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MADRID, 1 June 2005 óThe Museo del Prado received the formal assignation of Juan de Flandesí painting The Crucifixion in a meeting last week led by Spanish Minister of Culture Carmen Calvo and the President of Grupo Ferrovial, SA, one of Spain's largest engineering and construction companies. The panel, a masterpiece of Hispano-Flemish painting and within the oeuvre of this painter, was in a private collection. It was acquired some months ago by Ferrovial to be donated in lieu of taxes amounting to 7 million Euros. For the next two weeks, the painting will be on view in the Adriadne Rotunda of the Museum (room 74) before it is sent to the Museumís restoration department where it will be cleaned.

Juan de Flandes was born and trained in Flanders. He is known from the works that he produced from 1496, when he arrived in Castile and became court painter to Isabella the Catholic.  After the death of the queen in 1504, Juan de Flandes remained in Castile but had to adapt to the demands of new commissions for major altarpieces of larger scale and in greater quantity than the works he had previously executed as court painter. Dating from this last period of his career are the paintings for the high altar of the chapel of Salamanca University (almost all lost), for the chapel of San Miguel in the cloister of the old cathedral in Salamanca, for the high altar of the church of San LŠzaro, and for the high altar of Palencia cathedral. Comissioned in December 1509, The Crucifixion formed part of the latter work.

The early Netherlandish painter conceived three panels for the large-scale predella: Christ on the Route to Calvary, The Burial of Christ, and The Crucifixion in the centre. Together they formed a sort of triptych, which was highly unusual in an altarpiece of this type due to its horizontal format. The three scenes were larger and different to the other panels that the artist painted for the altarpiece due to their extraordinary luminosity and pictorial quality and for the originality of the compositions. The Crucifixion was the focus of attention in the whole altarpiece as it was the most visible part and closest to the priest and the worshipper. Along with the other two scenes (still in the cathedral), it can be considered Juan de Flandesí last great work, totally different to other paintings of this period after he had ceased to be court painter. Juan de Flandes died in 1519.         

Juan de Flandes: The Crucifixion, c. 1519
Oil on panel, 122 cm x 169 cm

In The Crucifixion the figures are structured in a semi-circle to draw attention to the crucified Christ, emphasised by a broad landscape dominated by the intense sky. The composition has a remarkable compositional complexity rarely found in Hispano-Flemish painting due to the masterly way in which the artist combines three elements rarely found in other works of this school and period: figures, landscape and still life. Also worth noting is the manner in which the artist conceived the space, using a low viewpoint that recalls the compositions of Andrea Mantegna (1430/31-1506), and his manner of arranging the figures, which gives the work its Italianate air. Only the Virgin and a few followers remain around the body of Christ, along with the other characters who converted after his death. The first group, comprising Mary, Saint John, Mary Magdalen and the two Holy Women, occupy the left side of the panel, while notable on the right among the second group is the centurion on horseback behind Christ and the soldier in the foreground.  He stands with his back to the viewer and wears contemporary armour. Particularly striking is the interest paid by Juan de Flandes to the representation of the emotions of each character and the great attention to detail, such as Christís long hair, the trappings of the centurionís horse and the skulls, as well as the jewels scattered on the ground at the foot of the cross. 

Museo del Prado Web Site

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