Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron

Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron moved to Madrid in 1686 where he began his sculpting career working under Pedro Alonso de los Rios. In the following year, Villabrille opened his own workshop. His first and only signed and dated piece was a polychromed wooden head of St. Paul. This sculpture was created in 1707 and became famous for its extraordinary realism. Villabrille’s other pieces include St. Isodore and St. Mary de la Cabeza, located on the Toledo Bridge in Madrid, and a stone statue of St. Ferdinand in the portal of the Madrid Hospice of St. Ferdinand. Villabrille’s apprentice, Luis Salvador Carmona, assisted Villabrille on three stone pieces. Other pieces of polychromed wood have also been accredited to Villabrille. Due to Villabrille’s mastery of technique, he is known as one of the most important Spanish Baroque sculptors.  

The wooden statue of St. John the Baptist is thought to have been created around 1717. It was made for the Badajoz Cathedral located in Badajoz of western Spain. This piece eventually joined several exhibitions in the United States including the University of St. Thomas and the Birmingham Art Museum. Vanderbilt University purchased this piece from Victor Spark and it is now a part of the permanent collection at Vanderbilt University. 


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