Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 104

from a letter Irazábal sent from Seville to Bergara, dated 18
Sevillian artist Pacheco suggests in his treatise, El Arte de la
January 1627, in response to the thanks received from the council.
Pintura: “ The face with majesty and decorum, showing no ugly
This letter neither mentions the church’s decoration nor refers
twisting or distortion, as befitted the sovereign greatness of
to any previous intention to donate an image. On the contrary,
Christ Our Lord”.8 As regards the title ‘de la Agonía’, its origin is
Irazábal declared a motive which is purely pious: “my hopes and
unknown but probably dates from the twentieth century, since in
strong faith that it will cause much devotion and benefit to souls,
the historiography of the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, and
which is my main purpose”. He added that he ventured to send it
early twentieth centuries the figure is always referred to as “Santo
because the image pleased him as much from an aesthetic as from
Cristo de Bergara”.
a devotional point of view:
Technical Notes
“because it has turned out to please me and encourage
The total dimensions of the figure of Christ are 207 cm (from
my devotion so much, and its majesty has begun to
head to foot) x 193 cm wide (from hand to hand) x 46 cm deep (in
arouse admiration here, I ventured to send it impelled
the area between the head and the loincloth). The cross is 357 cm
by my hopes and strong faith that it will cause much
high (from the INRI to the partially mutilated base) x 200 cm (the
devotion and benefit to souls, which is my main purpose”.
horizontal crossbar) x 12.5 cm (diameter). It also has a separate
carved piece, joined to the base of the cross by wooden wedges
The slight inclination of the neck, the position of the eyes and
which are held in place by pressure. Including this piece, the cross
play on gaze, all suggesting a dialogue with the divine, are some
measures a total of 388 cm in length. The nails joining the figure
of the resources Mesa uses to give intensity to the expression of
to the cross through the hands are 27 cm long by about 1.5 cm
feeling (fig. 70). The face, too, reflects this moment of death (the
diameter (fig. 71). The nail in the feet is 44.5 cm long by 1.5 cm
Fig. 69 Juan de Mesa, Cristo de la Agonía (before restoration), detail of dust
Fig. 70 Juan de Mesa, Cristo de la Agonía (before restoration), detail of head
parted lips showing teeth and tongue, and the slightly protruding
diameter. The INRI is a separate wooden piece joined to the cross
and soot on head and upper body.
and upper body.
eyes), but also suppressed pain, as the early-seventeenth century
by an iron nail. It is 17.5 cm wide x 39.5 high x 2.5 cm deep.
The intervention took place from June 2017 to January 2018,
No indication was given about where it was intended for display
with the general aim of providing solutions to the conservation
nor is there a record of the painter of the polychromy. Irazábal
problems seriously affecting the sculpture. It was also intended
sent the sculpture to Bergara in 1626, ordering his son, Juan
that study on the work during conservation and restoration would
Bautista Irazábal, to deliver it to church of San Pedro de Bergara
enable a greater understanding of the construction solutions and
at the parish council meeting on 5 October that year. No change
technical processes employed in the creation of this sculptural
in the location of the sculpture is known since 1626 when it was
masterpiece, at both support and polychromy levels.
installed in the chapel where it is still venerated, below the choir in
the church of San Pedro de Bergara.7
The Cristo de la Agonía
The contractual document drawn up between Pérez Irazábal and
It has traditionally been said that Comptroller Irazábal
Juan de Mesa states the sculptor should make a living Christ out of
commissioned the work for his native town, a common practice
Fig. 71 Juan de Mesa,
cedar wood, showing the cross, nails and crown of thorns, with an
among those who made their fortune far from their place of
Cristo de la Agonía (before
‘en blanco’ finish (without polychromy). It should be ten ‘cuartas’ high,
origin, though this is not based on documentary evidence. It can
restoration), detail of
completed in approximately four months and cost 1.300 reales.6
be deduced that there was no prior communication on the subject
hand nailed to cross.


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