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The Sacred Made Real - National Gallery

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700 will be on display at the National Gallery from Wednesday, October 21, 2009 to Sunday, January 24, 2010.

This landmark exhibition of painting and polychrome sculpture by the great Spanish realists of the 17th century has been planned by the National Gallery, London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The exhibition will demonstrate that in this period the two disciplines of painting and sculpture were intimately linked and interdependent in their quest to bring religious subjects to life. It will argue that the style of painters such as Zurbarán and Velázquez was informed by their familiarity and, in some cases, direct involvement with contemporary sculpture.

Although the sculptors on which this exhibition will focus – Gregorio Fernández, Juan Martínez Montañés, Juan de Mesa, Alonso Cano, Manuel Pereira, Pedro de Mena and José de Mora – were highly praised in their day, Spanish polychromed sculpture remains an art form that is completely unfamiliar outside Spain today.

This exhibition will provide an opportunity to re-appraise this aspect of Spanish art. By installing important pieces of sculpture alongside the great Spanish paintings of the period, such as the celebrated Crucifixion by Zurbarán from the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the National Gallery’s Saint Francis in Meditation by Zurbáran and Velázquez’s Christ at the Column, it is believed that the impact they will create will be an illuminating and powerful experience for visitors as well as groundbreaking from a scholarly point of view since there is little written on Spanish polychrome sculpture in English.

There will also be a Room 1 exhibition focusing on the making of Francisco Antonio Gijon’s sculpture of Saint John of the Cross from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. The result of new research carried out by the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture conservation team, it will explore the technical aspects of making a polychromed sculpture, from the gessoing of the wood and the application of the grounds, to the gilding and estofado technique, and to the final touches of paint that render the sculpture ‘alive’.

Also in this room will be José de Mora’s The Virgin of Sorrows (V&A) which uses ivory teeth and glass eyes to simulate reality.

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5DN

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