Born in Cariñena, the painter and manuscript illuminator Lorenzo Zaragoza (Llorenç Saragossà) was a leading proponent of the International Gothic style in late 14th-century Catalonia, Aragon and Valencia. This panel depicting Christ rising from his tomb as the Virgin Mary observes from a balcony belongs to an altarpiece from the Chapel of Saint Bartolomé in Villahermosa del Río. A photograph by Adolfo Mas, taken in 1918 and preserved in the archives of the Amatller Institute of Hispanic Art, Barcelona (C-24850), records the original disposition of Zaragoza’s large retable dedicated to the Virgen de la Leche (fig. 1). The present work, one of the nine large panels that formed the altarpiece, can clearly be seen in the upper right corner of the ensemble. Antonio José Pitarch considered the Villahermosa altarpiece to be a work marking the transition from Zaragoza’s mature to his late career (after 1390), noting that there is a clear change in style between The Nativity, Epiphany, and Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the more progressive Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, and Dormition of the Virgin (loc. cit.). The latter four are organized according to new compositional principles that would not have been possible without Zaragoza’s awareness of the paintings of Andrès Marçal de Sas (ca.1393-1410) and the Master of the Altarpiece of the Holy Cross in Valencia. Indeed, the present panel’s elegant, elongated figures of Christ and the Virgin as well as the prevalent use of gilding and bold colors certainly reflects the artist’s understanding of these international painters’ work.
Lorenzo Zaragoza is documented in Valencia from 1364 to 1366. In Barcelona, he was commissioned by Queen Eleanor (d. 1374) to paint two retables for two Franciscan convents in Calatayud and Teruel (both untraced). In 1373, King Peter IV of Aragon, el Ceremonioso (reg. 1336-1387) referred to him in a letter to the Council of Albocacer as the best painter of Barcelona (“Lo millor pintor que en aquesta ciutat [Barcelona] sia”). Zaragoza is later recorded in Valencia from 1377-1401, where among other projects, he produced a series of ceiling paintings for the Casa del Peso Real (1391, untraced).
We are grateful to Santiago Alcolea of the Amatller Institute of Hispanic Art in Barcelona for identifying the present painting as by Zaragoza on the basis of a photograph, and for assisting with the cataloguing of this lot.