Christ at the home of Martha and Mary

Gaspar Vaz1535-1540

Grão Vasco National Museum

Grão Vasco National Museum
Viseu, Portugal

Destined for the chapel of the Episcopal Palace of Fontelo, Viseu, this painting represents the Supper of Christ at the Home of Martha and Mary. Christ appears in the centre of the table, flanked by the commissioner of the painting, the Bishop Dom Miguel da Silva (whose coat of arms is represented on the plinths of the central columns), and by the apostles Peter and John. Martha, who symbolises the Active Life, and Mary, who symbolizes the Contemplative Life, are depicted in the foreground.
One of the most interesting aspects of this work is its relationship, established through the figure of Mary, with the engraving by Albrecht Dürer, "Melancholy I". Another engraving by the same German painter and engraver, "Prodigal Son", would have served as the inspiration for the architecture depicted in the distant landscape, which can be seen through two windows.
Visible through another opening on the right (a painting within the painting?) is a representation, in the foreground, of "St. Martha Taming the Dragon", an interesting interpretation of the Provençal legend, alluding to the saint to whom the chapel of the Episcopal Palace of Fontelo was dedicated.
According to this legend, Martha came to Marseilles with her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary, and began to spread the word of Christianity in this region, freeing Tarascon from a terrible dragon, by sprinkling it with holy water all the way to Arles.
Because of the figurative materials, which are clearly linked to the monumental altarpieces of Viseu Cathedral, albeit with notable mistakes in their structure and articulation, and also because of a series of details of a technical nature, mostly evident in the simplified treatment of the drapery and hands, this painting cannot be included in the creative universe of Vasco Fernandes, but must instead be attributed to that of his main collaborator, Gaspar Vaz.

Born in Viseu, Gaspar Vaz was trained in Lisbon at the workshop of the royal painter, Jorge Afonso, and was decisively influenced by Grão Vasco, with whom he collaborated on various projects.


  • Title: Christ at the home of Martha and Mary
  • Creator: Gaspar Vaz
  • Date Created: 1535-1540
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Location Created: Coming from the Chapel of the Episcopal Palace of Fontelo, Viseu
  • Physical Dimensions: 228 cm x 235 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on chestnut wood

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