SANT JOAN, Pere de
Chronological frameworkDocumented between 1396 and 15th April 1431
Geographical FrameworkNative of Picardy; active in Catalonia: in Mallorca, Girona, Elna (?), Perpignan, Castelló d’Empúries (atr.), Seu d’Urgell, Barcelona
Sculptor, Master builder
Profile and historiographical debate
[Pierre de Saint-Jean]
Pere de Santjoan was documented for the first time in 1396-1397, date in which is designated master of the portal of the Mirador (Viewpoint) of Mallorca, south portal of Sant Miquel’s church, apparently begun in 1389 by the Mallorquin sculptor Pere de Morey. The building process, after a period of slowdown or rather interruption, was resumed in June 1393 with the arrival of two foreign sculptors, Johan de Valencines and Rich Alamant (those who have been traditionally identified with Jean de Valenciennes and Henri l’Allemand). It is difficult to confirm the beginning of the works because of the loss of the countable documents of the years from 1374 to 1389. As Joan Domenge i Mesquida says, the mentions included in the ledger of 1389 show that in this moment the doorway is in the beginning of its construction. The death of the master builder, Pere Morey, on 29th January 1394, suddenly interrupted the works, so the Mallorquin priests intended to leave Guillem Morey in charge, who was the brother of the deceased and just designated master builder of the Girona’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, the financial records of the years between 1394 and 1397, which may help to know more about the following events, are lost. From 1396, the management of the works is entrusted to the sculptor Pere de Santjoan.
Between 1396 and 1397, Pere de Santjoan receives an annual pension of 12 pounds and makes a drawing of the doorway introducing clear modifications from the project of Pere de Morey, noticeable in the elevation of the gable. Before the ending of the works in the Mallorquin doorway, when the building was in an intense phase of activity, Pere de Santjoan appears as the master builder of Girona’s Cathedral, on 2nd March 1397, charge in which he will be replaced by Guillaume Bofill since 1904. The artist continues living for a while in Girona, where he is still documented until 1405. Nevertheless, the next mentions lead us to think that he has already moved to Roussillon, maybe to Elna or Perpignan. On November 1405, Pere de Santjoan is the architect in the building of Saint-Jean of Elna, where he works in the choir. Some months later he is documented in Saint-Jacques of Perpignan, on 6th March 1406, because of his inspection of a tabernacle made by the painter and sculptor Jaume Brot. After a long documental silence, we have to wait until 1410, when he begins sculpting the stalls of the choir of Santa Maria’s Cathedral of Seu d’Urgell. This works, which were done under the bishop Galceran de Vilanova’s (1388-1414) administration, became a subject of dispute, so the artist leaves Seu d’Urgell to Barcelona. Hi is found again in 1415 serving the monastery of Sant Agustí el Vell with the title of “magister monsonaria”. Here he begins a new doorway for the Virgin of Mercy chapel, placed in the destroyed cloister. The last mention of Pere de Santjoan dates from 15th April 1431, when he receives 43 wages from the Barcelona’s Cathedral chapter in order to go to Vilafranca de Conflent to assure that the stone taken from this quarry is suitable to make baptismal fountains. Those are finally finished by a Florentine sculptor in 1433, so it is possible to imagine that Pere de Santjoan was deceased in this date.
Some of the documented works allow an attempt of identification of Pere de Santjoan style and the attribution of some works. His activity as sculptor, first in Mallorca and then in Seu d’Urgell and Barcelona, is used by Marcel Durliat to analyze the genesis of Guillem Sagrera style. Gabriel Alomar takes up this hypothesis and he remarks the importance of the artistic moment of the doorway of the Viewpoint of Majorca, which marks a new phase of the Spanish sculpture history that will take place during the XV century. The activity of Pere de Santjoan, Jean de Valenciennes, Henri l’Allemand and the Mallorquin Pere de Morey in this last building breaks with the earlier Catalan Art. In Marcel Durliat’s opinion, the reception in the Iberian Peninsula of the works of the Northern sculptors in the first half of the XV century was translated in some realism treats in the faces, but they were generally “medium quality works that didn’t distinguish from the common production”. Things will change since last decades of the 14th century and from the works of Pere de Santjoan.
In spite of the fact that the portal of Castelló d’Empúries has not been dated accurately, it, “the last big Catalan portal with statues”, has to be replaced in this artistic panorama. First of all, Marcel Durliat attributes the portal of Castelló d’Empúries to Pere de Santjoan through the comparison with the main portal of Sant Miquel’s church of Palma de Mallorca, pointing out the similarities in the proportions, among the draping and the fall of the folds, even in the way of creating hairs with regular undulations, and the subjective clumsiness of the necks and the arms. There are similarities between the different works, testifying a close sensibility. The attribution of the sculptures of the portal of Castelló d’Empúries to Pere de Santjoan and the main process of the building took Pere Freixas Camps, after Marcel Durliat, to place the creation between 1406 and 1410, that is, during the documental gap of the Picard artist, between the works of Perpignan and those of Seu d’Urgell’s Cathedral. The hypothesis is based on solid arguments and it seems to be accepted.
In Girona’s Cathedral, one of the doorway pillars is decorated with a sculpture in which is represented the Gabriel of the Annunciation, who shows a phylactery with the legend “Ave Maria Gra”. On the opposite side, a later saint George seems to be produced in a later period of the 15th century. In this case, it is possible to support the opinion of Joan Valero Molina, who thinks that the warrior saint could be replaced by an older representation of the Virgin. In fact, the preserved Gabriel of this group shows stylistic treatments which are close enough to those in the documented production of Pere de Santjoan, so that we could increase the catalogue of attributions. For example, the scholar emphasizes the strong neck treatment as a constant of the sculptor’s work. In Girona, out of the cathedral, Pere de Santjoan seems to have been working for the Santa Caterina Hospital. An alabaster Virgin discovered in 1936 shows clearly his style: the inclination of her neck, the oval and neutral face without expression. It could be the same Virgin that Marcel Durliat mentioned in 1963 in order to show similarities with a figure of a saint that decors the right gable of Sant Miquel’s doorway in Palma de Mallorca. The Apostles figuring in the embrasure of the doorway of Santa Maria da Vitória de Batalha in Portugal are inscribed on the continuity of the style of Pere de Santjoan. Those possible Catalan sources of the sculpture workshops that worked in Batalha may be related with the features of the architecture itself.
- Portal of the Mirador (Viewpoint) of Sant Miquel in Palma de Mallorca
- Portal of Castelló d’Empúries (atr.)
- Stalls of the choir of Seu d’Urgell Cathedral
- Portal of the cloister of Sant-Agustí el Vell in Barcelona (destroyed)
Documented between 1396 and 1431. All the sources have been published.
Text: Jean-Marie Guillouët
LAVEDAN 1935; DURLIAT 1963; ALOMAR 1970; BEAULIEU- BEYER 1992 : 31 ; DOMENGE 1997: 211-216 ; VALERO 2001 : 221-236, 222 ; FREIXAS 2002: 51-59 ; GUILLOUËT 2010-2 : 31-44; DOMENGE 2005; GUILLOUËT 2011.