(Francisco Salzillo)


(Murcia 1707 – 1783)
29. Dolorosa
c. 1740–1755
Wood, polychromed and gilded
43 cm (approx. 17 in.)
PROVENANCE: Pascual Camacho y Cortés, Cienza, Murcia 1982; PRIVATE COLLECTION, Madrid
In this small, but exquisitely detailed sculpture of the Dolorosa, the Virgin stands dressed in a
white tunic, cinched with a red girdle under a blue mantle, decorated throughout with estofado.
The head is tilted upwards and the face wears an imploring expression that is emphasized by the
pose of the arms with the hands extended. Her head is covered with the blue mantle, the border
of which is decorated in a foliate pattern applied in slip and painted, a technique that became very
popular during the eighteenth century.
The exhibited sculpture is a reduction of the definitive version preserved in the old parish church of
Santa Catalina in Murcia that is considered to be among the first works to have come out of the
Salzillos’ workshop (Fig. 1). According to José Sánchez Moreno, the latter work must date between
1732 and 1735 and, as he noted, it possesses ‘a beautiful Italianate flair, which still shows the
immediate influence of his father’s instruction’ (the drapery folds of the exhibited piece are identical in
many details to the work in Santa Catalina).1 José Sánchez Moreno concluded that, in his opinion, this
sculpture marked the pinnacle of Salzillo’s career and had already proposed a possible date of 1733,
based on its Italianate style, the delicacy of the silhouette, and subtle tones in the encarnaciones and the
drapery.2 The 1973 catalogue of the exhibition in Madrid retained the same dating for the Santa
Catalina Dolorosa and again noted the influence of Nicolás Salzillo.3 The catalogue borrowed from the
previous scholarship of Baquero Almansa, who has already noted the Italian influence in Salzillo’s style
as a reaction in favour of his paternal heritage over the prevailing French taste in eighteenth-century
Murcian art.4
Our work faithfully reinterprets the original in Murcia and includes many of the same features, such as
the delicate use of colour, the translucent tone of the skin, and the morphology of the subject. All these
features combined in the original to produce an innovative variant of his father’s style and iconography,
which itself was probably originally inspired by Neapolitan prototypes. These Italianate models,
filtered through Salzillo’s Spanish sensitivity, generated a new style that was completely unprecedented
in Spanish sculpture of the time.5
It was normal practice amongst Spanish sculptors of the time to make various rough preparatory
models, often in clay, to work out the contours and features of the final pieces. These bocetos allowed
sculptors to gain an approximate idea of the finished works, but also to weigh the various possibilities afforded by even the subtlest of changes. The bocetos
were intended to be used as either a guideline for the
manufacture of other workshop versions, or to be
shown to the commissioning patron as a modello for
their approval of the final work. Collections of
bocetos functioned as a sort of three-dimensional
instruction manual for pupils and were a cornerstone
of sculptural apprenticeships. The Salzillo Museum in
Murcia preserves around fifty bocetos, from different
periods of his work. These works are instrumental in
ascertaining and confirming Salzillo’s hand,
technically, stylistically and intellectually.6 After
Salzillo’s death, these pieces, together with other
workshop tools, became part of the patrimony of the
Museo de Bellas Artes of Murcia, which, in turn,
donated them to be exhibited in the Salzillo Museum.
The bocetos document the artist’s initial ideas and are
evidence of Salzillo’s creative process, in terms of
those models employed for his personal use or given
as presents to friends and patrons, after having been
fully polychromed. Salzillo himself chose one version
of the Virgen de las Angustias that was kept in his
house until his death and later inherited by his only
The Salzillo Museum conserves a clay boceto of the
exhibited Dolorosa (Fig. 2). A further finished
polychromed version is in the Dominican Convent of
Santa Ana (Fig. 3) and was probably the modello
presented to the Peinado family for their approval,
Salzillo being a family friend.8 All of these works were
included in a 1940 exhibition illustrating the artist’s
creative and technical processes.9 Nicolás Peinado
had been a Dominican friar connected to the Convent
of Santa Ana. His wealthy family also funded the
Carmelite Descalzes Convent in Murcia that had been
opened by his brother Alejandro. The Santa Ana
Convent also retained Nicolás’s portrait, a reliquary
of the Virgen de la Leche (to which was attributed a
famous miracle during the War of Secession). Salzillo
had been commissioned to sculpt the Dolorosa for the Peinado family chapel. When Alejandro Peinado and his mother co-wrote their will in 1726, the chapel
was referred to as Capilla de la Soledad (and Alejandro expressed his wish of being buried there). The
chapel’s name was changed years later in a testament dating from 1739 (when Alejandro had already
decided to fund the Carmelite convent), wherein it is referred to as the Capilla de la Dolorosa. Peinado
also stipulated that the chaplains were to inherit the chapel. This iconographic shift from Soledad to
Dolorosa is significant, and moreover coincides with the years in which the image was supposedly first
carved. This image subsequently became the first popularized example of a Dolorosa in the art of this
period. The relationship between the Peinados and Salzillo was not a casual or circumstantial
relationship either. Nicolás Peinado, over the course of his lifetime, had accumulated a significant
number of devotional works, clay sculptures for a Nativity, as well as portraits, landscape paintings,
books and other artworks. Therefore, the fact that the Santa Ana polychromed Dolorosa has
dimensions rather larger than those normally pertinent to a boceto indicates that this sculpture was
effectively a reduced version of Salzillo’s very successful public model, and was intended for private use.
The work’s undisputable Italianate character is explained by Salzillo’s heritage and formative
influences, but the theory that this piece might have been a joint effort by Nicolás and Francisco Salzillo
requires consideration. Comparing the exhibited work to the boceto we see no traces of Nicolás’s
somewhat brusque technique. Instead, there is a delicate and subtle quality that is exclusively Francisco’s, as seen in several other works made during the 1740s.
These include the Inmaculadas in San Miguel (Fig. 4) and the Convent
of Justinianas, both in Murcia. Highly characteristic of Francisco is
the use of colour and the approach to estofado decoration that
emulated the textile fashions current from the first third of the
seventeenth century onwards. Possibly the Italianate borrowings may
have derived from knowledge of sketches and models left in the
workshop by Salzillo’s father, a fact confirmed by Sánchez-Rojas, and
later acknowledged by Isabella di Liddo in her analysis of the possible
figurative sources of Nicolás Salzillo.10
A tendency to recognize a possible Neapolitan source of inspiration in
this and other works is also considered by Domenica Pasculi. An
interesting comparison may be made with works by Giacomo
Colombo and Nicola Fumo (Fig. 5; Virgen de la Maravillas, Cehegín,
Murcia) and Di Liddo also recognized their influence in the final
version of the Dolorosa in Santa Catalina. Although they represent
two very different themes of Marian iconography, there are both
formal and stylistic parallels to be drawn between the exhibited
sculpture and Fumo’s Assunta in Lecce Cathedral (1689; Italy).
Despite the fact that in both works the sculptors translated dynamism
into an open gestural composition, the Neapolitan element in
Salzillo’s work should be seen as more of a legacy from his father
rather than an indication of collaboration with Fumo, which in any
case the chronology of the present work would argue against.
Although the boceto in the Salzillo Museum may be considered the
only documented autograph version by Salzillo’s hand, there is
evidence to support the attribution of the exhibited Dolorosa and its
peers. There are notable changes and variations compared to the
initial bocetos. During the trial and error of the creative process
several things changed, probably conditioned by the requests of
different patrons who were all too ready to assert their individual
taste in terms of colour and dramatic intensity. The delicate silhouette
of this particular version bears no resemblance to the contours of the
boceto in the Dominican convent at Murcia, nor those of the
modellino in the Salzillo Museum, but Salzillo’s ‘genetic’ features are
nevertheless evident in all three works.
Without doubt, this sculpture shows just how Salzillo was able to
employ a previous successful model in order to promote a style, later
to be revised, which personalized the use of polychromy, based on elegant combinations of gold over backgrounds that could be blue, red, green or brownish. Even if
colour was a personal choice of the artist, though to some degree it would surely have been based on
the commission, Salzillo evidently exercised his own license as a painter throughout this work both in
his translucent palette and in the application of subtle veils of colour, which were meant to vibrate in
the light of the chapel or private oratory where the work was originally installed.

