Master of Barluenga (Spanish, 13th century),
St. John on Patmos
fresco transferred to canvas, 3 x 43 in.; 134.6 x 109.2 cm
Museum purchase, 1959.519
Depicting a scene from the life of St. John the Evangelist, this frescoes was part of an image series embellishing a small Romanesque church in northeastern Spain. Joslyn’s fragment shows the saint in exile on the Island of Patmos, writing the Book of Revelation.
The works of the Master of Barluenga (named for a cycle of church frescoes in that town) exemplify the late Spanish Romanesque style. Not yet affected by the Renaissance realism emerging in Italy, they remain largely stylized and abstracted. Physical volume is suggested by breaking rounded forms into planes set at angles, rather than by continuous modeling with subtle color gradations. Landscape elements are severely simplified, and the perspective is “incorrect” in comparison to Renaissance standards. In characteristic medieval fashion, the artist did not try to represent the historical occurrence as it might appear to the eye, but created a simplified vision of the event that suggests its sacred nature.