Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 111

between the two surfaces to be joined (fig. 75). These pieces have
been found on both sides of the perimeter of the wood block of
In spite of the vicissitudes suffered by the Bergara Christ’s
the back, as well as on the central finger of the left hand. The
polychromy, it is original and, as is mostly the case for this type
arrangement of these pieces is visible from the micro-fissures in the
of work, there is no evidence for its authorship (figs. 78 & 79).
polychromy, as well as on the X-ray image.
The commissioning contract specifies that the carving should be
delivered uncoloured and so there is no reference to the person
The volume of the head is completed by the addition of a piece
who applied the polychromy. The laboratory chemical analysis
to the front, bearing the carved face (fig. 76). In some places
study of the paint layer used magnifying optical instruments: three
where the thorn branches are in contact with the hair, these
fragments were taken from the figure and one from the cross.
are carved from the same block, or – where they are separate
The results of the IAPH laboratories’ analyses in this study were
from the hair – from distinct pieces which are joined on. The
supplemented by others done by the μMICRA company in 2009.
crown is made of wood carved in the shape of several branches
encircling the head: on the right side there are six branches,
Observation with magnifying equipment revealed how the
and on the left only five. One of the branches ends in a knot
polychromy was applied, and this followed the usual method for
shape. The thorns were also carved from wood, although
this type of example. The first layer placed directly on the wood
most of these have now been lost and only the stumps on the
is a coat of animal glue; the second is a plaster and animal glue
branches remain.
ground layer; finally, the layer of flesh colour is applied in two coats.
The first coat is thicker with coarser pigment grains and used to
The cross is made of carved and polychromed wood. The
provide a rough outline. The second coat is used to define chromatic
cylindrical section is 12.5 cm in diameter and has a rough finish
changes and represent the polychromed surface of the crucified
imitating the bark of a tree. This effect is achieved by incisions
figure naturalistically (figs. 80 a & b). The flesh tones on the figure
in the wood made with a curved gouge. Some areas have no
represent a man who is still alive, the lacerations and blows are
bark and are smooth. The cross is made of four pieces, plus the
shown without excessive crudeness. The area where the hair meets
INRI piece. The upright (Latin stipes) has three pieces: one is the
the flesh is done with fresh paint, blending the colour so that the hair
lower part (319.5 cm long) and reaches the intersection with the
looks natural, an effect enhanced by the brush marks (fig. 81).
crossbar; the other two are above the crossbar and are 19 cm and
Fig. 77 Juan de Mesa, Cristo de la Agonía, detail of mortise and tenon joint
13 cm long. The crossbar (Latin patibulum) is carved from a single
The polychromy on the loincloth uses a pink tint to represent
on cross.
piece (200 cm long). The stipes and the patibulum are connected
fabric which has absorbed blood (fig. 82). The layer of colour
with a square mortise and tenon joint with no glue (fig. 77). The
is very thin, especially in the rear areas where there are spaces
crossbar contains the mortise (hollow) into which the tenon (peg)
lacking any colour layer at all and the white preparatory surface is
of the upright fits. This peg has a reduced width towards one
seen as a final finish.
end so as to fit into the hollow of the mortise. The final fragment
of the vertical is connected to the whole by a large iron nail
protruding from the upper surface.
In brief: the two bars of the cross are fitted together by a
pressure system and were never glued together. No remains
of glue were found in the assembling and the vertical bar
hides the surface of the horizontal in contact with it, which is
Fig. 78 Juan de Mesa,
Cristo de la Agonía,
ultraviolet fluorescence
photograph of back
view of body.
plastered and polychromed. A piece of wood is joined to the
lower end of the cross by a system of crossed wooden pins.
Fig. 79 Juan de Mesa,
This piece has been placed there in a previous intervention for
Cristo de la Agonía,
stability, fitting the cross to a base in the Chapel where it was
ultraviolet fluorescence
photograph of head.


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