Juan Martínez Montañés (Alcalá la Real, 1568–Seville, 1649) marked a milestone in Spanish Baroque sculpture and a timeless model in the Sevillian school. This exhibition provides an insight into a select representation of 44 sculptures and reliefs by the brilliant artist, of a total of 58 works on display. Divided into three sections, the itinerary presents an exceptional repertoire of works that bear witness to the ambition of the major commissions he undertook, the sublime quality of his devotional images and the novelty of his iconographic models. The first section features works from his most outstanding groups or altarpieces, such as those from San Isidoro del Campo and the convent of San Leandro. The second one offers key examples of his magnificent religious imagery, such as Saint Christopher and Saint Jerome, and the third one highlights his most significant contributions to Sevillian Baroque iconography, as exemplified by the Infant Jesus from the Cathedral Side Chapel, ‘La Cieguecita’ (Little Blind One), and the Christ of Clemency.
The connections with the artistic and intellectual world of the day reveal the collaboration between Montañés and other artists, also represented here by paintings that formed part of altarpieces or were the pictorial expression of the new iconographies which the sculptor helped to establish. Many of the works on display have undergone conservation and restoration works specifically for the exhibition, enabling us to appreciate the extraordinary quality and beauty of the grand masterís work in all its glory. Thanks to the generous collaboration of the Archbishopric of Seville, the exhibition also includes works which the general public rarely have the opportunity to admire, either because they are located high up on altarpieces or hidden away in convents and monasteries.
In ‘Black but Human’ Carmen Fracchia, Reader in Hispanic Art History at Birkbeck, explores the emergence of the slave and freed slave subjects in the visual form of Imperial Spain. The book considers the links between visual regimes and early modern Spanish discourses on slavery and human diversity that are the historic roots of contemporary racism in the Hispanic world.
‘Black but Human’ is the first study to focus on the visual representations of African slaves and ex-slaves in Spain during the Hapsburg dynasty. The Afro-Hispanic proverb ‘Black but Human’ is the main thread of the six chapters and serves as a lens through which to explore how a certain visual representation of slavery both embodies and reproduces hegemonic visions of enslaved and liberated Africans, and at the same time provides material for critical and emancipatory practices by Afro-Hispanics themselves.
The African presence in the Iberian Peninsula between the late fifteenth century and the end of the seventeenth century was as a result of the institutionalization of the local and transatlantic slave trades. In addition to the Moors, Berbers and Turks born as slaves, there were approximately two million enslaved people in the kingdoms of Castile, Aragón and Portugal. The ‘Black but Human’ topos that emerges from the African work songs and poems written by Afro-Hispanics encodes the multi-layered processes through which a black emancipatory subject emerges and a ‘black nation’ forges a collective resistance. It is visually articulated by Afro-Hispanic and Spanish artists in religious paintings and in the genres of self-portraiture and portraiture. This extraordinary imagery coexists with the stereotypical representations of African slaves and ex-slaves by Spanish sculptors, engravers, jewellers, and painters mainly in the religious visual form and by European draftsmen and miniaturists, in their landscape drawings and sketches for costume books.
Click here for more information and to pre-order this book
20 works of Spanish religious sculpture and painting are currently on display in the monumental wards of the ancient hospital of Bruges. It is a rare opportunity to become acquainted with some lesser-known aspects of Spain’s Golden Age. The highlight of the exhibition, in addition to paintings by famous Spanish masters like Murillo and Zurbaran, is a group of six hyper-realistic sculptures by the greatest sculptor of the Spanish Baroque, Pedro de Mena.
This project is in collaboration with the Luxemburg Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art and the exhibition will travel to this museum in 2020.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in English, with texts by Ruud Priem, Sibylla Goegebuer, Malgorzata Nowara, Gilles Zeimat, and Noël Geirnaert. Click here for more information on the exhibition and here for the catalogue.
Paintings by the Spanish Baroque artist, Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652), prompted a range of contradictory responses in the nineteenth century. Poets, travel writers, critics and artists reacted to his work, especially his striking depictions of violent subjects, at once with admiration and displeasure. In his epic poem Don Juan (1823), Lord Byron declares that ‘Spagnoletto tainted / His brush with all the blood of all the sainted’, and in 1845, Théophile Gautier published two poems on the artist, referring to Ribera as ‘le noir Valencian’, and ‘plus dur que Jupiter’. While Byron and Gautier are often quoted in the literature on the artist, scholars have been swift to dismiss these responses as ‘muddying the waters’ of Ribera’s œuvre, and thus his reception during the nineteenth century has, until recently, received scant scholarly attention.
Through a close, comparative study of Ribera’s paintings and Gautier’s poems, this lecture will explore nineteenth-century attitudes towards extreme imagery in the context of the revival of the Spanish School in France. It will provide a more contextualised and nuanced account of Ribera’s reception during the nineteenth century, and demonstrate that Gautier’s poetic responses are not, in fact, distorting, but revealing. The lecture will argue for the significance of these poems by suggesting that Gautier calls attention to the problematic relationship between the act of inflicting torture and the art of representing pain, a tension which is central to an understanding of Ribera’s violent imagery, and to the myth-making of Ribera as a ‘violent’ artist.
This is the first exhibition in the UK dedicated to the Spanish Baroque painter, draughtsman and printmaker Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652). Born in Játiva, Valencia, Ribera emigrated to Italy as a young artist. Proud of his Spanish heritage, he eventually settled in Naples, then a Spanish territory, but never again returned to Spain. A hybrid figure, Ribera had a significant influence on the art of both countries in the seventeenth century.
Introducing this artist to a UK audience, the exhibition focuses on some of Ribera’s most powerful images featuring saints and sinners, flaying and flogging. Ribera’s images of pain have often been described as shocking and even grotesque in their realism. In a common historiographical trope, the artist himself has been labelled as sadistic and violent. Challenging this long-standing interpretation, Ribera: Art of Violence will reveal the complex artistic, religious and cultural discourses underpinning the artist’s violent imagery in paint and on paper. This exploration will be anchored by a number of major loans from North American and European collections, with some works travelling to the UK for the first time.
A scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition, showcasing the new research which has informed the display.
Ribera: Art of Violence is co-curated by ARTES committee member Dr Edward Payne, author of a PhD thesis on the theme of violence in Ribera’s art (2012) and contributor to the catalogue raisonné of Ribera’s drawings (2016), and Dr Xavier Bray (Director, The Wallace Collection), former Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and curator of the National Gallery’s exhibitions The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600–1700 (2009) and Goya: The Portraits (2015).
Curated by Andrés Gutiérrez Usillos, this exhibition focuses on an anonymous portrait of c. 1670. The work represents Doña María Luisa de Toledo, daughter of the Marquis of Mancera, Viceroy of New Spain, accompanied by a tattooed Indigenous woman. The show explores the world of the women portrayed in the painting, for example by reconstructing Doña María Luisa de Toledo’s trousseau, composed mainly of American and Asian items acquired in Mexico. The presentation thus analyses the clashes and encounters among the different worlds which coexisted in Viceregal America from a rare female perspective.