Alonso Berruguete

Eyridiki Sellou | Jul 30, 2023

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Alonso González Berruguete (Paredes de Nava, Palencia, c.1490-Toledo, 1561) was a Spanish sculptor and painter, son of the painter Pedro Berruguete and one of the fundamental references of Spanish Renaissance sculpture. He also produced pictorial works.

The most important collection of his work is in the National Museum of Sculpture in Valladolid.

We have little concrete data about the artist's life, although his family, the dates and prices of his works and the lawsuits he had are well known. As the son of a famous painter, he learned painting and sculpture in the family workshop; his works at that time show his contact with sculptors active in Castile, mainly in Burgos, Avila, Valladolid and Palencia.

From 1507 he was in Italy expanding his knowledge of painting, mainly in Florence, where he must have arrived around 1512. There he is mentioned several times by Vasari in his Lives of artists, who notes his contacts with Bramante, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He was among the Tuscan Mannerists who were disciples of Andrea del Sarto and some say that he actively participated in the genesis of Florentine pictorial Mannerism. Examples of this are four curious paintings, with a whimsical and changing coloring, and figures of elongated proportions: a tondo of The Virgin and Child with Saint John Child (Florence, Palazzo Vecchio), a Virgin and Child with a laughing expression and a Salome (both works, in the Uffizi Gallery) and an Allegory of Temperance, similar in concept to the Salome and which was unpublished until recently; it was acquired by the Museo del Prado in 2017 with funds from the Carmen Sánchez bequest, becoming the first example of the artist in the Madrid art gallery.

He copied the Laocoon and his sons recently discovered in Rome by commission of Bramante, and that makes us suppose that he was aligned in the rival group of Michelangelo. Vasari mentions him when speaking of the life of Sansovino who was in Rome from 1506:

The long years of his stay in Italy allowed him to become deeply acquainted with the masters of the Quattrocento and the models of classical Greco-Latin sculpture; in his work there is a deep admiration for the work of Donatello, who inspired some types, and, of course, Michelangelo, for his rotund volumes and the tormented terribilitá of his final work. From Leonardo da Vinci he learned to individualize the faces, although all the influences converged in a very personal style and a strongly expressive temperament, which is reflected in his figures of a flaming and angular outline that revives the aesthetics of the Gothic. Vasari affirms that in Florence he copied Michelangelo's cartoons made for the mural decoration of the Hall of the Great Council (The Battle of Cascina).

It is assumed that Berruguete must have had enough knowledge of the human body, acquired by force of observation, practical studies on the natural, like his models, and possibly scientific studies made in treatises on anatomy and perhaps in the dissection of corpses, given the anatomical treatment of his sculptures. But, as Ricardo de Orueta points out, it is more passion or feeling that is externalized in his work.

After working in association with Felipe Vigarny in Zaragoza and Huesca, where his art influenced that of Damián Forment, he designed several altarpieces for the Royal Chapel of Granada.

He took up residence in Valladolid in 1523, where he founded his workshop, and devoted himself fully to the carving of altarpieces and images. One of his first important works in this city was the main altarpiece of San Benito, which shows his vigorous realism with all its grandeur; it belongs to the National Museum of Sculpture in Valladolid, and today it is well restored, although it is exhibited dismembered and missing some elements. In Valladolid he also made the altarpiece of the chapel of Diego de la Haya in the church of Santiago, with the central theme of the Adoration of the Kings; perfect example of altarpiece-scenario and one of his masterpieces.

Later he received commissions for altarpieces and images for Salamanca (chapel of the Colegio de Fonseca), Úbeda (altarpiece of the Sacra Capilla del Salvador) or Cáceres (altarpiece of the church of Santiago), testimony that his fame was great throughout the kingdom of Castile. In 1539 he began the carving of the choir stalls of the cathedral of Toledo, another of his culminating works. His last work was the tomb of Cardinal Tavera in Toledo, which remained unfinished at his death.

Alonso Berruguete left a large number of disciples, followers and imitators, who spread his style throughout the Hispanic kingdoms and made him one of the most influential sculptors of his century. Some of them were Francisco Giralte, Manuel Álvarez, his nephew Inocencio Berruguete, Esteban Jordán and Juan de Cambray.


  1. Alonso Berruguete
  2. Alonso Berruguete
  3. Camón Aznar, 1979, p. 24
  4. Ver: Orueta, Ricardo de, Berruguete y su obra, Madrid, 1917. Ed. corregida y prologada: Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura-Museo Nacional Colegio de San Gregorio, 2011 ISBN 978-84-8181-024-7.
  5. ^ a b c d Arthur Byne; Mildred Stapley Byne (1917). Spanish Architecture of the Sixteenth Century. G. P. Putnam's sons. pp. 186–.
  6. ^ a b Sturgis, Russell (1901). A Dictionary of Architecture and Building, Volume I. Macmillan. pp. 296–297.
  7. ^ "Alonso Berruguete: First Sculptor of Renaissance Spain". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  8. Berruguete, Pedro. In: Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker (Hrsg.): Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Begründet von Ulrich Thieme und Felix Becker. Band 3: Bassano–Bickham. Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig 1909, S. 481–482 (Textarchiv – Internet Archive).
  9. Max von Boehn: Berruguete, Inocencio. In: Ulrich Thieme, Felix Becker (Hrsg.): Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Begründet von Ulrich Thieme und Felix Becker. Band 3: Bassano–Bickham. Wilhelm Engelmann, Leipzig 1909, S. 481 (Textarchiv – Internet Archive).

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