Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 86



The mantle fastened across the chest envelops the body in a vigorous
This articulation culminates in the vigorous yet precise carving
curve which wraps around the right arm, falling in soft vertical
of the small but fleshy lips which are more sensual than those
waves from the left; this veritable study in composition works to lift
of his master. The smooth modelling of the fine chin with slight
the volume of the female body at the same time as it distracts from
folds around the neck are also characteristic of Mesa’s curves
the curve deriving from the contrapposto. It indicates the effort
and delicate touches. All of this whilst remaining within the strict
that the artist – like the whole school to which he belonged – made
bounds of modesty set by the leading Sevillian painter Francisco
to reconcile the artistic demands of the study of nature with the fine
Pacheco in his famous treatise The Art of Painting.
religious sensibility surrounding the Immaculate Virgin, ensuring
the exclusion of any indecorous sensuality. Another detail related
This singular figure with its sober, elegant and distinguished
to the search for true naturalism is in the head which is not covered
bearing maintains the rounded masses of classical statuary at the
by a veil or decorative covering. Instead, the hairstyle is one that
same time as being imbued with internal life. With its beautiful
has traditionally been equated with feminine modesty and beauty:
maiden standing on a half-moon and pair of chubby-cheeked
long and abundant hair covers the figure’s back and falls in tendrils
cherubs who seem blissfully unaware of the mystery above them,
on the chest, as if to act as a virginal veil. The fine and precise
it is a joyful take on the most complicated and deeply-felt artistic
strands which surround the face and head dissolve into lighter and
subject associated with the Sevillian Golden Age.
sketchier forms down the back, perhaps a prelude to the evolution
of Baroque sculpture towards optical illusionism – as is already
evident in other works by Juan de Mesa.
Judging from the rubble and flowery mantle, the sculpture was re-
n ote s
polychromed in the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, the delicate
original polychromy and estofados of the white tunic have been
conserved, most clearly visible in the sleeves and in the right-hand
1.
Suzanne Stratton, La Inmaculada Concepción en el arte español (Madrid: Fundación
Universitaria Española, 1989), pp. 53 and ff.
2.
fall between the folds of the blue veil.
Beatrice Gilman Proske’s monograph on the sculptor continues to be an
important reference. See Juan Martínez Montañés: Sevillian Sculptor (New York:
Hispanic Society of America, 1967). Also see José Hernández Díaz, Juan Martínez
Combining perfect geometry and vivid naturalism, this beautiful
Montañés (1568-1649) (Seville: Ediciones Guadalquivir, 1987).
3.
work is without any doubt the result of Mesa’s craftsmanship. Mesa
the disciple has taken a model derived from Montañés and moved
Cátedra, 1990), pp. 575-577.
4.
de la espiritualidad y santuario del poder (1301-2002) (Seville: Consejería de Cultura,
axis which starts with the hairline, moving down through the space
Mesa’s morphologies. Half-open eyes look downwards with heavy lids.
Flat cheeks with the corners of the mouth softly rounded compensate
for the sharp definition of the septum and sides of the nose.
92
Emilio Gómez Piñol, “Los retablos del San Isidoro del Campo y algunas
atribuciones escultóricas derivadas de su estudio”, in San Isidoro del Campo, fortaleza
it one step further in his search to humanize the sacred image. The
between the eyebrows, nose, mouth and chin, is characteristic of
Francisco Pacheco, El Arte de la Pintura, ed. Bonaventura Bassegoda (Madrid:
2002), pp. 123-129.
5.
José Hernández Díaz, Juan de Mesa: escultor de imaginería (1583-1627) (Sevilla,
Diputación Provincial, 1983); Alberto Villar Movellán and Antonio
Urquizar Herrera, eds., Juan de Mesa (1627-2002) Visiones y revisiones (Cordoba:
Universidad de Córdoba, 2002); Enrique Pareja López et al., Juan de Mesa
(Seville: Tartessos, 2006).
93

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