Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 14



of the so-called Hispano-Flemish style, these craftsmen included
the Breton Lorenzo Mercadante (doc. 1457-1467) whose veristic
alabaster effigy of Cardinal Juan de Cervantes lies in in Seville
Cathedral. Mercadante’s lively polychromed terracottas of the
Virgin and Child would remain one of the principal references for
Sevillian sculpture and painting for several hundred years (fig. 2).
Another reference point was the longer established tradition of
polychromed sculpture in wood, which in Seville went back at least
to the early thirteenth-century Virgen de los Reyes. Of particular
note are the vividly polychromed Crucifixi Dolorosi which became
the subject of devotion from the fourteenth century onwards.3
These pathetic figures, their bodies covered in wounds and hanging
lifelessly from hyperextended arms, continued to inspire local
production well into the sixteenth century, as can be seen from the
Crucified Christ attributed to Nicolás de León ca. 1536 (fig. 3).
Sixteenth-century Seville, with its monopoly over trade with the
New World, was the richest city in Spain and one of the largest
in Europe. With a significant community of Italian merchants
and printers, and regular visits to Rome by Sevillian clerics and
pilgrims, the city looked increasingly towards Renaissance Italy.
This process intensified with the arrival in the region of sculptors
such as Pietro Torrigiano (1472-1528) and Jacopo Fiorentino
(1476-1526), as well as prints after Raphael and Michelangelo by
Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1480 – ca. 1534) and Nicolas Béatrizet
(1515 – ca. 1566). Torrigiano’s terracotta Virgin and Child (ca. 1525)
for the monastery of San Jerónimo de Buenavista introduced a
type similar to Luca della Robbia’s engagingly-human composition
from the Florentine oratory of San Tommaso Aquino, but with
the monumentality of Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna (which
Torrigiano is likely to have seen before he left Italy4). Given the
important contribution colour made to form and meaning in
revered works such as the Crucifix Dolorosi, Torrigiano’s popularity
may have been partly due to his naturalistic polychromy and
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Fig. 2 Lorenzo Mercadante, Virgin and Child, ca. 1460, polychromed
apparent rejection of the monochrome, materials-based aesthetic
terracotta, Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes.
favoured by some of his Italian contemporaries.5
Fig. 3 Nicolás de León, Cristo de Confalón, ca. 1536, polychromed wood, Seville, parish church of La Magdalena.
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