The Monastery Treasures: Monastery of Pedralbes.

Back to the lovely monastery  of Pedralbes in Barcelona, which is a delightful place to visit and includes an exhibition of the Monastery Treasures. The founder of the monastery, Queen Elisenda of Montcada, created a convent of great spiritual and cultural importance. Her wealth, and that of the women who entered the convent, who had a high social background, brought valuable contributions to its assets.

…presents a unique collection of works of art, furniture, and secular and liturgical objects from the monastery treasure, built up, conserved and restored over the centuries by the Poor Clare community.

All of the paintings in this factitious altarpiece are the work of artists active in Catalonia during the first half of the 16th century.

Factitious Altarpiece of Saint Magdalene. 1540-1560

The upper elements of the piece below are panels of a triptych, in which the side panels were the doors.

Factitious altarpiece acquired by the abbess Sister Teresa de Cardona 1540-1560
Mother of God. end of 15th century

The most notable piece of this factitious set is the Virgin with the child in a landscape (bottom right), which may be attributed to Joachim Patinir and his workshop.

Factitious altarpiece of the cell of St John the Baptist. 1540-1560
Sculpture of St John (unknown artist) Mid 16th century

Towards the end of the 15th century the monastery entered a period of reforms driven by Ferdinand II of Aragon. Life in the cloistered community became stricter. At the same time the importation of Flemish artwork into Catalonia took place as close trade relations were formed between the Spanish and northern Europe.

Factitious altarpiece bearing the Rocaberti family coat of arms

The most significant piece of this factitious work is the Announcement (top left)  which may be attributed to an unknown Flemish artist known as the Master of the Legend of Saint Catherine. The domestic interiors are reminiscent of the Jan van Eyck models that Van der Weyden had reproduced.

The Announcement
Saint Apollonia, unknown artist

‘Factitious’ altarpieces combine pictorial and occasionally, sculptural sections of different provenance and styles. So we find Spanish and Flemish works side by side. The tableaus have often been trimmed to size to fit into the new structure. They were generally made in the mid-sixteenth century and inspiration for their manufacture may have come from the classicist architecture at the time. Three of them preserve the heraldry of the nuns who paid for their production or owned them.

Altarpiece of St Peter 1570-1585

Of a similar format to the factitious pieces of Pedralbes, this is a unitary collection. Its paintings may be attributed to the Catalan artist Joan Mates.

Virgin with the Child and an Angel 1530-1550

The two central figures derive from a model by Jan Gossaert while the added angel and landscape is an idea from Pieter Coecke van Aelst.

Altarpiece of the Adoration of the Kings 1475

A factitious triptych with doors added to the central relief. A work of art from the Italian Renaissance was exceptional. The relief which feature the Adoration of the Kings but with an Announcement to the shepherds in the background, is made from the characteristic glazed terracotta of the Florentine workshop of the Della Robbia family.

Adoration of the Kings
Diptych of the Mother of God, the Milk-Giver and the Pity of Christ c1500s

This diptych is one of the characteristic formats of “devotional painting” of the former Low Countries. The unknown painter probably had a workshop in which such paintings were almost mass-produced, exploiting models tracing back indirectly to the works of Rogier van der Weyden.

Sagrada Familia – Holy Family with the young St John

The descriptive tendency and open window in the background point to a Nordic artist of discreet quality with knowledge of Italian Renaissance as regards typologies and body language.

Epiphany Altarpiece 1533-1536

The sculptures in the niches of this altarpiece may have been lost in the Spanish Civil War. The relief of the Epiphany comes from the workshop of Damia Forment. The coat of arms links this to Sister Teresa de Cardona who was the first cousin of King Ferdinand II.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century the community in Pedralbes had witnessed a gradual but relentless decline in their income. Subsidies from King Phillip II and aid from the Council of the One Hundred assisted them in building the infirmary and renewing their cloisters. The Catalan Revolt of 1640 worsened their position as did the 18th century War of the Spanish Succession. At the end of that century further royal donations came to their assistance and helped to renovate and improve the building and the liturgical ornamentations. Despite the precarious financial situations the nuns would not renounce the maintenance and renewal of their liturgical adornments and some interesting works of art were purchased during this time.

Please visit the website of the monastery to find more about this exhibition.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

22 thoughts on “The Monastery Treasures: Monastery of Pedralbes.”

  1. You found a real treasure trove in Barcelona, Jude. It produced so many stunning images, and interesting posts too.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Ah, thank you Pete, nice to know you liked them. I think this is the last post though there may be the odd photo or two along the line! I still have some interesting buildings and the market!

  2. I was thinking these works reminded me of the pieces we saw in Bruges and then I read the connection with Jan van Eyck. I really enjoy seeing such beautiful work.

    1. They do draw you in. I am always fascinated by the inaccuracies of the body parts – large hands or feet, the baby sitting even though supposedly new-born. Totally the wrong proportions in relation to the mother!

  3. You’ve been working hard here! Was this scheduled, Jude? It’s not my kind of thing but the Adoration of the Magi is incredible. 🙂 🙂

    1. Not scheduled. Took me most of the weekend when not outdoors! I just wanted to complete the Barca posts before continuing with the UK. I am sooo far behind!

      1. I thought you couldn’t post without the laptop is why I asked. I’ve given up on staying in sequence. What is, is! Smiling xx

        1. No, I can post if I can connect to the storage box where the photos are, but I can’t do much photo editing other than the basics and resizing. My main reason for not using the Surface is that the keyboard makes my hands hurt and the damn screen keeps zooming in and out all the time which is VERY annoying!! Anyway off to pick up the laptop now and visit a nursery to find some climbers for my south-facing fence. Wish me luck!

        2. Good luck! 🙂 All will be well. 🙂 We popped into a nursery on our way back from the bluebell woods in Durham this morning. Cool, but beautiful!

        3. Laptop home, but slow as it is updating everything from the past two weeks! Nursery was charming and expensive!! When did plants become so expensive? But a lovely walk through their woodland first – lots of bluebells, azaleas and rhodies!! Now I need to go do some planting 😉

  4. Ironic, these treasures of the Poor Clares! And their insistence on their coats of arms. Thanks foe explaining “fictitious” – I was struggling to match the dictionary definition. Beautifully photographed: my favourite the mother of God.

    1. Ironic indeed. A refuge for the wealthy, but they did do ‘good works’. I’m no fan of religious art, but these works were quite interesting to see.

    1. I think it was something to do with what wealthy Catholic women should do if they were on their own and needed a sanctuary. I suppose it kept them occupied.

  5. So glad to have happened upon this post. It’s a lovely spot in Barcelona which not many tourists seem to find. Thanks for the souvenirs.

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