Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 68

the convents of Santa María del Socorro, San Leandro (fig. 51),
Santa Clara, and Santa Paula (fig. 52) in Seville, for a chapel
in Lima Cathedral as well as the one now in the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York (154 x 72.2 x 70.2 cm, produced
for an unknown location) (fig. 53). There are significant formal
differences between the works of the master and disciple, Mesa
creating his own personal composition and expressive vocabulary.
Professor José Hernández Díaz, the artist’s first biographer and an
expert on both Mesa and Martínez Montañés, summarized their
different approaches as follows: “Assurance, serenity, balance, grace
and poetry in the work of Montañés; movement, realism, elegance,
expressivity in his disciple, in other words, the baroque.”1
All three of Mesa’s Saint Johns – the two which have already been
published and the one presented here – are standing. We consider
that the version belonging to Coll y Cortés was produced between
the other two. It shares with the one from 1623 (now in the Museo
de Bellas Artes in Seville) (see fig. 45) the Agnus Dei seated on
the book as well as the absence of a crucifix in the saint’s right
hand, whereas the one from Bormujos has the lamb on the floor
and a tall rush cross (see fig. 46). The book, lamb, and hand
pointing to it in the figure in the Museo de Bellas Artes follow
the composition usually employed by Martínez Montañés for
Fig. 51 Juan Martínez Montañés, Saint John the Baptist, 1622, polychromed
his standing Saint Johns – the first produced in 1609-1613 for the
wood, Seville, convent of San Leandro.
monastery of San Isidoro del Campo (see fig. 50), the second in
1628-1631 for the chapel of the Inmaculada in Seville Cathedral
(fig. 54), and the third for the convent of Santa Clara in Seville.
The use of a Montañés model for Mesa’s 1623 composition
may be related to the fact that the monks turned to Mesa when
Montañés failed to honour a contract for a Saint John the Baptist
and Virgin and Child signed two years earlier. The disciple Mesa
duly produced a clean-shaven Baptist like most of those produced
by his master.
The figure presented here is close to the Saint John from Bormujos,
an attribution first proposed by Hernández Díaz during the 1929
Exposición Iberoamericana, and unanimously accepted in recent years.2
All three figures share a similar treatment of the hair, with
Fig. 52 Juan
voluminous curls on top of the head and longer locks to the sides.
Fig. 53 Juan Martínez
Martínez Montañés,
This treatment derives from Montañes although he never adopted
Saint John the Baptist,
it in the context of his numerous renditions of Saint John the
the Baptist, ca. 1620-30,
1638, polychromed
Baptist. The figure’s camel’s hair tunic is the same type as that
polychromed wood,
wood, Seville, Santa
from Bormujos, the bottom edge raised over the knee, the collar
New York, Metropolitan
V-shaped, and the sleeves ending at the elbow.
Museum of Art.
Montañés, Saint John


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