Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 25

As Sevillian sculptors were developing their distinctive blend of
More surprising is the work of the Madrid-based Florentine,
devotion and idealized naturalism, local painters were developing
Bartolomé Carducho, who came to Spain in 1586 as Zuccaro’s
more tentative approaches, stalled by their fidelity to the bombastic
assistant. In 1593 Carducho produced the extraordinary Death of
style and Counter-Reformationist iconography of Mannerism
Saint Francis which is spiritually uplifting despite the fact that the
as well as tight budgets imposed by ecclesiastic patrons. Alonso
saint lies on a dirty cloth with filthy feet, surrounded by friars in
Vázquez, who worked in Seville from 1588 until his departure for
patched habits (fig. 19). Jonathan Brown describes this as “realism
Mexico in 1603, absorbed poses and motifs from the Italianate
tempered by decorum,” evoking the spirit of the Counter-
prints of Martin de Vos, Martin van Heemskerk and Cornelis
Reformation. He points to the rough, appealing humanity of both
Cort. Vasco Pereira, born in Lisbon but active in Seville from
these figures and those in the artist’s more conventional Descent
1561 to 1609, also relied heavily on prints and belonged to three
from the Cross for the church of San Felipe el Real in Madrid.34
companies of painters churning out works for local and New World
markets. A greater interest in working from life and accurately
The Florentine’s influence would be felt in Seville after 1611
describing three-dimensional form can be seen in the Immaculate
when the president of the painter’s guild, Francisco Pacheco,
Conception painted by the Cordoban Pablo de Céspedes after
visited Madrid, the Escorial, and Toledo, and met Carducho’s
returning from Rome in 1585 (fig. 18). Whilst there he had admired
brother, Vicente.
the monumentality of Michelangelo and Raphael, and had met
Federico Zuccaro, one of a group of artists who were moving away
In the meantime, sculpture continued to lead the way, in Seville
from the artificial elegance of Mannerism and returning to more
at least, towards naturalism. The award of the title of Master
veristic imagery. When Céspedes started working in Seville from
Sculptor to the Granada-born Juan Martínez Montañés in 1588
1585 onwards, these ideas began to take root.
marked an important step in this process. Setting up his own
workshop, he received an increasing number of commissions,
including a copy of one of Gaspar Nuñez Delgado’s ivories. In
1592, he provided sculptures of Saints John the Baptist and the
Evangelist to the confraternity of the Dulce Nombre de Jesús.
The contract for these works specified that the figures should be
similar to the Cristo Resucitado carved by Jerónimo Hernández
for the same confraternity ten years earlier (see fig. 14). Soon
afterwards, Montañés and his wife entered the association as
Hermanos de Luz (carrying the candles in Holy Week processions).35
The first major work by Montañés still in situ is his lively Saint
Christopher (2.2 m high) of 1597 for the guild of glovers who
were based in the church of El Salvador (fig. 20). According to
Fig. 18 Pablo de Céspedes,
Inmaculada, ca. 1685, oil on
canvas, Cordoba, Museo de
Bellas Artes.
instructions from the guild, the pine sculpture was hollowed out
so that it could be carried in their Corpus Christ procession.36 As
Beatrice Gilman Proske commented, the figure is remarkable for its
originality and power, and the weight carried by the saint is artfully
suggested by the bent knees and bulky clothes and cape. Garments
Fig. 19 Bartolomé Carducho,
like these, with deep folds, would be characteristic of Montañés’s
Death of Saint Francis, oil
work; he is recorded as saying, when appraising the work of
on canvas, Lisbon, Museu
another artist, “[without] so much drapery [figures] will look very
Nacional de Arte Antiga.
insignificant when... put in compartments at a distance.”37
Fig. 20 Juan Martínez Montañés, Saint Christopher, 1589, polychromed
wood, Seville, church of El Divino Salvador.


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