Flemish Paintings on Tables


In the late 15th and first half of the 16th centuries, the cultivation, refining, and marketing of sugar became a major part of the expanding economy of the Canary Islands. The main drivers of the sugar economy were landowners, agents, and traders from Flanders, which at that time was part of the Spanish Empire. Antwerp became the great receiving and distributing center for Canary Island sugar in Europe. One result of this economic activity was the introduction of Flemish art into the Canaries. Art became a means by which the new settlers, who were part of the so-called Atlantic culture of sugar, asserted their personality and social prestige. Shown here is an ensemble of Flemish paintings on two tables, possibly originally part of an altarpiece. The pieces, which reflect Flemish aesthetics and iconography, are painted on both sides. Noteworthy features include the accentuated contrasts of light and the quality seen in the skin and clothing of the people depicted and in background landscape features. The front of the first table shows John the Baptist holding the mystical paschal lamb; in the background is a scene showing John baptizing Christ in the River Jordan. On the reverse is a scene from the martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist. The front of the second table is devoted to Saint Lucia, represented by the attributes of her martyrdom. The reverse is dedicated to the Mass of Saint Gregory and shows Christ miraculously emerging from a sarcophagus to appear to Gregory during the Eucharist. The pieces are in the collections of the Christopher Columbus House Museum, in Gran Canaria.

Last updated: June 13, 2016