Pere Vall, Saints Benedict and Onuphrius, c. 1410

Pere Vall

Saints Benedict and Onuphrius

c. 1410

Tempera and gold on Softwood Panel

35 x 26 3/8 in. (89 x 67 cm)

Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase with funds generously provided by Richard and Luba Barrett, MM.2017.01

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Audio Transcript

This panel is from a predella, or banco, of a larger altarpiece that was dismantled at an unknown date. In addition to Saints Benedict and Onuphrius, two additional panels are now in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, while the whereabouts of the remaining three is unknown. 

Pere Vall, whose style is characterized by strong, dark contours applied to facial features, was active in the town of Cardona, located to the northeast of Barcelona. The choice of Benedict and Onuphrius was in step with early fifteenth-century popular devotion. Saint Benedict (d. 543) was the influential founder of the monastic order that bears his name, which ran powerful and well-established institutions all over Spain and Western Christendom. His black habit and tonsure identify him as a monk while the book in his hand is the rule, or code by which Benedictine monks live, and which he famously authored. This well-known saint’s more obscure, and amusingly shaggy, companion, Saint Onuphrius, may be less familiar to modern viewers. However, the third-century Egyptian hermit was the object of an active cult in medieval Iberia. To him were attributed a number of miracles in which people were saved from drowning, ironically perhaps for a desert ascetic, but very meaningful for a seafaring nation.