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Art HERstory: Luisa Ignacia Roldán


"Virgen de la Macarena" (1680). This weeping statue of the Virgin Mary, also known as "La Esperanza (The Hope), is currently housed in the Basilica de la Macarena. During the Easter celebrations held in this church, La Esperanza has the place of honor.

"Virgen de la Macarena" (1680). This weeping statue of the Virgin Mary, also known as "La Esperanza (The Hope), is currently housed in the Basilica de la Macarena. During the Easter celebrations held in this church, La Esperanza has the place of honor.

As long as recorded time can document, Spain has been one of the most prominent locations when it comes to the arts. The Spanish language and our beloved Manolo Blahnik both originated there. Luisa Ignacia Roldán is another culture altering force from in the European country. La Roldána, as she is called in Spain, was born in1652 in Seville, Spain. Luisa was exposed to artistry from day one. Her father, Pedro Roldán, is recognized as one of Spain’s finest Baroque sculptors. Luisa learned all she knew from her father. The entire family was employed by Pedro’s workshop. Luisa and 3 siblings helped sculpt Pedro’s creations while another sibling painted them. Cue Sly & the Family Stone’s “Family Affair” now.

"Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist" (1692). Luisa definitely took her time on this piece. The details on the baby and the faces under the Madonna's feet are precise. The painting on this sculpture must have taken forever!

"Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist" (1692). Luisa definitely took her time on this piece. The details on the baby and the faces under the Madonna's feet are precise. The painting on this sculpture must have taken forever!

Once she became a budding, young beauty, Luisa married an artist in her father’s workshop. The union between Lusia and Luis Antonio Navarro de los Arcos was frowned upon by the Roldán family. Pedro Roldán must have been extremely upset; he didn’t attend his daughter’s wedding. Although unintentional, Luisa’s decision to marry Luis ripped her family apart. Soon after Mrs. was placed in front if her name, Lusia moved out. She and her husband relocated to the San Vicente parish of Seville. Once settled in, the newlyweds got to work. No, not on paintings. The first few years of their marriage are when the majority or their children were born: Luisa Andrea, Fernando Maximo, Fabiana Sebastiana, and Maria Petronila Gertrudis. In addition to the listed 4, the couple had two other children who didn’t live long enough to receive names.

"The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine." Saint Catherine can be identified by the wheel upon which she was tortured laying at her feet. The marriage the title of the piece refers to a dream she had in which Jesus placed a ring on her finger in a "mystic marriage."

"The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine." Saint Catherine can be identified by the wheel upon which she was tortured laying at her feet. The marriage the title of the piece refers to a dream she had in which Jesus placed a ring on her finger in a "mystic marriage."

Luisa and her husband had to sculpt like mad to keep their large family with the basic essentials. Their pieces were selling and they were making a name for themselves. In 1680, the family decided to move to a more upscale area. The house was rented, but was still a sign of the success Luisa and her family gained and planned on maintaining. Few pieces from Luisa’s time in Seville have survived, but some stood the test of time. Among the remaining are four wooden angels and two thieves made in 1863 and 1864. The most important of the Seville works, and maybe the most recognizable piece made by Luisa’s hands, the “Virgen de la Macarena” made it out as well.

"Pieta at the Foot of the Cross" (1704). I'm sure its very moving to see this piece in person. There are a few details this picture cannot capture. For one, the scroll at the top of of the cross isnt clear enough to read. Ugh! I want to know what it says!

"Pieta at the Foot of the Cross" (1704). I'm sure its very moving to see this piece in person. There are a few details this picture cannot capture. For one, the scroll at the top of of the cross isnt clear enough to read. Ugh! I want to know what it says!

At the time of Luisa’s upgrade, Spain was in an economic depression. This depression didn’t seem to impact Luisa because of new home and success. Seeming wasn’t enough. Tragedy knocked on Luisa’s door in 1863 when two of her daughters died within a month of each other. The cause of death of the two girls was unknown at the time, but due to the close timing of the deaths many assume the illnesses of the depression are to blame. Less than a year after the deaths of Luisa Andrea and Fabiana Sebastiana, Lusia gave birth to her final child, Rosa Maria Josepha.

"Death of Mary Magdalene." This is my favorite piece by Lusia. The vivd colors she uses makes this sculpture absoluteley breathtaking!

"Death of Mary Magdalene." This is my favorite piece by Lusia. The vivd colors she uses makes this sculpture absoluteley breathtaking!

Sometime in 1864, Lusia moved her family to Cádiz. Here she received her first independent project for a work called Ecce Homo for the Regina Angelorum Convent. A year later Luisa was requested to be an artist for several wooden sculptures what would be placed in the city’s cathedral. Another commission from the city came in 1867.

"The Education of the Virgin." Again, Luisa's attention to detail plays a part. She even put words in the book the Virgin is reading from.

"The Education of the Virgin." Again, Luisa's attention to detail plays a part. She even put words in the book the Virgin is reading from.

After Luisa completed all the work in Cádiz, she moved to Madrid to apply for the position of Escultora de Cáma, or Sculptor of the Chamber, at King Charles II’s court. She was appointed the position of Court Sculptor in 1692. Despite her high position, Luisa and her family struggled. Records reveal that Lusia continuously petitioned for the pay promised to her along with a place for her family to live. By 1968 things were improving. From the point of her appointment to the end of her career, Luisa signed all her works with her name followed by the title “Escultora de Cáma.”

"Saint Joseph and the Child." The ripples in Saint Joseph's cloak make it look like he is in motion. Did you notice the pattern on his socks? The detail looks like it is individually painted.

"Saint Joseph and the Child." The ripples in Saint Joseph's cloak make it look like he is in motion. Did you notice the pattern on his socks? The detail looks like it is individually painted.

A few years after Phillip V rose to the phone, Luisa’s health began to fade. Her death date isn’t definite, but sources place it either 1704 or 1706. The only date supported by documentation is January 10, 1706 (Luisa’s will was dated only a few days before). Although Luisa had much success throughout her life and her husband has been fairly well off at the time of her death, Luisa stated in her will that she was a pauper and had nothing to leave to her children. In turn, Lusia was buried in a pauper’s grave in Madrid.

"The Virgin and Child with Saint Diego of Alacala" (1690-5). I am not sure what scene in history this piece is depicting, but the woman on the far left sure looks shocked. The little heads are again around the base of the piece. I wonder what they mean.

"The Virgin and Child with Saint Diego of Alacala" (1690-5). I am not sure what scene in history this piece is depicting, but the woman on the far left sure looks shocked. The little heads are again around the base of the piece. I wonder what they mean.

Luisa would be proud to know that her struggles weren’t in vain. Her sculptures directly influenced the Spanish artists of the eighteenth century.  Luisa’s figured are noted for their “strong, clear profiles; thick, often curling hair; dreamy-looking faces with furrowed brows and parted lips; and flowing garments.” She was the first woman sculptor documented in Spain, and her works are still praised, recognized, and even worshiped to this day.

Image Layouts: Feesh


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