Spanish Art

Renaissance: Bartolomé Bermejo

Bartolomé Bermejo, who has also been documented as Bartolomé de Cárdenas, was an early Renaissance Spanish painter who worked in the 15th Century. Although he was a Spanish painter, he is famous for using Flemish techniques of painting in order to produce his work.

Bartolomé Bermejo (c.1440 - c.1498)

Spanish Art - Bartolomé Bermejo

Due to the fact that Bartolomé Bermejo was born in the 15th Century, there is very little known about him due to the lack of surviving documentation from that period. However we do know that he was born in the Spanish city of Córdoba. The majority of his works can therefore be found in Kingdom of Aragon, meaning that he travelled across Spain completing commissions he received from various Spanish and foreign clients.

The first record of Bartolomé Bermejo's existence as a painter that we know about is a receipt that was made in Valencia when Bermejo was commissioned by a client named Antonio Juan in 1468 to paint the main altarpiece in the Church of Saint Michael in the town of Tous in Valencia. This work was in fact completed too, and the central section of the painting is now on display in the National Gallery in London.

During his lifetime, Bartolomé Bermejo also collaborated with another artist and one of his closest followers Martín Bernat, as well as other artists such as Miguel Ximénez. For example, the restoration of the polychromed altarpiece at the Cathedral of Zaragoza was a collaborative effort.

After this, Bartolomé Bermejo is recorded as having spent some time working as a painter in the town of Daroca, near Zaragoza, from around 1471 to 1477, although some historians believe that Bermejo could have been in the city earlier. Here he painted the main altarpiece at the Parish of Santo Domingo de Silos.

In 1477, Bermejo moved back to Zaragoza where he remained until the year of 1484. In the city of Zaragoza, Bartolomé Bermejo produced paintings for the Cathedrals of Salvador and Santa María del Pilar. Together with Martín Bernat, Bermejo painted the portrait of the Spanish merchant, Juan Lobera. Remaining records show that this painting was ordered in 1479, and was delivered to the client in 1484.

Spanish Art - Bartolomé Bermejo

Bartolomé Bermejo moved to Barcelona in roughly 1486. Here, Bermejo found himself in competition with another Spanish painter, Jaume Huguet, for the right to paint the organ doors in the Church of Santa María del Mar.

Bermejo continued to reside in Barcelona where he completed his last documented work, which was 'Santa Faz' for the Cathedral of San Pedro de Vic in 1498. It is therefore widely believed that Bartolomé Bermejo died shortly after this work was completed.

Art historians are not sure where Bartolomé Bermejo received his artistic training. However what is clear is that he used Flemish techniques that were popular during the 15th Century. Some people believe that Bermejo must have spent some time in the Southern part of the Netherlands, which today we know as Belgium, in order to study the Flemish techniques of painting with oil on canvas. However others believe that Bermejo may have picked up the styles and techniques in Spain as there was a high concentration of Dutch artists in Spain during this period.

Spanish Art - Bartolomé Bermejo

Bartolomé Bermejo was excellent at blending all the styles he had at his disposal. His works exhibit elements of Gothic painting as well as the styles of painting seen in both Spain and the Netherlands during the 15th Century. Even though Bermejo was born in Córdoba, his style is not linked to the Andalusian school of painting, but he is considered to be a better representative of the Aragonese school of painting.

Some of the key elements that should be highlighted in the paintings of Bartolomé Bermejo are the use of perspective, his meticulous attention to detail and his fantastic command of the oil he used to paint. The landscapes of his portraits are also deep and highly natural.

Today, there are three works which are undeniable attributable to Bartolomé Bermejo as they appear with his signature. These works are 'Saint Michael with Kneeling Donor' which is now on display in the National Gallery in London, the 'Triptych of the Virgin of Montserrat' now in the Cathedral of Acqui, and 'La Piedad'.

© Spanish Arts 2011