artist research project:Ayne Bru


Ayne Bru


In the context of Catalan Renaissance painting followed the flourishing of Italian Renaissance in early 15th century, commissions were practically monopolized by artists from abroad, from both northern and southern Europe. Consequently the masterpieces of the period, although they may have been executed here, were the work of painters born elsewhere. Ayne Bru was one of them. Ayne Bru was a German origin painter of 16th century who moved to Barcelona when he worked for the church of the monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona to paint the main altar for four years since 1504. As a foreign painter, his works were inspired by Flemish Style,which characterized by a plastic idiom that reached unprecedented heights of perfection, laid especial emphasis on the symbolic content of devotional representations.[1] According to Marcel Durliat who argued the artistic experience of Ayne Bru, the painter may have lived or studied in Northern Italy before moving to Barcelona based on evidences in Bru’s  Quattrocento depiction of the standing figures in contemporary dress, as well as other details, although the expression was more Germanic. His travels consequently enriched and differed his paintings from local painters’.



The only two remaining works of Ayne Bru:


Martyrdom of Saint Cucuphas

Martyrdom of Saint Cucuphas


Oli sobre fusta

164 x 133 cm

MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Saint Candidus

Saint Candidus


Oil, stucco reliefs and gold leaf on wood

182 x 88 x 7 cm

MNAC – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya



Martyrdom of Saint Cucuphas


This painting descripted the scene of the execution of Saint Cucuphas who was a martyr of Spain. In the center, the executor was cutting Cucuphas’ throat with a knife while Cucuphas’ right arm was tied to a trunk. On the right, two men stood with serious faces while a sleeping dog was in front of them. To the left there was a basket with another knife inside. In the back, there was a church to the left.


My focus point of it is the cutting knife, which is definitely the highlight of the theme. Under the light color of the skin, the knife along with blood gives strong contrast to attract attentions. From compositional view, it is gently off-centered to the left with fluent lines of several directions: the arm of the executor, the bleeding blood connected to the ground and Cucuphas’ body. The perfect balance is given by the layout of subjects. Church, men, dog and basket separately filled the four edges while the two main characters form a declined line from top left corner to the opposite, filled up the whole panel.


My order of read starts from the cutting knife to the savage face of executor, followed by the top of trunk, two men and the dog, and ends with the cloth, basket and the church. It is an eye-round trip. Thus, for me it is an experience when terrible feeling emerged first seeing the execution but gradually confused with the poker face of those men and sleeping dog and the other knife. And my question was: Why? Why other people do not stop it?  Why do they avoid facing the scene? Who are they? What is the other knife used for? All of these came to a story that it is a necessary sacrifice to acquire victory. It could be a repeating death of Cucuphas with evidences from the sleeping dog that was tired seeing the execution and from standing people. As a Catalan painter, Bru depicted Catalan culture through this painting and differently he used Flemish style to approach realism. Also, because of the influence of Italy Renaissance, his work, although themed with religions, is more vivid and realistic.




Yitong Gao









Flemish Art in the 16th Century  MNAC Website


MNAC brochure


Renaixença: The Catalan Renaissance  Metropolitan Museum of Art Website

Flemish painting       Wikipedia


Italian Renaissance painting  Wikipedia





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