Juan de Mesa_Master of Passion - Page 78

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception
Ca. 1620
Polychrome wood
138 x 54 x 44 cm
x 21 17/64 x 17 21/64 in)
Rafael Ramos Sosa
One of the most representative themes of the Spanish Golden
Age, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, has deep religious
roots as well as social and political dimensions. The trajectory of
this belief until its final acceptance as doctrine by the Catholic
Church in 1852 was often difficult. It had, nevertheless, a
surprising number of adherents, particularly in Spain between
1615 and 1619 when the weight of popular devotion eclipsed all
other opinion.1
The controversy surrounding belief in the Immaculate Conception
was most visible in the arts, specifically in sculpture, where two
types of representation emerged: one from the Castilian city of
Valladolid, the other from Andalusian Seville, the most important
artistic centres of the time. In Castile, Gregorio Fernández
produced the Inmaculada de la Vera Cruz (Immaculate Virgin of the
True Cross) (1621) (fig. 56), a simple praying adolescent with very
long hair, a sparse fringe, and a mantle covering the shoulders
which is secured at the chest with a large brooch typical of the
Castilian school. In Andalusia, Juan Martínez Montañés produced
a long series of Inmaculadas in a representation which was widely
adopted across Spain. These culminated in La Cieguecita (1.68 m
high) (1629-1632), a graceful and virginal maiden, in soft frontal
contrapposto, a mantle enveloping her in a circular movement
(fig. 57).2 The hands are held slightly to one side, the head to the
other, and the figure rests on an upturned half-moon surrounded
by angels’ heads in various attitudes.


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