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No. 13 (2022): Multithematic Issue

Between Nicolau de Cusa and Fernando Martins: Nuno Gonçalves and the Viva Imago Doctrine

December 27, 2022


Closed in enigmatic iconographic premises, São Vicente's polyptic remains immersed for over a century in an impressive muteness, but there are however paths of genuine uniqueness that have not yet been travelled. This will be the case of the connection between the doctrine of Viva Imago by Nicolau de Cusa and the aulic frontality of the characters represented.  The intellectual dimension of someone like Nicolau de Cusa is today obscured and secondary, but his relevance for the scientific and artistic development of the Quattrocento is an immovable axiom: along with his direct references to Rogier van der Weyden; we know that Leon Battista Alberti, Paolo Toscanelli and Andrea de Bussi are known to have orbited his personal sphere. The fact that Fernando Martins was his secretary between 1458 and 1464, places him precisely at the heart of this network of artistic-scientific amicizia. His return to the kingdom a few years after the death of the German Cardinal allows him to be placed at the centre of the pictorial action of the famous polyptic. Intervention in the pictorial program of the panels is more than a factual element, it's an irresistible appeal.


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