Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad Facsimile Edition

Ghent or Bruges (Belgium) — 16th century

The art of a genius painter presented in a unique way: the book art of Simon Bening in a wooden frame as an altar for the Queen of Spain

  1. A totally new style of manuscript art created through the artistic talents of Simon Bening (c. 1483–1561)

  2. The 9 parchment sheets are set in a gold-leaf frame creating a small, artful Retable

  3. The miniatures count among the best products of 16th century Flemish Art

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

The extraordinary Altarpiece of Joanna of Castile offers a totally new style of miniature art through the artistic talents of Simon Bening. Under the patronage of the important Joanna I of Castile, he finished 9 singular parchment pages, with wonderful wooden framework merged with a retable. These pages show scenes from the Life of Christ, from the proclamation of his birth up until the Crucifixion. With fine painting and filled with bright colors, the contained miniatures count among the best products of 16th Century Flemish Art.

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

This work in extraordinary form offers a totally new style of manuscript art through the artistic talents of Simon Bening. Under the patronage of the important Joanna I of Castile, he finished 9 singular parchment pages, with wonderful wooden framework merged with a retable. These pages show scenes from the Live of Christ, from the proclamation of his birth up until his crucifixion. With fine painting and filled with bright colors, the contained miniatures count among the best products of 16th Century Flemish Art.

A Fateful Life

The miniatures of the retables are connected with the name of Joanna I of Castile, whose fateful life is still deeply tangible today. Joanna I of Castile (1479–1555), with the byname of “The Mad”, ruled as Queen of Castile, the central territory of a huge empire, which comprised of Naples-Sicily through all of Iberia, stemming then across the Atlantic to the New World discoveries. She was married to Phillip “The Handsome”of Austria, who was himself the son of Emperor Maximilian I. Through this marriage, the might of Austria and Spain was combined under the Habsburg Empire. Joanna’s name is essentially connected with all of the important figures of her time. Her brother Don Juan was later married to Phillip’s sister, Margarete of Austria, and Joanna’s son reigned as Emperor Charles V over the combined territory of Spain and Austria. She received her byname on the grounds of her fervid temperament and jealously, which plagued her in nervous fits throughout the rest of her life. After the death of Phillip, she was confined for 40 years in house-arrest in the Castle of Tordesillas near Valladolid.

Extraordinary Painting in an Unusual Frame

The wonderful Gouache on parchment are not typical hand drawn illustrations, but rather are embedded in a golden-leafed frame. In of this manner, a small, artful Retable came into being. With these Retables, sculptures, paintings, and an embroidered Altar are shown. Hence the artistic depictions of the Retables have biblical or generally sacred stories. The Retable of Joanna follows along this principle, as well. Simon Bening’s miniatures of the life of Christ offer the possibility to see and experience biblical stories in fantastic depth.

From the best Book Painter of his Time

The Flemish painter of the miniatures, Simon Bening, was the most successful and well-known Miniaturist of his time, and is generally accepted to be one the most important representatives of his subject. In the 16th Century, he completed works for many of the greats: from the kingly patron Charles V, as well as many costumers from the high aristocracy, whose names still reverberate today. The Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, to name an example. The indisputable master illuminator of the 16th century primarily made books of hours but also genealogical family trees, famously exemplified by those he painted for the royal families of Portugal and Spain.

An Exceptional Style

The Retable for Joanna I of Castile is collected within a 34 x 41 cm frame and contains nine wonderfully fine and striking depictions of the life of Christ. Beginning with the Annunciation of Mary and the search for lodging, the birth of Christ is the first story depicted. After which, one can see Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the flagellation, and finally the Crucifixion. In the lower register of the painting, one can see an illustration of Christ’s resurrection before a group of followers. Simon Bening aimed to make the biblical stories appear exciting. For example, in his depiction of the Annunciation, there are columns surrounding an interior room laid out in a clever fashion. The heavenly angel with their wonderful, golden wings surprises the prayerful Mary as it suddenly appears. In addition to the architectural backgrounds, some of the scenes take place in the freedom of the outdoors. These include depictions of beautiful landscapes featuring fine or gnarled trees, lush green grass, and sloping hills. The detailed and creative design of the scenery is truly a marvel to look at. Simon Bening combined many typical attributes of 16th Century Flemish art within this impressive miniature of the Altarpiece of Joanna of Castile.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Retablo de Juana la Loca
Retablo de Simon Bening
Retabel Johannas der Wahnsinnigen
Retabel von Simon Bening
Retable de Jeanne la Folle
Retablo di Giovanna la Pazza
Retábulo de Joana a Louca
Size / Format
9 leaves / 41.0 × 34.0 cm
Origin
Belgium
Date
16th century
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Juana la Loca

Available facsimile editions:
Altarpiece of Joan the Mad – British Museum (London, United Kingdom) / Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) / Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA) / others Facsimile Edition
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2004
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

The Virgin Mary and St. Anne

Immediately following the Annunciation, this scene depicts the Virgin Mary as she shares the miraculous news with her mother, St. Anne. It is presented before a lovely background with a lakeside castle and windmill on a distant hill as well as a small dog in the foreground, which is an astounding level of detail for such a small painting. Both figures are dressed in their characteristic colors – blue for Mary and red for Anne, who kneels before her daughter and touches her stomach.

Retablo de Juana la Loca
Single Page

Altarpiece of Joan the Mad

Coronation of the Virgin

The final miniature found on this altarpiece depicts the Virgin Mary kneeling with her hands folded in prayer as she it crowned Queen of Heaven. Both holding the crown, God the Father and the Son of God are depicted almost identically with the former distinguished by his globus cruciger and the latter by the wounds of the Passion. The white dove representing the Holy Spirit appears between them in a burst of golden rays to represent the Holy Trinity.

These four figures form a diamond shape at the center of this incredibly detailed and symmetrical miniature, which is practically glowing due to Bening’s generous use of gold. Aside from the four angels worshipping at their feet, a heavenly choir appears in the light blue ring of clouds above them.

Retablo de Juana la Loca
Facsimile Editions

#1 Retablo de Juana la Loca

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2004

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2004
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Nine beautiful wash-drawing illustrations framed in an elegant altarpiece of aged wood and gold leaf
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
Offiziolo Alfonsino Facsimile Edition
Offiziolo Alfonsino
Ferrara (Italy) – 1505–1510

Perhaps the last magnificent work from the famous city of Ferrara: Matteo da Milano's fantastically illuminated masterpiece for Alfonso d'Este, one of the great patrons of the Renaissance

Experience More
Rothschild Hours Facsimile Edition
Rothschild Hours
Ghent or Bruges (Belgium) – 1510–1520

Stolen by the Nazis, auctioned in 2014 for 13.6 million US dollars: the famous Book of Hours from the Rothschild Collection, illuminated by Gerard Horenbout, Gerard David, and Simon Bening

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher