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Art of the brotherhood

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Art of the brotherhood

Art of the brotherhood

IMAGERY

Spanish imagery sculpture emerged as a prominent feature in the vast landscape of Baroque art. It was notable for its striking realism and the abundance of depictions of religious topics. During the early Baroque period, Spanish imagery was largely shaped by the influence of Granada, with Pedro de Mena at the forefront. However, outstanding figures such as the Mora circle, Jerónimo Gómez, and the talented Antequera-born Antonio del Castillo also contributed their works.

Pedro de Mena is credited with the creation of the Santísimo Cristo de la Buena Muerte y Ánimas, which disappeared after the unfortunate events of May 1931. Although the current carving of the Virgen de la Esperanza bears the marks of the vicissitudes it has suffered, it still maintains links with Mena's characteristic resources and graphics.

The 18th century brought a series of sculptors from the circle of Malaga who drew on Granada's influence. The Asensio de la Cerda family, who were very prolific, ended up defining the model of the "Malaga dolorosa" (a sorrowful figure from Malaga), with an intimate gesture and generally intended for domestic worship. This is the model represented by the virgins of the Dolores del Puente, Dolores de San Juan and Dolores de la Expiración. But, above all, the figure of the exceptional Fernando Ortiz, who holds the title of one of the most outstanding sculptors in Spain and Andalusia, recognised for the excellence of his work and his impeccable career, must be singled out.

Unlike Mena's expressions, Ortiz's art exhibits Italian-inspired shapes, with less restraint in the composition and a stronger facial vivacity. The masterpieces of this illustrious artist from Malaga include the Cristo del Amor (Christ of Love), Jesús Orando en el Huerto (Jesus Praying in the Garden) and the moving Virgen de Servitas (Virgin of Servitas).

In the 19th century, the Gutiérrez de León saga came to prominence, a firm that distinguished itself notably for its mastery in the modelling of clay and the depiction of traditional motifs. However, they also worked on imagery and evidence of this can be seen in the moving and venerated Virgen de la Amargura, from the brotherhood of Zamarrilla.

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As the 20th century brought with it the weight of the loss of heritage following the tragic assaults on the churches in 1931 and 1936, new artists from Granada and Malaga emerged, whose skilled and passionate hands were entrusted with the arduous task of reconstructing the lost heritage. Two names are worth mentioning: José Navas-Parejo, who faithfully recreates icons, such as Jesús 'El Rico' or Jesús de la Misericordia; and Francisco Palma Burgos, who took on the commissions of his late father, Francisco Palma García, contributing his own modern and suggestive language, as well as recovering masterpieces by Palma García such as the Piedad and managing to skilfully recreate - without actually copying - the emblematic Cristo de Mena.

In addition to these contributions, three first-class images from the Spanish Levante region were added: two works by Mariano Benlliure (the Nazareno del Paso and the Cristo de la Expiración) and the Cristo Resucitado (Risen Christ) by José Capuz, commissioned by the Brotherhood Association itself.

It was not until the 1960s (although there were earlier cases such as that of Antonio Castillo Lastrucci) that the Sevillian school of imagery took over the new commissions from brotherhoods, coinciding with renewed vigour in an Easter immersed in a serious crisis. This is when names such as Antonio Eslava, Francisco Buiza, Luis Ortega Bru, Álvarez Duarte, Antonio Dubé de Luque, Juan Manuel Miñarro and Navarro Arteaga, to mention but a few, contributed images of strong charisma, striking personality and attractive, traditional figures, depending on each case, over the decades.

Only in the 21st century have important names re-emerged in the Malaga scene, with Suso de Marcos at the head and others such as Juan Manuel García Palomo, Israel Cornejo, José María Ruiz Montes and Juan Vega, guaranteeing the survival of a centuries-old profession.

THRONES

The 20th century heralded a change in the concept of processional thrones. Until that time, small and modest processional platforms called parihuelas where the titular image was placed were commonplace. Admittedly, there are some documented cases in the 18th century of silver processional platforms, although these are isolated cases. At the end of the 19th century, the thrones were generally simple, rectilinear and with historicist details.

The Granada-born carver Luis de Vicente came to the fore in the 1920s, representing a new approach to the concepts of volume in the thrones of Malaga, which were mainly reflected in his work for the archconfraternities of La Esperanza and La Sangre. His first major commission came when he won a national competition for Ella. This throne was also his first work for Malaga and the first in the city with a purely Baroque aesthetic.

The events of 1931 and 1936, in which all his works were destroyed except for the altarpiece that carries La Esperanza every Maundy Thursday, were a sudden blow to what seemed to consolidate his reputation as a Malaga icon.

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The altarpiece was replaced in the late 20th century by gold and silver pieces, mainly from the Sevillian Talleres Villarreal, such as the throne of María Stma. de la Trinidad Coronada (Mary of the Crowned Trinity). At the beginning of the 21st century, interest grew in recreating the lines of the lost thrones and brilliant examples emerged, such as that of the sovereign Virgen de la Soledad de Mena and Jesús 'El Rico'.

Moreover, there was an air of renewal from the 1960s onwards, in which the aesthetics of the Sevillian brotherhoods gained influence and prominence. This change led to a shift which was shared by the recently created brotherhoods and those which decided to update their traditions. They sought dimensions which would allow them to enter the Cathedral or leave the temple, as well as the creation of goldwork thrones for the images of the Virgin and the well-known 'bombo' thrones, made of carved wood and usually gilded, especially for the representations of Christ. The Brotherhood of Las Penas has outstanding examples of these models.

Although these models have gained popularity, there have also been unique designs that deserve recognition, such as the thrones of the Cristo de la Expiración and del Santo Sepulcro (Christ of the Expiration and the Holy Sepulchre). A recent trilogy has been formed with the inclusion of the throne of the Cristo de la Redención (Christ of Redemption), which rounds off a highly significant collection in the tradition of Malaga's brotherhoods.

THE ART OF EMBROIDERY

The tunics adorning the images of Christ, as well as the shawls, cloaks and headdresses on the Virgin's images, parade majestically under canopies with embroidered ceilings and draperies, among other items such as scripts, banners and horn cloths. These spaces provide a canvas where the ancient, handcrafted art of embroidery reveals its full beauty.

Numerous specialised workshops keep this tradition alive, thanks to the support of the brotherhoods that strive to improve and renew their historical and artistic heritage. For much of the 20th century, this art, which was the domain of the nuns' convents, has once again been led by professional workshops, thus regaining the hegemony it held in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Embroidery is a highly complex and painstaking technique. In general, the gold threads are arranged on fabric and cardboard structures, giving them volume and adopting forms inspired by floral motifs, where the baroque style holds sway.

Naturally, the most striking of all the embroidered elements that are paraded during Easter are the cloaks of the images of the figures of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary. In Malaga, these garments can reach more than eight metres in length and dazzle us with their display of richness on velvets of different colours such as black, green, red, blue and purple. In addition, the "palios", or canopies, which are unique in their own right, contribute to identifying and giving personality to each of the brotherhoods with their original designs and distinctive cuts.