Christ of Mercy, Martínez Montañés

Christ of Mercy, Martínez Montañés
Christ of Mercy, Martínez Montañés

The one known as Cristo de la Clemencia by Juan Martínez Montañés is one of the religious-themed works that has most inspired devotion. Throughout the history of art, the idea of ​​the crucified has been represented on many occasions since in its iconography we find a double aspect: on the one hand, the idea of ​​the absolute love given to man by God to the condemn his own Son for the salvation of mankind; on the other hand, the idea of ​​the death and crucifixion of Jesus is linked to that of the resurrection as true God. In this way we can understand why this is one of the most repeated symbols throughout the history of art.


On this occasion we find ourselves before a carving made in wood by the artist Juan Martínez Montañés that would fit within the baroque aesthetic –its realism and devotional character thus indicate it to us-. On the other hand, we can highlight how at this time multiple works of imagery were developed throughout much of Europe and especially in Spain, that is, religious pieces carved in wood with a deep devotional and inspiring character and that often went in procession.

Martínez Montañés (1568 – 1649) is one of the great figures of Spanish sculpture and specifically of the Andalusian school. The artist was trained in Granada together with the sculptor Pablo Rojas and soon began to reap great successes,He worked for some of the most important patrons of his time creating large altarpieces and sculptures, but unlike his contemporaries, Montañés never dedicated himself to processional steps.

The work that concerns us here is located in one of the chapels of the Cathedral of Seville, it was commissioned by Mateo Vázquez de Leca who wanted to have a crucified at the head of his personal chapel and who also laid the foundations how this should be. According to bibliographical sources and the same contract for the piece that is still preserved, the crucified man must have been looking directly at the viewer, that is why the Cristo de Montañés lowers and tilts his head looking to the praying and letting see his last breaths of life. Although the wood carving is by Montañés, it was Pacheco who was in charge of the polychromy.

Despite being a baroque Christ, this is a fairly restrained figure, only a few small drops of blood stain his face and torso and his gesturesare not overly dramatic. Despite having his legs crossed, his feet are separated from each other so it is essential to hold him using four nails and not three. His body is athletic and well-muscled, the anatomy is very well defined, perhaps due to the influence of Michelangelo himself, and as a garment he only wears a whitish purity cloth. Crowning his head we find the famous crown of thorns, in reality they are thick hawthorn branches that have been braided and form a kind of cap.

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