The Fitzwilliam Museum’s fundraising drive to acquire a Mater Dolorosa by Pedro de Mena proves successful

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Pedro de Mena’s Virgin of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) saved by public appeal

In another example of public philanthropy, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has acquired a the Mater Dolorosa (Virgin of Sorrows) by Pedro de Mena. The acquisition had been supported by grants of £30,000 from the Art Fund and £10,000 from The Henry Moore Foundation plus an astonishing £85,000 from the public appeal.

Tim Knox, Director of the Fitzwilliam, said, ‘This has been right to the wire, and every single penny has counted. Our sincere thanks go out to all who donated towards the appeal: you have helped secure an important and beautiful work of art for the nation’. Described as ‘mesmerisingly beautiful, with gently furrowed brows and natural flesh tones’, the bust was probably created for a private chapel, study or bedchamber and might originally have been paired with a similarly-sized bust of the Ecce Homo (Christ as the Man of Sorrows).

Pedro de Mena was taught the art of wood carving by his father, Alonso de Mena (1587—1646), a well-regarded sculptor of traditional religious images in Granada. Following his father’s death, the eighteen-year-old Pedro took over the workshop and was joined by established artist Alonso Cano (1601-67), who taught him how to paint sculpture realistically. As a result, Mena’s statues and busts have a remarkable lifelike quality. Mena left Granada in 1658 and spent the rest of his career in Málaga. He was well regarded by prestigious patrons from church and state and known for his religiosity, for which he was appointed censor of images by the Inquisition in Granada and Málaga.

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