The Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain is collaborating with the Real Academia Gallega de Bellas Artes and the Fundación Catedral de Santiago to present an exhibition on Master Mateo and his work for the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The exposition “Master Mateo” will be running in Prado starting on November 29 to March 26, 2017.
For the first time, a selection of sculptures, normally housed in the Cathedral in Santiago outside the Porch of Glory and in various other institutions and collections, brings together works by this artist that were part of now lost groups or from parts of the cathedral that no longer exist, such as its medieval façade and the stone choir that occupied the nave.
Master Mateo (c. 1150 – c. 1200 or c. 1217) was a sculptor and architect who worked in medieval Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula during the second half of the twelfth century. He is best known now for the Pórtico de la Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He was also responsible for the stone choir of the cathedral in 1200, later torn down in 1603.
The earliest information about the artist is from an 1168 document in the archives of the cathedral of Santiago, which says that the Master was already working on the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, for which he received a large sum of money from King Ferdinand II of León. Very little information remains about his early training, but everything seems to imply that he already had a long career behind him all along the Way of Santiago, especially in the French sections.
The natural sized sculptures highlights of the upcoming exposition are divided between public and private institutions: two of which can be found at the Pontevedra Provincial Museum, a further two at the Cathedral Foundation and another three are in the hands of private collectors. These pieces include David and Salomon, which can be seen on the Obradoiro façade; Abraham and Isaac, from a private collection; and Enoch and Elijah housed in the Pontevedra Museum, dating from 1188 and 1211.
VISIONS OF A JUDGEMENT – As reported on the World Digital Library, “around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of apocalyptic literature appeared in the Jewish tradition in the second century BC and had never ceased to be practiced. Obsessed like his contemporaries with the imminent coming of the end of the world, which, according to the calculations of the six ages was to take place in the year 800 (838 in the Spanish era), Beato wrote this work for the edification of his monks. He emphasized that, after the final terrifying catastrophes announced by Saint John the Evangelist, good would triumph over evil”.
The original codex most likely was illuminated but unfortunately has not been preserved. Only 35 manuscript copies dating from the 9th century to the 13th century have survived. By semantic extension, these manuscripts are called beato, and 26 of them are illuminated while some others are only fragments. Two are preserved at the BNE, the National Library of Spain.
EXPO & WEBSITE – The BNE exposition will mainly feature the most iconic manuscript of the corpus, the so called “Facundus” – Codex Vitr/14/2 -, commissioned in 1047 by King Fernando I of León and Castille and Queen Sancha, and possibly done by a monk or scribe named Facundo in San Isidoro de León. Its 98 miniatures, endowed with amazing expressiveness, are distributed mostly on colorful horizontal stripes in a unique and unmistakable style that blends the Romanesque with various Mozarab and North African influences. Prominent among them are the Four Horsemen, the vision of celestial Jerusalem, the seven-headed snake, and the destruction of Babylon. The manuscript, owned by the Marquis of Mondéjar in the late 17th century, was confiscated with the rest of his library by Philip V during the War of the Spanish Succession.
The BNE has also announced the creation of a website entirely dedicated to the corpus of manuscripts. The series of the Beatus codexes have been included in the Unesco Memory of the World Register in 2015.