Art of the brotherhood
The explosion in imagery in the early Baroque period generated an almost exclusive dependence on Granada, with Pedro de Mena at the head, although Mora, Jerónimo Gómez and Antonio del Castillo, from Antequera, would also contribute works. The emblematic Christ of the Good Death, which was destroyed in 1931, is attributed to Mena and, although with the traces of the misfortunes suffered, the current statue of the Virgin of Hope is still related to his resources and graphic elements.
In the 18th century, a series of sculptors from the Málaga scene sprang up that would fall under the influence of Granada. The Asensio de la Cerda family, highly prolific, ended up defining the model of ‘painful malagueña’, an intimate gesture and generally intended for worship at home. It is the model represented by the virgins of the Dolores del Puente, Dolores de San Juan or Dolores de la Expiración. But most of all we should note the brilliant Fernando Ortiz, with masterpieces such as the Cristo del Amor (Christ of Love), Jesús Orando en el Huerto (Jesus Praying in the Garden) and the Virgen de Servitas.
The 19th century saw the saga of Gutierrez de León, a family that stood out especially for shaping mud into customary themes, although they also worked on imagery, such as the Virgen de la Amargura, in Zamarrilla.
The 20th century would be influenced by the loss brought on by the assaults on the churches in 1931 and 1936. Once again, it was craftsmen from Granada and Málaga who would rebuild what was lost. Two names are of particular interest: José Navas-Parejo, who faithfully recreated lost icons, such as Jesús ‘El Rico’ and Jesús de la Misericordia; and Francisco Palma Burgos, who would take on the commissions of his late father, Francisco Palma García, providing his own modern and suggestive language, in addition to recovering masterpieces of Palma García, such as La Piedad, and managing to skilfully recreate - without copying - the emblematic Cristo by Mena.
To these contributions we must add three first-rate images that come from the Spanish Levant: two works by Mariano Benlliure (the Nazareno del Paso and the Cristo de la Expiración) and the Cristo Resucitado, by José Capuz, commissioned by the Association of Brotherhoods.
Starting in the 1960s (although there were previous cases such as that of Antonio Castillo Lastrucci), the imagery of the Sevillian school cornered all new commissions from the brotherhoods, coinciding with the drive to renew a Holy Week immersed in a serious crisis. It was the time for people such as Antonio Eslava, Francisco Buiza, Luis Ortega Bru, Álvarez Duarte, Antonio Dubé de Luque, Juan Manuel Miñarro, Navarro Arteaga, and others, who over the decades have contributed images with a strong charisma, bold personality or genuine and appealing images of a sorrowful Mary, as the case may be.
Only with the arrival of the 21st century have relevant names re-emerged on the Málaga scene, led by Suso de Marcos and others such as Juan Manuel García Palomo, Israel Cornejo, José María Ruiz Montes or Juan Vega, to guarantee the survival of a centuries-old trade.
The 20th century marked a change in the concept of processional thrones. Before then, small and modest thrones were the norm, used like a dolly on which the relevant sculpture was carried. It is true that in the 18th century silver thrones of some luxury were documented, but these are isolated cases. It was at the end of the 19th century that thrones, usually simple, rectilinear and with historical details, came into use.
In the 1920s, Granada carver Luis de Vicente ushered in a rereading of the concepts of volumes on thrones in Malaga, which find their main reflection in the work done in the archconfraternities of La Esperanza and La Sangre.
What would appear to be consolidated as the Malaga throne was abruptly broken by the outbreak of the events of 1931 and 1936.
In the 1940s, in the middle of a transitional period, with functional thrones overloaded with flowers to make up for their otherwise plain appearance, a decree from the bishop prohibited the brotherhoods from departing from inside churches. This resulted in a sudden change in the concept of a processional throne, especially those carrying virgins. Of note here are carvers such as Adrián Risueño, Nicolás Prados López and Pedro Pérez Hidalgo, who would design veritable large travelling altarpieces. The originality of Cristobal Velasco deserves a special mention, as he would provide very eye-catching solutions to illuminate the corners of his thrones.
Today, with a few exceptions, the originals are no longer used. In the last decades of the 20th century, they would be replaced especially by goldsmith works, mainly from Talleres Villarrea in Seville; but in the 21st century, the interest to recreate the lines of the thrones that were replaced would start to prevail, with brilliant examples such as the Virgen de la Soledad by Mena or Jesus ‘El Rico’.
The drive to renew that started in the 1960s, influenced by the aesthetics of the Sevillian brotherhoods, would give rise to a common pattern in newly founded brotherhoods and the renewal of other classics: look for a size that allows entering into the Cathedral or exiting from the church, and the use of gold work for the images of the Virgin and the so-called ‘bombo’ thrones, in carved wood and usually gilded, in the cases of the images of Christ. The brotherhood of Penas provides brilliant examples of these models.
These models have been generalised, but there have always been isolated proposals, notable in the cases of the thrones of the Cristo de la Expiración and Cristo del Santo Sepulcro, and whose trilogy was just completed with the recent throne of the Cristo de la Redención.
The art of embroidery
Tunics for the images of Christ; robes, cloaks and headdresses for the images of the Virgin, who also walk under canopies with ceilings and embroidered draperies. Elements such as standards, banners or horn decorations... These are some of the spaces where an immemorial and artisanal art such as embroidery showcases all its beauty.
Numerous professional workshops remain open thanks to the role of the brotherhoods, which strive to improve and renew their historical and artistic heritage in a discipline that for much of the 20th century was cornered by the convents of nuns. Today, the professional workshops are recovering the hegemony they had in the 17th and 18th centuries especially.
Embroidery is a highly complex technique requiring considerable patience. In general, the gold thread is arranged on structures in fabrics and cardboard that give them volume, taking on forms that are generally inspired by plant motifs, and where the Baroque style is predominant.
Of all the embroidered elements that are worn during Holy Week, undoubtedly the most striking elements are the cloaks of the sorrowful Virgins, garments that in Malaga can be more than eight metres long, and that surprise with an exuberance of wealth on black, green, red, blue and purple velvets... Above, the canopies with their original designs and styles, help us to identify and give a personality to each of the brotherhoods. No two canopies are alike.