Highlights of paintings in our collection from the 15th and 16th century include:
Sassetta, Stefano di Giovanni (1392-1450) A Miracle of the Eucharist, C.1425, tempera and gold on panel
Purchased from the Duke of Lucca’s sale at Christies in 1840, the panel was part of the predella (lower panel) , of the altarpiece which was commissioned from the wool-merchants guild of Siena, the Arte della Lana. The polyptych was commissioned for the feast of Corpus Christi.A Carmelite brother, about to receive communion sacrilegiously, has been struck dead and his soul is being snatched away by the devil.
Domenikos Theotokopoulos El Greco (1541- 1614) The Tears of Saint Peter, c. 1580, oil and tempera on canvas
This is the first of several editions of the subject by El Greco. Purchased (reluctantly) from Gogue in 1869 by John Bowes for 200 francs (about £8). Formally part of the collection of the Conde di Quinto, St Peter is sitting with his hands clasped together in front of his chest and looking upwards, in the background is the figure of Mary Magdalene with an angel seated on the tomb of Christ.
Master of the Virgo inter Virgines (c.1483-c.1498) Crucifixion Altarpiece, 1490s, oil on panel
The painting was purchased from the Duke of Lucca’s sale at Christies in 1840.
In the left panel of this triptych Christ carries the cross, helped by Simon of Cyrene on his way to the hill of Calvary. The central panel shows Christ between two thieves receiving a sponge soaked in vinegar. In the right panel Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are helped by others to take Christ’s body from the cross for burial. This painting has been described as one of the most important examples of Dutch primitive painting in a British collection.
Carreño de Miranda (1614-1685), Belshazzar's Feast, c.1647, oil on canvas
Purchased from the collection of the Conde de Quinto in 1862.
The gold and silver sacred vessels, looted by Belshazzar's father from the Temple in Jerusalem were used on the tables at a banquet. During the feast there appeared a man's hands writing Mene, Mene, Tezel, Upharsin on the wall. Daniel interpreted their meaning which referred to the punishment of Belshazzar for blasphemy and to the fall of his kingdom.
Carreño illustrates a mastery of perspective, light effects and use of colour, as well as knowledge of the work of Titian and Rubens. The warm colours and shimmering light introduce the characteristics of Madrid School painting - light brushwork, fine colour, incorporeal forms, atmospheric space - both sensuous and spiritual at the same time.