“Saint Preaching” Jorge Ingles 1475-1500 Oil and Tempera on panel
By Kevin Ott
If you start your Cincinnati Art Museum trip by heading up the stairs off the lobby and go right and then proceed through the first large room, you will come to a smaller room that contains several great religious paintings, mostly from the 15th century and mostly Spanish. “Saint Preaching”, just to the left of the entrance, is by Jorge Ingles. That sounds Spanish, I suppose, but it translates to “George the Englishman”. I guess George migrated to the Castile province of Spain, via the Netherlands, where he learned how to paint with oil, something that wasn’t really done in Spain in 1475. He combines this with tempera to create what is, I think, a great painting.
What’s great about it? Start with the frame: three sides are relatively simple molding, not ornate, but the top fifth of the painting, mostly sky, is obscured by a scrolled gate like wood-work that makes this painting feel like it’s part architecture.
We are informed by the museum that the Jorge, ne George, was really of the Northern Renaissance style, which “excelled in depicting surface texture, individualized faces and facial details”, all manifested in this this painting. The unnamed Saint is preaching from a small open air pulpit to group of people. The faces are detailed, expressive, but unemotional and seem to be on a slightly different plane than their bodies. Their colorful garments—oranges, greens, yellows, purples and reds– mix with a variety of headgear, the women’s heads wrapped and hooded and the men in hats varying in shapes and color. A stunning brocade dress is in the foreground. The Saint is draped in gold and red brocade which is dotted with incised gold, his halo a mottle of gold and red is rimmed with de-bossed gold leaf dots.
Behind this scene, a beautiful landscape rolls to the top of the panel. A dirt road winds its way through green trees and bushes around an outcropping of stone toward a small walled village. More hills are in the distance and a bright sky disappears under the scroll like frame.
The surface of the painting is vibrant with color and texture. Oil must add some intensity to color that tempera alone could not provide. Scraping appears to give texture and detail to the fabric and the landscape.
The whole painting feels much more modern than its’ 500 plus years. The angles are a little disconcerting, the colors a bit bright and the faces so individual and detailed. But does it look like the flock has drunk the Kool-Aid? The whole thing is a little trippy, but beautiful. This painting is a little off the beaten track at the Museum, but it is well worth seeking out.