Saturday, January 22

Outstanding polychrome sculptures on display in Upper Manhattan

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library (HSM & L) has just opened the exhibition “Gilded Figures: Wood and Clay Made Flesh” (Golden Figures: Wood and Clay Made Flesh), which offers a rare glimpse into one of the major art forms of the Hispanic world between 1500 and 1800: polychrome sculpture.

Curated by Dr. Patrick Lenaghan, HSM & L Chief Curator of Prints, Photographs and Sculptures, and Hélène Fontoira-Marzin, HSM & L Chief Curator, the exhibition runs until January 9, 2022. It is the first NYC event featuring this art form for the past 20 years.

The more than 20 sculptures on display not only attest to the high level of artistic production, but also include important works by women artists and show how the stylistic conventions of Spain were adapted to the New World.

Golden Figures begins with late Gothic and early Renaissance works by the best sculptors in Castile./Courtesy HSM & L

Golden Figures begins with late Gothic and early Renaissance works by the best sculptors in Castile. Among them, a superb monumental relief of the Resurrection attributed to Gil de Siloe reveals the dazzling talent of these artists. The decisive way in which Italian models shaped the work of subsequent generations appears in the 16th century reliquary busts of Juan de Juni.

The Baroque period witnessed an impressive flourishing in which figures such as Pedro de Mena achieved effects of dazzling naturalism as seen in his San Acisclus. The exhibition also draws attention to another consideration, the role of women artists, in a section of pieces by Luisa Roldán and Andrea de Mena. The first of these achieved success by ascending to the position of Escultora Real (chamber sculptor).

The works display an impressive range of scale and emotion. / Courtesy HSM & L

The last section of the show will focus on Latin American sculpture in this period, in works characterized by an impressive range of scale and emotion. A monumental 16th-century relief of Santiago Matamoros (Santiago the Matamoros) of Mexico reveals how Spanish models were transplanted and adapted to the needs of the Catholic Church as they embarked on a campaign to convert indigenous people.

In addition to Mexico, Ecuador witnessed a flourishing of polychrome sculpture in which Quito sculptors produced masterpieces.

Painted with vivid attention to detail, statues such as the Virgin of Quito or San Miguel show the powerful effects these talented artists achieved.

The exhibition concludes with perhaps the most dramatic exhibit of this school, and one of the museum’s most recent acquisitions: The Four Destinations of the Caspicara Man. In these figures, the indigenous sculptor depicts a variety of emotions with consummate skill and a delicate touch as part of a theological lesson to inspire people to persevere in their faith.

The exhibition will be open until January 9, 2022./ Courtesy HSM & L

The Hispanic Society Museum & Library is located at 613 West 155th Street, Manhattan. “Gilded Figures” is open every Thursday and Sunday from 12 to 6 pm For more information about the exhibition and / or to plan a visit, visit:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *