Triptych of Cassurrães

Gaspar Vaz1535-1540

Grão Vasco National Museum

Grão Vasco National Museum
Viseu, Portugal

Painting representing St. James the Greater, sitting on a rock in the centre of the composition, wrapped in a red cloak and exhibiting the insignia of a pilgrim, the scallop shell, the hat and the staff. The apostle appears with a halo, in an allusion to his saintliness. The act of reading is reinforced by the rhetorical presence of the index finger of his left hand, which is pointing to a page in the Holy Scripture. In the background, with a hesitant perspective, is a representation of a rocky and wild landscape, consisting of scrubland. Just as happens in the panels alluding to St. Bartholomew and St. James, which were also destined for the altarpiece of the parish church in Cassurrães, one can identify the typical formula employed by Gaspar Vaz, especially in the physiognomic characterisation of the faces, in the gnarled fingers and toes, or in the more rapid and simplified pictorial execution of the painting as a whole.

St. Bartholomew is holding his personal attribute, the flaying knife, from which hang the chains that shackle the demon lying at his feet. He also holds the Book of the Gospels, towards which he has directed his gaze. In the conception of the figure, in the physiognomic characterisation of the face, and in his long, gnarled fingers and toes, one can identify the formula followed by Gaspar Vaz and his inimitable tendency to follow the personalised painting style of his master.

Sitting at a raised point in the terrain painted in brown tones, St. Peter is wearing a green tunic and a red cloak. With his grey hair and beard framing his heavily absorbed face, which seems like a caricature, he displays the open Book, while holding the key to heaven in his other hand, his own personal attribute. Just like the figures of St. Bartholomew and St. James from the same altarpiece, the figure closely follows the human types created by Vasco Fernandes in the large altarpieces that he painted for Viseu Cathedral. However, there are some perceptible differences in the conception of their form and in the technical procedures followed, which clearly point to this being the work of Gaspar Vaz, his main collaborator.


  • Title: Triptych of Cassurrães
  • Creator: Gaspar Vaz
  • Date Created: 1535-1540
  • Physical Location: Grâo Vasco Nacional Museum, Viseu, Portugal
  • Location Created: Coming from the Church of Santiago de Cassurrrães
  • Physical Dimensions: 138 cm x 55 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on chestnut wood

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