Posts Tagged ‘woman sculptor’


Photos: Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Suida-Manning Collection
Luisia Roldán’s “Education of the Virgin” (1689–1706). Detail, preconservation. Mary is the child reading at her mother’s knee.

I like thinking about the career of this 17th century sculptor and her subject in the terracotta above, whether she chose the topic or it was commissioned. We see Mary’s parents encouraging her reading, and I know that to rise to her official position in the court of the last Habsburg king, Luisa Roldán had support from her parents, too.

Lydia Pyne writes at Hyperallergic, “In 1692, the sculptor Luisa Roldán was invited to take up the post of Escultora de Cámara in the court of Spain’s last Habsburg king, Charles II. A well-established artist long before her court appointment, Roldán’s sculptures were commissioned by Spanish aristocrats and royalty and her works were widely circulated — they were sent to Mexico and England during her lifetime. She was Spain’s first recorded female artist, learning the craft from her father, the sculptor Pedro Roldán.

Luisa Roldán is easily the most famous sculptor you’ve never heard of.

“Roldán’s work is characterized by small-scale terracotta sculptures like ‘Education of the Virgin’ (1689-1706). … Historically, her small, painted polychrome terracotta sculptures would have been used for private devotion in homes or private chapels. …

“ ‘Education of the Virgin’ portrays an encounter between the young Virgin Mary and her parents, Saints Anne and Joachim. Anne holds a book as Mary reads, Mary’s finger carefully keeping her place on the page. In the bottom right corner, a small, cherubic angel presents a woven basket filled with swaddling cloth. The scene emphasizes Anne’s role in actively managing Mary’s education, both spiritual and secular. …

“The sculpture underscores the importance of children’s religious training, for both boys and girls, and originally served as a didactic template for children’s spiritual and secular education — education that would have been facilitated through the household’s matriarch.

“By the 17th century, terracotta had long been an interim medium for sculptors — something used to work out a rough plan or idea, but not for a final piece. This changed with Roldán. …

“Many Roldán sculptures also allowed for audience participation through detached figures that could be moved and arranged by audiences, thus offering a blueprint for the hugely popular Neapolitan crèches and, centuries later, Fontanini Nativity sets. …

“Terracotta is an extremely fragile medium and ‘Education of the Virgin’ is among only 20 or so of Roldán’s sculptures to survive. The Blanton’s conservation efforts have highlighted the complexity of these artworks as well as the intricate multimedia material makeup of the sculpture as it existed in the 1600s. …

“Luisa Roldán’s career emphasizes her familial network and connections. Her father taught her and her sisters to sculpt; her husband, Luis Antonio de los Arcos, was a carver in Pedro’s workshop; and her brother-in-law Tomás de los Arcos painted many of her sculptures. Luis Antonio would eventually manage Roldán’s workshop, rather than taking commissions for his own work. Within the social confines of 17th-century Spain, Roldán managed to carve out a successful, respected place as an artist.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

The sculpture following its conservation at the Blanton Museum of Art.


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