After looking closely at each painting in this small but extremely beautiful exhibition, I had two burning questions. To be completely fair, one of the questions was mine, and the other was from my companion P.
"Who earns a halo?" This one was mine.
P and I had noticed that some of the figures in the paintings had halos, and some didn't, and we couldn't find the formula. All right, for some of the figures it's obvious. Jesus not only gets a halo around His head, but also around His whole body, and rendered in the most magnificently delicate strands of gold. Virgin Mary, beautiful halo. The Archangel Michael, triumphing over the devil - another beautiful golden halo, on a beautiful golden background. And wearing a golden suit of armour. Bermejo liked gold, and he used it very very well.
But the devout St Francis (I'm pretty sure I was told it's St Francis) in the triptych of the Virgin of Monsarrat, is left bare-headed. And so are a couple of other important figures, including St Julian who was unknown to me until this moment.
We tried to ask the enthusiastic expert on hand, but she gave quite a vague answer, and before she could elaborate, a woman in a red hat took the conversation away from us.
Okay. We tried with our next question. “Why does the lion have a human face?”
We were talking about the lion in the Pietà of Canon Luis Desplá. The expert suggested that the artist had never seen a real lion, and therefore was working from someone else's illustration. A photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, if you will. Only in lustrous oil, not cheap paper and toner. P and I were unconvinced, but the Woman in the Red Hat suggested that the lion is the attribute of St Jerome (on the left of the painting) and it is often portrayed as semi-human. That may be true, but needs more research.
Putting aside our questions. This is a small show that hides almost infinite jewels. A devil with his head in his hands, looking on, bored, as Jesus leads the chosen from Limbo, not even interested in the woman who is trying to pull out her own tongue. The meticulously painted plants, flowers and insects. The exquisite, semi-transparent cloth around Jesus, embroidered with magnificent gold thread. The terrified soldier, curled in fear, as Jesus rises from the dead. There was more, much more.
Until 29 September