Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

British Museum (London, United Kingdom)
Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, United States of America)

Alternate Titles:

Retablo de Juana la Loca, Retablo de Simon Bening, Retabel Johannas der Wahnsinnigen, Retabel von Simon Bening, Retable de Jeanne la Folle, Retablo di Giovanna la Pazza, Retábulo de Joana a Louca

Facsimile edition
Our price (like new)
$ 1,050
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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Retablo de Juana la Loca
Retablo de Simon Bening
Retabel Johannas der Wahnsinnigen
Retabel von Simon Bening
Retable de Jeanne la Folle
Retablo di Giovanna la Pazza
Retábulo de Joana a Louca

Type
Extent / Format

9 single leaves under wooden frame / 41.0 x 34.0 cm

Origin
Date
16th century
Style
Genre
Artist / School

Simon Bening

Former owners

Juana la Loca

Short description

This work in extraordinary form offers a totally new style of manuscript art through the artistic talents of Simon Bening. Under the patronage of the important Joanna I of Castile, he finished 9 singular parchment pages, with wonderful wooden framework merged with a retable. These pages show scenes from the Live of Christ, from the proclamation of his birth up until his crucifixion. With fine painting and filled with bright colors, the contained miniatures count among the best products of 16th Century Flemish Art.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

This work in extraordinary form offers a totally new style of manuscript art through the artistic talents of Simon Bening. Under the patronage of the important Joanna I of Castile, he finished 9 singular parchment pages, with wonderful wooden framework merged with a retable. These pages show scenes from the Live of Christ, from the proclamation of his birth up until his crucifixion. With fine painting and filled with bright colors, the contained miniatures count among the best products of 16th Century Flemish Art.

A Fateful Life

The miniatures of the retables are connected with the name of Joanna I of Castile, whose fateful life is still deeply tangible today. Joanna I of Castile (1479-1555), with the byname of ”The Mad”, ruled as Queen of Castile, the central territory of a huge empire, which comprised of Naples-Sicily through all of Iberia, stemming then across the Atlantic to the New World discoveries. She was married to Phillip “The Handsome”of Austria, who was himself the son of Emperor Maximilian I. Through this marriage, Austria and Spain’s might was combined under the Habsburg-Empire. Joanna’s name is essentially connected with all of the important figures of her time. Her brother Don Juan was later married to Phillip’s sister, Margarete of Austria, and Joanna’s son reigned as Emperor Charles V over the combined territory of Spain and Austria. She received her byname on the grounds of her fervid temperament and jealously, which plagued her in nervous fits throughout the rest of her life. After the death of Phillip, she was confined for 40 years in house-arrest in the Castle of Tordesillas near Valladolid.

Extraordinary Painting in an Unusual Frame

The wonderful Gouache on parchment are not typical hand drawn illustrations, but rather are embedded in a golden-leafed frame. In of this manner, a small, artful Retable came into being. With these Retables, sculptures, paintings, and an embroidered Altar are shown. Hence the artistic depictions of the Retables have biblical or generally sacred stories. The Retable of Joanna follows along this principle, as well. Simon Bening’s miniatures of the life of Christ offer the possibility to see and experience biblical stories in fantastic depth.

From the best Book Painter of his Time

The Flemish painter of the miniatures, Simon Bening, was the most successful and well-known Miniaturist of his time, and is generally accepted to be one the most important representatives of his subject. In the 16th Century, he completed works for many of the greats: from the kingly patron Charles V, as well as many costumers from the high aristocracy, whose names still reverberate today. The Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, to name an example. The indisputable master of book painting of the 16th Century, he completed above all Books of Hours, but also enealogic Family Trees, famously exemplified by the one he painting for Royal Families of Portugal and Spain.

An Exceptional Style

The Retable for Joanna I of Castile is gathered within a 34 x 41 cm frame and contained nine wonderfully fine and striking depictions of the life of Christ. Beginning with the Annunciation scene of Mary searching for a place to stay, the birth of Christ is the first depicted story. After which one can see Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the flagellation, and finally his Crucifixion. In the lower register of the painting, one can see an illustration of Christ’s resurrection before a group of followers.
Simon Bening aimed to make the biblical stories appear exciting. For example, in his depiction of the Annunciation, there are columns surrounding an interior room laid out in a clever fashion. The heavenly Angels with their wonderful, golden wings surprise the prayerful Mary as they suddenly appeared.
In addition to the architectural backgrounds, some of the scenes take place in the freedom of the outdoors. With these extend depictions of beautiful landscape, featuring fine or gnarled trees, lush green grass, and sloping hills. The detailed and creative design of the scenery is truly a marvel to look at. Simon Bening joined many typical attributes of 16th Century Flemish art within this impressive miniature of the Altarpiece of Joanna of Castile.

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