Saturday 6 July 2019


Regular readers will know how much I enjoy the little exhibitions mounted in the National Gallery's Room 1 (to the left of the main stairs) – so much preferable to the blockbusters (especially if they're in the basement galleries). The latest exhibition in Room 1 is a gem, showcasing the Spanish 15th-century master Bartolomeo Bermejo.
  Little is known for sure about this extraordinary painter, and few of his works survive (around 20 in total). Seven of them have been assembled for the National Gallery's exhibition, four of which are a set, so the focus is on three large paintings, each of which is a masterpiece – the National's own Saint Michael Triumphs over the Devil, the star of the show (and all the brighter after a year of restoration), the Triptych of the Virgin of Montserrat from Alessandria in Italy, and Bermejo's last documented work, the newly restored Despla Pieta from Barcelona, which has never before left Spain.
  These are all stunning pieces of work, real jaw-droppers (as are the set of four, come to that), displaying complete mastery of the oil glaze technique perfected by the Flemish masters, a brilliant use of colour and exquisite rendition of textures and materials and the play of light on them, as well as fine naturalistic portraiture in the Flemish style, vivid background landscapes and minutely observed wild flowers. Each painting invites long, close attention, and repays it in sheer aesthetic delight – and amazement that any Spanish artist of the 15th century could have painted like this. Do go and see it if you get a chance – it's on till the end of September.


  1. Wonderful paintings. Seeing the bespectacled St Jerome in the Pieta reminds me of a visit to Treviso I made in 2016 from Venice. I saw in the Basilica San Nicolo the first recorded depiction in western art of someone (Cardinal Hugo of Provence) wearing glasses.

  2. Thanks Guy – I'd never seen that...