BSL introduction to the exhibition

BSL: exhibition introduction
The Sacred Made Real
4 mins 9 secs
Transcription

Transcript

In 16th and 17th century Spain wooden sculptures were fashioned of Christian saints, of scenes from the life of Christ such as the Passion (events leading to the Crucifixion) and of the Virgin Mary. Made by sculptors and painters, they were carved and painted in great detail, even being embellished with glass eyes and tears, real hair and ivory teeth.

These sculptures were displayed in churches and processed through the streets on holy days to strengthen the devotion of the viewer, inspiring them to revere the saints and emulate them.

The production of the sculptures was strictly controlled by guilds of painters and sculptors. Sculptors would carve and gesso the wood in white but they were not allowed to paint them. This part of the production was reserved for specially trained painters known as pintor de yimagineria, ‘painter of (religious) imagery’.

The tradition of painting sculptures to make them look more life-like than life, or hyperrealistic, goes back to ancient history and reflects the way that Greeks, Romans and Egyptians painted their gods. It fell out of favour in Renaissance Italy, being superseded by plain  marble, but multi-coloured or polychrome sculptures persisted in Spain.

The Spanish polychrome sculptures fascinated artists, not only Spanish artists like Velasquez, Zurbaran and Ribera but also other European artists like Degas, who took inspiration from them for his sculpture ‘Little Dancer”. Hyperrealism remains a powerful force in 21st century art.



 

Transcript

In 16th- and 17th-century Spain wooden polychrome (painted) sculptures were fashioned of Christian saints, scenes from the life of Christ – such as the Passion (the events leading to the Crucifixion) – and the Virgin Mary. They were carved and painted in great detail, even embellished with glass eyes and tears, human hair and ivory teeth.

The sculptures are displayed in churches throughout Spain and processed through the streets on holy days to inspire the devotion of the viewer.
The production of the sculptures was strictly controlled by guilds of painters and sculptors. Sculptors would carve and gesso the wood in white but they were not allowed to paint them. This part of the production was reserved for a specially trained painter known as the ‘pintor de ymaginería’ (‘painter of [religious] imagery’).

The tradition of painting sculptures to make them look more life-like than life, or hyper-realistic, goes back to ancient history and reflects the way that the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians painted sculptures of their gods. The practice fell out of favour in Renaissance Italy and was superseded by marble, but multi-coloured painted sculptures persisted in Spain.

Spanish polychrome sculptures fascinated not only contemporary Spanish painters, such as Velázquez, Zurbarán and Jusepe de Ribera, but later European artists such as the 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas, who took inspiration from them for his sculpture ‘Little Dancer Aged Fourteen”. Hyper-realism remains a powerful force in 21st-century art.

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