Some stained-glass windows in the church’s main chapel – Descent into Limbo, the Apparition of Christ to Mary Magdalene, the Apparition of Christ to the Virgin, the Ascension, Pentecost – are remarkably alike to the work of altar painter Francisco Henriques. This artist was not originally Portuguese, but supposedly Flemish. Nonetheless, he made his career in Portugal and so for this reason his style incorporated local characteristics. He came to be known as the best painter of his day, which earned him important commissions from the King Manuel I. The last one on which he worked, the spire of Limoeiro in Lisbon (1518), also earned him a death sentence as it was there that he contracted bubonic plague, along with other collaborators of his.
The windows which can be attributed to Francisco Henriques substantiate the case for the altar painter and the stained-glass artist being one and the same, as suggested in documentation written about the works of Saint Francisco de Évora, in which an artist of the same name is dually responsible.
Since the end of the 15th century, the training of stained-glass professionals became a specialised area as the discipline itself evolved, the title of stained-glass master coming to have a particular cachet. Francisco Henriques would certainly have been one of these masters, with documentation referring to him simply as ‘master’ and never as ‘stained-glass master’. It was he who could demand the most as a stained-glass artist. Two documents from 1508 that mention the windows that Francisco Henriques was doing for the Holy Cross Church of Coimbra, as well as those done for the Church of Saint Francis in Évora show, what is more, the effort King Manuel went to in order to control the artist’s fees, informing him of what had previously been agreed upon for the Holy Cross. On the tender for Évora, Henriques would presumably at the same time have been responsible for the painting and direction, being in charge of the templates, as the works inspector, Álvaro Velho, would have consulted both with him and the King, to put together the chosen iconography.
The panels that can be directly attributed to Francisco Henriques, at Batalha, belong to the painter’s mature phase, dating from about 1514. This is borne out all the more by the way they incorporate his profound sensorial experience resulting from a constant, passionate questioning of the real while remaining true to the principles of his training.
The templates for the stained-glass of the chapter house may have been the work of Francisco Henriques, dating from 1514 and then executed by a lesser painter. The mark of Henriques seems to persist in some aspects of the composition that recur throughout the man’s own work.