Arts of Spain & Portugal: Sculpture

Burgalese and Toledan sculptors

Spanish sculpture has always been a strong point of the Hispanic Society and one that continues to grow through new acquisitions. Medieval Spanish sculpture is exemplified by the 13th-century Catalan Mater Dolorosa (Lady of Sorrow), which combines a lingering Romanesque abstract sensibility with a new Gothic emotional pathos. The Hispanic Society also possesses one of the most important examples in the Americas of early Renaissance Spanish art, a pair of tombs from the monastery of San Francisco at Cuéllar (Segovia), produced around 1498 to 1525 for the family of the Dukes of Albuquerque. The earlier of the two tombs, that of the Bishop of Palencia was made in the prevalent Hispano-Flemish Gothic style associated with sculptors such as Gil de Siloe who was active in the city of Burgos from 1480 to 1500. The slightly later tomb of Mencía Enríquez de Toledo, second wife of the Duke of Albuquerque, was executed in the classical style of the Italian Renaissance as it was being developed in centers such as Toledo. The Hispanic Society also has a fine polychrome wood altar relief The Resurrection (ca. 1490) by Gil de Siloe; notable for his skill in both stone and wood, he carved several of the period’s most important commissions in Burgos.

Though the classical forms of the Italian Renaissance reached Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries, imported artistic practices did not completely replace earlier ones. Polychrome wood sculpture, such as the charming figure of Saint Martin (ca. 1475-1500) from León, continued to be made throughout the Iberian Peninsula. From the early 16th century, the Hispanic Society has a small but highly important collection of jet statuettes and amulets from Galicia, the most notable being a large figure of Saint James the Great (ca. 1525-1550). Three limestone medallions (ca. 1535-1540) that once adorned a palace or public building bear portraits of Charles V, Isabel of Portugal, and their son, who later became Philip II.

ST. MARTIN, ca. 1475-1500
Unknown sculptor
Pedro de Mena

Polychrome wood sculpture forms a major part of the collection. The Blessing Christ Child (ca. 1645) by Francisco Dionisio de Ribas, represents a type favored by 17th-century Sevillian patrons and sculptors. From Pedro de Mena, the leading sculptor in Málaga and Granada in the second half of the 17th century, is the strikingly realistic bust of Saint Acisclus (ca. 1680), patron saint of Córdoba. By Andrea de Mena, a Cistercian nun in Málaga and the daughter of Pedro de Mena, are two rare examples closely related to the work of her father, Ecce Homo (1675) and Mater Dolorosa (1675). These small-scale works of exquisite detail are both signed and dated on plaques on their bases.

Terracotta, a popular medium for 17th-century Andalusian sculptors, reached its apogee in the work of the Seville native, Luisa Roldán, called la Roldana. One of the few women artists to have maintained a studio outside the convents in Golden Age Spain, Luisa Roldán excelled in sculpting small-scale pieces for personal devotion, such as The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine, The Ecstasy of Mary Magdalene, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Head of Saint John the Baptist, and Head of Saint Paul, all produced in Madrid around 1692-1706.

Luisa Roldán

Late 19th- and early 20th-century sculpture of Hispanic subjects by Spanish, European, and American artists is represented in the Hispanic Society, in particular a significant number of works by Mariano Benlliure y Gil. Among the bronze portrait busts by Benlliure are two of his close friend Sorolla; a bas-relief of Dr. Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1908); a study in bronze of the head of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1913); Huntington’s close friend and founder of the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan, Guillermo Joaquín de Osma y Scull (1918); and works commissioned by Huntington in 1929 that include Dr. Gregorio Marañón; Benigno de la Vega-Inclán y Flaquer, Marquis of Vega-InclánÁlvaro de Figueroa y Torres-Sotomayor, Count of Romanones; and Primo de Rivera. Additional works in bronze by Benlliure are a study in bronze of the head of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1913). Benlliure worked in a variety of materials including porcelain, three of which are in the collection: A GypsyA Maja, and a statuette of the singer María de Barrientos. Also represented in the collection are works in bronze and plaster by the Spanish sculptors Antonio Rodríguez Villar, Ignacio Pinazo Martínez, and Ismael Smith; in addition to works by the Neapolitan sculptor Vincenzo Gemito, the French sculptor Count d’Épinay, the Russian sculptor Paul Troubetzkoy, and the American sculptors Herbert Hazeltine, Gutzon Borglum, Brenda Putnam, and James Earle Fraser.