Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 35

In 1620 Mesa was commissioned by the Hermandad de Nuestro
Padre Jesús del Gran Poder y María Santísima del Mayor Dolor
y Traspaso to produce the similarly sized Cristo del Gran Poder (see
fig. 1). Representing Christ carrying the Cross, this figure was
paraded in the confraternity’s Holy Week procession from 1621
onwards.60 Indicative of the reverence paid to this object and
Mesa’s other depictions of Christ for local confraternities is the fact
that they have never been cleaned. The association of Mesa’s style
with expressively – dark skin is therefore mistaken, and is no more
than the result of years of candle soot. As described in the final
chapter of this catalogue, recent restoration of Mesa’s huge 1622
Santo Cristo de la Agonía (2.10 x 1.92 m, from a church in Bergara
in northern Spain) has revealed what his sculptures would have
looked like originally (fig. 32).61 Ironically – and unusually – the
polychromy on the Cristo de la Agonia may have been applied after
it left Seville. The Biscayan patron requested a figure in cedar
and specified that he wanted it en blanco (with no polychromy).62
Nevertheless, the restoration of the polychromy from what was
no doubt an early state provides us with an accurate idea of what
Mesa’s Christs originally looked like – in other words, much closer
in appearance to the more naturalistic works of Montañés, similar
to the Virgin and John the Baptist from Las Cuevas discussed above
(see figs. 28 and 45).
Mesa died at the age of forty-four, his master Martínez Montañés
outliving him by two decades. In the last two years of his life, Mesa
produced the sculpture of the Catalonian Saint Ramón Nonato for
the Sevillian convent of San José (see fig. 49 below), as well as the
Virgen de las Angustías in the church of San Pablo in Cordoba. It is
testament to his enduring legacy that the procession of his Jesús del
Gran Poder, the “Señor de Sevilla,” continues to be the highlight of the
Seville’s celebration of Easter to this day.
Fig. 32 Juan de Mesa, Santo Cristo
de la Agonía, 1622, polychromed
wood, Bergara, church of Sant
Pedro de Ariznoa.


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