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

Spanish Baroque Sculpture

Throughout the seventeenth century, Spanish art was generally isolated from the rest of the world. With the accession of the Bourbon dynasty in the eighteenth century, however, many foreign artists flocked to Madrid to decorate the new royal palaces. Hence, Madrid became a center of Baroque art. It was also during this time that Spain began to interact more with other cultures and their artistic traditions. The demand for decorative art increased, with commissions from prominent households, royal families, and monumental churches. In particular, church altar pieces were highly decorated with columns, sculptures, and reliefs, to create a sense of the Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art.  Some altars were so highly decorated that the message of the piece was lost.

The sculptor Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron is known for his highly realistic depictions of saints in agony.  This style, known as the cruelty of martyrdom, is representative of the common art movements occurring across Spain. His sculptures represent a more extreme version of the traditional form of Catholic figure-heads. 


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