A Spanish born painter, sculptor and architect, Alonso González de Berruguete is an important figure of the Spanish Renaissance. His expressive depictions of religious torment and ecstasy garnered him the reputation as the Michelangelo of Spain. He gave much more attention to the emotion and passion of his work than to the formal techniques. This placed him in frequent comparison to his contemporaries of the Mannerist school of painting.
His work in fact was greatly influenced by Michelangelo, as he studied under the Italian master while in Florence. This was after abandoning his career in law, even though his father Pedro Berruguete was a painter, and pursued his love of painting and art. Though it was through his studies under Michelangelo that Berruguete found his talent in sculpting.
During these formative years in Florence, Berruguete befriended artists such as Andrea del Sarto and Bandinelli, and gained a reputation alongside contemporaries such as Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino. While working and completing various unfinished pieces left by other artists in Italy, his definitive years began upon his return home to Spain. He fully exercised his influence from Michelangelo in an alabaster relief for the Valencia Cathedral, titled the Resurrection (1517). In many ways, Berruguete helped carry the Italian Renaissance into Spain.
He found patronage in 1520 under the Emperor Charles V, as the court painter and years later as a scribe for the court in Valladolid. His resulting social advances brought him great wealth, which culminated two years before his death when he acquired the entire village of Ventosa, offered to him by the regent of Portugal, Princess Juana. All the while, Berruguete still produced masterful works that triggered much reaction and discussion from audiences. His finest painting work was in the church of Ventosa, but also in the cathedral of Palencia.
One of his greatest altarpieces was created for the Monastery of S. Benito in Valladolid, the home of his studio and palace as well. Fragments of the altarpiece are now in the Valladolid Museum. His other work under Charles V, included much completed in the Palace of El Pardo and in the Alhambra, both in Madrid. He also sculpted an altar and tomb in the church of Santa Engracia and several sculptures for the cathedral of Toledo. It was here and around other structures in Toledo that he produced some of his greatest sculpting in bronze and marble, even into old age. This was seen when he completed, at the age of eighty, a monument in Toledo of the Cardinal Archbishop Juan de Tavera at the hospital of St. John the Baptist.
As an artist of great personal wealth, Berruguete never had to appease his clients, allowing for his highly impassioned work. While he worked with a number of apprentices who carried out work for his later pieces, the artist’s distinct style was apparent and no less expressive.
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