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BARTOLOME BERMEJO

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SAINT ENGRACIA, ABOUT 1474

About the Artwork

Richly dressed in gold brocade and with a cloak trimmed in ermine, Saint Engracia stands before a throne. Engracia was thought to be a fourth-century Portuguese princess who was brutally tortured by the Roman proconsul of the city of Zaragoza. The cult of Engracia became especially popular in Aragon. Bermejo depicts the saint wearing a crown and holding a nail, one of the instruments of her torture; in her other hand is the palm frond which signifies a martyr saint.

This painting was the central panel of an altarpiece. The surrounding works illustrated episodes from the life of Engracia (now in San Diego, Bilbao, and Daroca). The altarpiece was commissioned by a wealthy merchant named Johan de Loperuelo for a chapel in the church of San Francisco in Daroca. Bermejo was profoundly influenced by the oil paint technique of Netherlandish painting, which he in turn was instrumental in transmitting to other Spanish artists.

Source: Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 157

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