Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Nuno Goncalves

Altarpiece Panels of Saint Vincent
panel of the Archbishop  206 × 128.3 cm
panel of the Infants  206.4 × 128 cm
panels of the Fisherman  207 × 59.8 cm, and others
oil on panel
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, Portugal

Nuno Goncalves was a 15th-century Portuguese court painter for King Afonso V of Portugal. He was appointed the official painter for the city of Lisbon in 1471. Other than this information, very little is known of his life and the extent of his work, neither his birth or death dates are known, but documents of the time seems to indicate that he was active between 1450 and 1490. He is credited for the painting of the Panels of Saint Vincent. The panels depict the main elements of Portuguese society in the 15th century: clergy, nobility and common people. Panels of Saint Vicent is seen as the highest peak of Portuguese antique art. His work may be said to have initiated the Renaissance in Portuguese painting.

The Altarpiece consists of six panels, two large and four narrow ones, dominated by the figure of St. Vincent. In the large Panel of the Infante the saint is shown being venerated by a group of notables, among them Afonso V. In the other large panel, the Panel of the Archbishop, he is surrounded by clergy and knights. This remarkable portrait gallery of figures grouped in a medieval composition is a meditation on the pilgrimage of the souls of Christians on a voyage of discovery around their patron saint.

Since the discovery of the altarpiece panels in 1882 in the convent of Sao Vicente, there has been great dispute over the characters shown in the Panels. Even the claim that Prince Henry the Navigator appears in the third panel is still under debate.