Alonso Cano Devotional Figure

Andalusia, Spain

Circa 1650

A polychrome pewter devotional figure of the infant Christ on a parcel-gilt polychrome and brass-inlaid wood base supported on four lion-shaped feet.

Attributed to Alonso Cano (1601-1667)

Height overall 62.2 cm (24.5 in) height of figure 47 cm (18.5 in)

Exhibited: Brussels, Splendeurs d'Espagne et les Villes Belges 1500-1700, 1985

Literature: Brussels, Splendeurs d'Espagne et les Villes Belges 1500-1700, 1985 Vol no.C12, p.477

Comparative Literature: J H Diaz, Juan Martinez Montanes (1568-1649) Seville 1987 figs.92-94. Escultura Espanola Jose F Rafols, 1943. Nino Jesus Federico Motta, 1989.

A selection of museums which hold works by Alonso Cano are: The Wallace Collection, London, the Prado Museum, Madrid and the Los Angeles County Museum, California.

In looking at artists such as Alonso Cano, Juan Martinez Montanes (1568-1649), Pedro de Mena y Medrano (1628-1688) and Jose de Mora (1642-1724) one sees the result of an artistic quest to achieve a high sense of realism in wood and paint. This realism was created almost exclusively within a religious context and intended to make the onlooker humble before an essentially human image of a saint. The serenity of some of these figures as well as a tragic pathos in others would, within the context of a church, heighten the religious experience and touch the heart of the faithful.

This figure is identical to one held in the collections of the Museum in Valladolid, Castilla y Leon, Spain which is attributed to Alonso Cano. Cano was an architect, painter and sculptor, sometimes known as the Michaelangelo of Spain due the diversity of his talents. He was taught architecture by his father, Miguel and at the age of 13 moved to Seville where he was taught painting by Pacheco (a fellow student was Velasquez) and sculpture by Montanes. He was appointed King's painter by Philip IV and went on to become Canon of Granada Cathedral where he executed numerous sculptures and paintings, (including the polychrome wood statue of the Immaculate Conception, which is sometimes considered to be his masterpiece). He also designed much of the western facade of the Cathedral which was completed after his death. The present figure of the Christ child was made for private devotional use and is comparable to the wood figure (1606-1607) of the Nino Jesus by Juan Martinez Montanes in Seville cathedral (J H Diaz); the treatment of the torso, abdomen and legs is virtually identical although the arms differ in position, the right arm being raised as if in blessing and the left relaxed by the side with the fingers gently curled; they may have held a rose alluding to the future 'Passion'. Interestingly, the base upon which the Montanes figure sits is virtually identical to the base of the present figure.

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