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Eternal Father

 

Eternal Father

Author: Unknown

Date: 1535

Material: Plaster and pigments

Dimensions (cm): H 199 x L 249,5

Inscription: : ADES OD[EVS] OID(…) OR: :ET FILLIVS: ET SPS: SA(…) | HIC EST FILIVS MEVS DILECTVS IN QVO MIHI BENE COMPLACUIT

Provenance: Chaves, Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Azinheira

Inventory No.: MAS PD 9 (related piece: MAS PD 8)

At the centre, in a kind of reddish mandorla (oval aureole, in the shape of an almond – mandorla in Italian) and over clouds, there is the bust of God the Father, with long beards and white hair and a flying mantle. In his left hand he is holding the world and the right one is in a gesture of blessing. Around him, there are two angels, one on each side, who seem to hold the mandorla. On the right side, four singing angels hold a music book and, on the left side, one plays the flute and another one holds the organ a third one is playing, thus forming a celestial orchestra. On the upper corners, right and left, there are the busts of two men (prophets?) drawn in a reddish line that are at a sort of window. The bust on the right side holds a phylactery with an inscription.

On the upper part of the fresco, a phylactery has another inscription that can’t be read.

As Paula Bessa mentions, the composition of the top of the painting, with half-length bodies of prophets, framed by windows with an arcade on top, was probably influenced by the xylograph of the Biblia Pauperum.

There were probably legends in the phylacteries accompanying the prophets, but, unfortunately, they cannot be read.

Over God the Father, there is also a very truncated legend of which one can read: “: ADES OD[EVS] OID(…) OR: :ET FILLIVS: ET SPS: SA(…)” (the last part of the legend refers, obviously, “(…) and Son and Holy Spirit”). The legend between God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit was better preserved: “HIC EST FILIVS MEVS DILECTVS IN QVO MIHI BENE COMPLACUIT” (This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased).

This fresco is of great iconographic and artistic interest, showing a strongly individual artist, certainly accustomed, as were other fresco painters of the Minho circle, to the practice of easel painting for altarpieces. It is also worth of mention the presence of and the importance attributed to music, with the representation of angel musicians, of musical scores with sacred song and of musical instruments.

The restoration works that were carried out in the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Azinheira de Outeiro Seco by the Direção Geral dos Edifícios e dos Monumentos Nacionais started in 1937, the year the frescos were detached.

As mentioned by Paula Bessa, the detachment of this painting of big dimensions brought about its division into two parts – the so-called Eternal Father and the Baptism of Christ (MAS PD 8) – and the damage to the quality of the painting. That is to say, the two panels that exist nowadays (Eternal Father and Baptism of Christ) were a single painting God the Father being on top of the Baptism of Jesus by Saint John the Baptist.

The Eternal Father was part of a very vast group of mural paintings that covered almost entirely (and most of them still do) the lateral walls of the naves of the old parochial church of Nossa Senhora da Azinheira de Outeiro Seco, in Chaves. In fact, in several moments of the 16th century, the lateral walls of the nave of this church received successive programs of mural painting and they were probably all executed by the same workshop. This medium, being so effective, economical and long lasting, was also subject to rapid changes in taste or impositions of a liturgical or cultic order, which explains why there can be fresco cycles covered by others with an interval of less than thirty years.