Spanish Mannerist Painter and Sculptor, ca.1488-1561
Alonso Berruguete was born in Paredes de Navas, Valladolid, the son of Pedro Berruguete, Spain's first major Early Renaissance painter. Pedro was trained in Italy, and it is understandable that he would want his son to have an Italian formation. Alonso was in Florence from about 1504, the year of his father's death, until about 1517. He also spent time in Rome during this period.
Berruguete's original purpose was to train as a painter, but he had the opportunity to study sculpture under Michelangelo, whom he is said to have assisted in the execution of some works. Berruguete received minor commissions, such as the completion of paintings and sculptures left unfinished by other artists.
On his return to Spain, Berruguete executed an alabaster relief, the Resurrection, for Valencia Cathedral (ca. 1517), which compares favorably with early works by Michelangelo. It is Hellenistic in its anatomical beauty, multiple diagonals, and range of relief projection. The figure of Christ is the climactic center of interest: a vertical, stabilizing force amid a tumult of diagonals described in the agitated movements of the startled Roman soldiers.
In 1518 Emperor Charles V named Berruguete court painter. When illness prevented Berruguete from sailing to Germany with Charles V in 1520, the Emperor took it personally and turned a deaf ear to Berruguete's subsequent petitions for commissions. He then returned to his native village until 1523, when Charles V named him a scribe of the criminal section of the Chancery in Valladolid.
This gave Berruguete social status, an income, and work he could deputize. Henceforth, he set himself to amass riches and advance socially. He established a studio in Valladolid, hired a number of apprentices, and priced his works above those of all other artists. It was a time of great wealth in Spain; Berruguete had seen sumptuous riches in Italy and was determined to so live that his compatriots would accord him the reverence and acclaim enjoyed by Italian artists.
In 1528 Berruguete built himself a palace in Valladolid, opposite the monastery of S. Benito, for which he created his greatest altarpiece. He succeeded so well in his ambitions that in 1542 he sold the Emperor's benefice for 4,000 ducats. Two years before he died, he became a squire when the regent of Portugal, Princess Juana, gave him the village of Ventosa with its 120 inhabitants.