1 J. SÁNCHEZ MORENO, Vida y obra de Francisco Salzillo:
una escuela de escultura en Murcia, Murcia 1983, p. 139.
2 Ibid., p. 114.
3 Francisco Salzillo (1707–1783), Exposición Antológica,
exhibition catalogue, Dirección General de Bellas Artes,
Madrid 1973, cat. no 48.
4 A. BAQUERO ALMANSA, Los profesores de las Bellas Artes
murcianas, Murcia 1913, p. 240. Other references to the
same work are cited on pages 212 and 229.
5 This Mediterranean Levantine representation of the
Dolorosa coined a new sculptural model for the subject that
later (c. 1755–1756) resulted in Salzillo’s abandoning the
talla entera mode in favour of the vestir, which is why this
work is of great art historical value. We have already cited
the Dolorosa made for the Brotherhood of Jesus in Murcia,
a sculpture that replaced the former Soledad (esculta de
vestir). Between the years 1755 and 1756, Salzillo made
various sculptures for the matinal Good Friday procession,
including Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Veronica,
images that were to replace the old standards of the previous
century. For information on the vicissitudes of the
Brotherhood and the reasons its renovation was undertaken
by the Order’s major-domo, Joaquin Riquelme, see C. BELDA
NAVARRO, Francisco Salzillo. La plenitud de la escultura,
Murcia 1999 (1st ed.), pp. 142–144. After the success of this
image Salzillo did not return to his model to make another
life-size Dolorosa.
6 On Salzillo’s working models, see C. BELDA NAVARRO, ‘Los
bocetos de Salzillo y su significación en la escultura
barroca’, in Goya, Madrid, no. 136, 1977, pp. 226–233.
Salzillo, artífice de su fortuna, Murcia 2007, pp. 28–31.
Other references to Salzillo are also included on pages 228
and 260.
8 C. BELDA NAVARRO, Francisco Salzillo y la orden
dominicana en Murcia (an exhibition to mark the fifth
centenary of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Ana),
Murcia 1990, pp. 101–102.
9 In effect, the second part of the exhibition included a
section called la vida robada al cielo in which visitors could
follow in sequence the process used in making the sculptures
of Saint Barbara (Church of San Pedro); Saint Anthony (in
the making of both a boceto, and a finished work); and the
Virgin of Angustias.
10 M. C. SÁNCHEZ-ROJAS FENOLL, ‘El escultor Nicolás
Salzillo’, in Anales de la Universidad de Murcia, Murcia,
1976–1977, XXXVI, 3–4, pp. 255–296. See also I. DI LIDDO,
‘Una imagine comparata sul ruolo delle botteghe. Nicola
Salzillo’, in ID., La circolazione della scultura lignea barroca
nel mediterraneo. Napoli, la Puglia e la Spagna, De Luca,
Rome 2008, pp. 287–281. This discussion also posits the
theory that, by extension, Nicolás Salzillo must have been
influenced by his master Aniello Perrone.

43 cm (approx. 17 in.)
Wood, polychromed and gilded

Pascual Camacho y Cortés, Cienza, Murcia 1982; PRIVATE COLLECTION, Madrid

Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Religious: New Testament
Price band
Sold or not available