SMU’s Meadows Museum acquires late medieval altarpiece, now one of three works in collection dating before 1450

'Saints Benedict and Onuphrius' by Pere Vall

In Pere Vall’s Saints Benedict and Onuphrius (c. 1410), the two saints stand before what appears to be a high stone settle decorated with arabesque vines and foliate ornament. On the left, Saint Benedict wears the black habit of his order and holds the book of his teachings and a crozier.

The Meadows Museum has acquired a late medieval altarpiece panel attributed to Spanish painter Pere Vall, active in Cataluña c. 1400–c. 1422. The work is now one of only three in the collection dating before 1450.

The tempera on wood panel painting, dated c. 1410, features the Saints Benedict and Onuphrius. It is the first work by this artist to enter the Museum’s collection, as well as the first work acquired under the new phase of the Meadows Acquisition Challenge Fund, with matching funds provided by Richard and Luba Barrett. Richard is a member of the Meadows Museum Advisory Council.

Pere Vall, also referred to as the Master of the Cardona Pentecost, is among the most distinctive and prolific of documented artists active in the environs of Barcelona during the first quarter of the 15th century. A well-documented retable painter, he likely trained in the studio of Pere Serra in Barcelona but was primarily active in the town of Cardona (Cataluña) during the first decades of the 15th century. He is represented in the collections of a handful of prominent museums, including the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the Museu Episcopal de Vic, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Others of his altarpieces, or parts thereof, remain in situ in Cardona.

Only a few objects in the Museum’s collection, such as the Catalan Cabinet (1375–1400), represent the roughly six centuries of the Middle Ages. The new panel is a significant acquisition representing the Hispanic artistic tradition of the later medieval period, which was characterized and dominated by large, painted retables serving as instructional backdrops for the theater of the mass. With Saints Benedict and Onuphrius in the Meadows collection, the Museum is better poised to offer students and visitors a more complete view of the religious practice that so shaped the lives of medieval Spaniards.

“By activating the challenge fund recently put in place, we hope to encourage other donors to follow suit in the future,“ said the Barretts. “We are delighted to be able to support the Meadows Museum and to recognize the excellent work being done by Director Dr. Mark Roglán and his outstanding team.”

Dr. Roglán added, “We are thankful to the Barretts for their continued support of acquisitions, loans and other aspects of museum operations; this acquisition strengthens our holdings of medieval Spanish art and improves our ability to illustrate its development to students, scholars and the public.”

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