'Bermejo' was his nickname
Bartolomé de Cárdenas was more commonly known as ‘Bermejo’ – meaning ‘reddish’ in Spanish – probably referring to a distinctive physical feature such as red hair or a ruddy complexion.
He was the greatest painter of 15th-century Spain
Bermejo is considered the supreme painter of the Spanish Renaissance – his talent for oil painting was unparalleled among his Spanish contemporaries.
He was inspired by Netherlandish painting
Although some think he may have trained in the Netherlands, no such trip is documented but he would certainly have known Netherlandish paintings circulating in Spain.
He changed religion
It seems likely that he was a 'converso' (a Jew converted to Christianity).
.... and his wife was persecuted for her religion
His wife Gracia de Palaciano, also a Jewish convert, was brought before the Inquisition in the Spanish city of Zaragoza for knowing only part of the Credo and engaging in ‘Jewish practices’.
He had a nomadic career
Some scholars argue that this is because he had a restless nature, and others think he may have moved around to avoid the persecution of the religious authorities and Inquisition.
.... which took him to several Spanish cities
Based on an inscription on the frame of 'Desplà Pietà' (1490, Barcelona Cathedral), it seems that Bermejo was born in Cordoba, and he is known to have worked in Tous, Valencia, Daroca, Zaragoza and Barcelona.
Whilst there, he worked with local artists
Possibly to get round guild regulations, Bermejo often had to team up with local painters who were living in the cities that he visited.
His earliest documented work is at the National Gallery
In 1995 we were lucky enough to buy the beautiful 'Saint Michael Triumphs over the Devil' (1468), widely considered the most important early Spanish painting in Britain.
There are fewer than 20 known works by him
Which further adds to his mystery. You can see seven of these rare works in our free exhibition:
Bartolomé Bermejo: Master of the Spanish Renaissance
12 June – 29 September 2019