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This altarpiece was originally painted for the chapel of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of Viseu Cathedral, located at the northern end of the transept.
In Pentecost, from the same series, the figures of the apostles in the foreground, St. Peter and St. John, are afforded an impressive visibility, through the scale and dramatic attitude with which they are depicted.
At the centre of the composition, framed by the vault that repeats the royal architecture of the Cathedral's famous Manueline ceiling of "knots" with an evident formal naivety, is the Virgin, accompanied by holy women and the remaining apostles. Objects of everyday use are to be found scattered here and there around the painting: a cupboard on which a candlestick without a candle has been placed, together with a jar and a pot. Beyond their probable symbolic value (the candlestick without a candle, for example, can be understood as reinforcing the idea of the presence of the divine light of the Holy Spirit), they are offered up to the gaze of the observer as if the painting itself were an extension of their own world.
This figurative model is, in all respects, identical to the one that Grão Vasco used in the signed altarpiece of 1535, destined for the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, which is undoubtedly one of his best works. But it seems that this altarpiece made for the Cathedral comes from an earlier date, whether because of the obvious attempts to produce a more archaic-looking architecture, the more confusing arrangement of the forms and the less dramatic involvement of the figures, or because of the quality of what is visible in the painting, and the open, contrasting and festive use that is made of colour. Moreover, the collaboration of Gaspar Vaz at the pictorial level of the work is made evident through a comparative analysis with the painting of St. Peter, since here the figurative elements of the scenery, capitals, floor tiles, etc. are repeated, but in a simpler version. In the errors of perspective and the strange formal simplifications of the wall that frames the scene, as well as in the modelling of a series of anatomical details, especially the hands with their long, stiff fingers, it is easy to identify some of the characteristic formulations of the work of Gaspar Vaz.
In the predella, placed against a formally continuous background landscape, are the busts of St. Lucy, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, whose positions were changed (between St. Catherine and St. Margaret) throughout the whole of the last century.
Dalila Rodrigues

Details

  • Title: Pentecost
  • Creator: Vasco Fernandes, Gaspar Vaz
  • Date Created: c. 1530
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Location Created: Altarpiece originally painted for the chapel of the confraternity of the Holy Spirit of the Cathedral of Viseu, located at the top North transept.
  • Physical Dimensions: 237 cm x 216 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on chestnut wood

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