The Spanish doctor and scientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal received theNobel Prize in Medicinein 1906 and his prestige throughout Spain, and beyond its borders, was enormous. So when he retired after a life dedicated to science and medicine, he began to receive all kinds of tributes, even though he was not a character who sought that kind of recognition.
Santiago Ramón y Cajal by Mariano Benlliure
However, given his achievements, it seemed inevitable. And especially in certain places closely linked to his biography. And one of those places was undoubtedly theUniversity of Zaragoza, an institution where he had studied as a young man, and where he returned years later to work as a professor. Precisely in that same place, in theOld Faculty of Medicine and Sciences, the current Paraninfo, wanted to erect a monument in his honor. And it was done in a privileged place inside the building, in the first section of the great central staircase, so that the figure of the eminent scientist, carved in a large block of white marble, is visible from the moment you enter the building and also when you are on its main floor.
The work was commissioned by the rector of the University of Zaragoza, the Valencian artist Mariano Benlliure (1862 – 1947), considered the best portrait sculptor of the time. And it is that it was an artist tremendously valued by thecharacter and realistic style of his creations, something especially noticeable in his portraits. That was decisive for the commission to fall into his hands, but it also happened thatCajalaround the year 1922, already retired, he moved to live in the mountains on the outskirts from Madrid. A place that fascinated him by its nature. And precisely in a town next to his, Benlliure had his workshop.
So it was also easier for the scientist to attend the necessary posing sessions. Something that he did with a certain pleasure, since they forged a good friendship between the portrait artist and the person portrayed. Among other things because they spent more time together than strictly necessary for the pose. The issue is thatRamón y Cajalwas not driving, and for this reason Benlliure himself offered to pick them up by car to his house to take him to the studio and then return him to the home of the. They undoubtedly talked a lot during those journeys, and even to endorse their friendship, they even had a traffic accident, which was saved without serious damage but with a strengthening of the relationship.
And even the sculptor somehow became his official portraitist, chiseling or modeling his features for many other works and formats, from coins and medallions to other sculptures in the form of a bust
The fact is that Benlliure already had the great work completed in 1923, just as it appears signed. And once he moved to Zaragoza, his inauguration was scheduled several times. But Cajal did not go to any of them. First for hishe alth ailments due to his advanced age. And second because he was not very fond of this type of event either. And even less so in 1925, when it was officially inaugurated, and King Alfonso XIII even attended the event.