified Islamic and Christian territories, and the Christian kingdoms of Aragón and Castile. When Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon-the "Catholic monarchs"-married in the mid 15th-century, Spain was united under one crown. By the late 1400s, Isabel and Ferdinand's jurisdiction zealously extended to the Americas. The Middle Ages were shaped by the ebb and flow of ideas and artistic styles throughout Iberia, at times generated by diversity within its borders, at other times inspired by foreign influences.
Many Meadows collection artworks reflect the singular convivencia—productive coexistence—among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. A capital from the vast royal palace complex Madinat al-Zahra,' which Muslim Spain's Umayyad rulers built in the 10th century, demonstrates the intricate vegetal motifs and elegant Kufic-stylized Arabic script-characteristic of Islamic art. Works such as the late 14th-century Eucharistic cabinet from Cataluña, although a decidedly Christian object, features an Islamic-inspired mudéjar ornament of interlacing golden lines on its doors. A ceramic charger that is likely to have been produced in the early 16th century combines a traditionally Islamic Middle Eastern technique called lusterware; a Latin inscription from the first book of the Gospel of John indicates that Christians owned or commissioned the piece.
The Meadows collection also contains distinguished panel paintings that may have formed parts of larger altarpieces. A beautifully gilded image of the fourth-century Cappadocian bishop Saint Blaise, by Aragonese painter Martín Bernat (active 1469–1497), complements a depiction of the same saint in the Altarpiece of Saint Peter—from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston's collection—by Martín de Soria (c. 1452–c.1487), a painter from Zaragoza. At one time the retablo mayor—main altarpiece—of a now unknown church, the work shows what Spanish altarpieces looked like intact, while emphasizing the unity achieved when individual images are combined. A Meadows collection panel by Juan Reixach (active 1413–1484) depicts Saint Vincent Ferrer (d. 1419), a roughly contemporary Dominican monk who was known for giving passionate and compelling speeches that led to mass conversions to Christianity. In this piece, the Valencian saint stands serene in front of a celestial background of delicately punched gold leaf. The elegant banderole that embraces him, however, provides a pointed reference to his life and times; its Latin inscription reads, "Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven and earth." (Revelation 14:7)
One of the Meadows collection's latest medieval paintings is an extraordinary panel, recently attributed to Francisco Gallego, titled Acacius and the 10,000 Martyrs on Mount Ararat. Francisco, a younger possible relative of Fernando Gallego, is known for his work in and around Salamanca; the panel likely was part of a larger altarpiece from that Castilian province. A stellar companion to the exhibition of the Ciudad Rodrigo altarpiece, in which Francisco Gallego participated in painting the Last Judgment panel, this display of 10th- to 15th-century treasures from the Meadows' holdings creates an ideal and unprecedented environment in which to study medieval Spain's art and culture.
HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Thursday until 9:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00-5:00 p.m. Closed Monday.
ADMISSION: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65 and over, $4 for non-SMU students. Free for Museum members, children under 12, and SMU faculty, staff and students. Free Thursday evenings after 5:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Meadows Museum, 5900 Bishop Blvd., Dallas, TX 75205
CONTACT US: 214.768.2516 or send us an e-mail.