15th century Spanish altar comes to Dallas

May 13, 2008

Altarpiece from the Cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigo in CastileAn evocative piece of Spanish Catholic history is on display at the Meadows Museum in Dallas — the altarpiece from the Cathedral of Ciudad Rodrigoin Spain’s Salamanca province. You can see our story about it here .

It features 26 surving panels from the cathedral’s main altarpiece, each one a stunning work of art in its own right.

The pieces were painted between 1480 and 1500 during a searing era in Spanish and Church history: America was being discovered, the Moors were being defeated, the Jews were being expelled from Spain and the Inquisition was sharpening the tools of its ruthless trade.

X-ray analysis by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has uncovered some of the “original” drafts which show how the paintings changed from start to finish.

But there is plenty of fascinating detail in the finished products. In the “Creation of Eve” (above), a richly-dress Jesus rather than God is at the center of the picture.

“Acacius and the 10,000 Martyrs on Mount Ararat” has one man nailed into the ground rather than the crosses from which his breathren hang. One of his thumbs is oddly on the wrong side of his hand — an error or something symbolic?

This magnificent exhibit runs until July 27.

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