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Inmaculada Concepción
(Luis Fernandez de la Vega)

Description

LUIS FERNÁNDEZ DE LA VEGA
(Llantones, Asturias fl. 1601 – 1675 Oviedo)
24. Inmaculada Concepción
c. 1650–1660
Wood, polychromed
64 cm high (25 ¼ in.)
PROVENANCE: Francisco Marcos, Salamanca
The attribution to Luis Fernández de la Vega is once again based on certain formal similarities
that the present sculpture shares with documented works by this artist.1 While we do not
know where Fernández de la Vega received his sculpture training, his style reflects a certain
familiarity with sculpture produced in Valladolid during the first third of the seventeenth
century, most particularly the work of Gregorio Fernández (Sarria, Lugo, c. 1576–1636, Valladolid).
Therefore, Fernández de la Vega should be considered a follower of Gregorio, and one who was
especially aware of the latter’s work in Asturias and its influence on local artists.
Fernández de la Vega’s earliest documented work is his altarpiece in the Monastery of San Vicente,
Oviedo (1638), and his altarpiece and sculpture for the Chapel of the Vigiles in Oviedo Cathedral,
which he began in 1641. This latter work is a mature example of his knowledge and control of the
aesthetic lessons he had gleaned from the work of Gregorio Fernández and the School of Valladolid.2
All of the sculptor’s artistic activity took place in Asturias, first in Gijón and then in Oviedo, extending
throughout the middle decades of the seventeenth century, a period that includes his commission for
important altarpieces in Oviedo Cathedral, such as the work in the Chapel of the Vigiles and the
sculpture in the Chapel of Santa Barbara (after 1658).3
In the present Inmaculada, Fernández de la Vega followed a model, which was created by Gregorio
Fernández in the School of Valladolid and subsequently spread throughout Spain by his disciples and
followers.4 The model was based on a symmetrical frontal composition, sculpted in the round,
probably around a hollow core, and these features necessarily impart a sense of calm and stasis.
Following theological and dogmatic guidelines of the time, the Virgin Mary is represented as a young,
barely pubescent girl, with a rounded head and cylindrical neck, her hands clasped at her breast in
prayer. The head is held slightly stiffly, with the gaze directed on high. The hair falls in thick undulating
locks over the shoulders, leaving the forehead and face framed by short curls, but otherwise
unobscured. As is customary, the dress is reduced to two garments: a white tunic with estofado
decorations of large floral bouquets. The tunic is cinched just above the waist by a blue cord girdle, and
covered by a blue mantle decorated with gilded stars that falls symmetrically on both sides creating
cylindrical folds, which are carved to appear gathered at the back by a pin, creating more elaborate
patterns of folds. The mantle is decorated with a wide gilded border figured with foliate motifs, painted
with the point of the brush.
228

The Virgin stands upon a pedestal of clouds through which peep three seraphim, their heads placed
slightly asymmetrically thus creating the impression of movement. Visible on both sides of the sculpture
is an iron ring, which, together with another originally on the back, would have served to hold a radiant
aureole in gilded or silver-gilt wood that does not survive. Additionally the sculpture would have
probably worn a silver crown, which is also lost.
The childlike facial expression of the Inmaculada included several features that are characteristic of
Fernández de la Vega, particularly the curve of the face with its rounded cheeks and firm jawline.
Similar facial features can be seen in other works by the sculptor, such the Santa Teresa de Jesús in
Oviedo Cathedral, made between 1658 and 1659 (Fig. 1).5
However, the present sculpture is most closely modelled on the Inmaculada made by Gregorio
Fernández for the Church of Vera Cruz in Salamanca, which shares the same elevated gaze, as well as
the form of the pedestal with the same arrangement of seraphim (Fig. 2).6 We know that Fernández
made this work in 1620, fusing details from two of his earlier Inmaculadas: the body is based on that
of the Inmaculada from the Convent of San Francisco in Valladolid (1617)7 while the clouds and
seraphim base was probably inspired by the Inmaculada from the Convent of Nuestra Señora del
Abrojo (c. 1617);8 both works are unfortunately now lost.
It is, therefore, with good reason that Martín González structured his study of Inmaculadas by Gregorio
Fernández by first examining the documented works before addressing the problem of attributed
works, giving third priority to rejected attributions. His methodology was based on the knowledge that
Fernández’ workshop tended towards ‘serial production’9 of the subject, and the artist’s various
treatments of this subject and its attendant iconography appear to have been inexhaustible. While the large Inmaculadas from San Francisco in Valladolid (1617) and Nuestra Señora del Abrojo10 do not
survive, their impact is preserved in the very dignified Inmaculada from Vera Cruz in Salamanca (1620;
see Fig. 2). This, the most monumental example to come down to us, stands on an elaborate base formed
of semi-spherical clouds in which there is a dragon, similar to one in an Inmaculada in Astorga
Cathedral (Fig. 3). This sculpture by Gregorio must have been made by 1626 when Juan de Peñalosa
wrote that, while Fernández had already made other famous works, here, he had outdone himself.11
Another early Inmaculada from the Convent of Santa Clara in Peñafiel is considered to date prior to
1620.12 It is then followed by yet another example in the Convent of La Encarnacion in Madrid (1620s);
the Santa Eulalia in Paredes de Nava (1626–1630);13 and the Inmaculada from San Marcelo in León,
which is undocumented but of very high quality and datable to between 1620 and 1630 (Fig. 4).14
Further examples include the Inmaculadas from the Convent of the Immaculate Conception in Zamora
(c. 1629–1630);15 from the Carmelite Convent of the Extramuros in Valladolid (around 1632); from
the Convent of Santa Clara in Valladolid;16 and another from the Escuola de Corpus Christi in
Valencia, which was donated in 1639 by the counts of Castro, and is datable to between 1631 and
1636.17

1 This sculpture was previously attributed to Gregorio
Fernández.
2 J. JOSÉ MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, ‘Sobre la etapa vallisoletana de
Luis Fernández de la Vega’, in Boletín del Seminario de
Estudios de Arte y Arqueología, Universidad de Valladolid,
1983, vol. XLIX, pp. 481–483; see also G. RAMALLO ASENSIO,
Luis Fernández de la Vega, escultor asturiano del siglo XVII,
Oviedo 1983; G. RAMALLO ASENSIO, Escultura barroca en
Asturias, Oviedo 1985, pp. 143–230.
3 F. DE CASO and G. RAMALLO ASENSIO, La catedral de Oviedo,
León 1983, pp. 64–66, 72–77.
4 On the subject of the Immaculate Conception in general,
see the work of S. STRATTON-PRUITT, La Inmaculada
Concepción en el arte español, Madrid 1989.
5 DE CASO and RAMALLO, La catedral de Oviedo cit., pp.
54–57.
6 J. JOSÉ MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, El escultor Gregorio Fernández,
Madrid 1980, pp. 224–225, pls. 201, 202.
7 Ibid., p. 233, pl. 211b. See also M. A. FERNÁNDEZ DEL HOYO,
Patrimonio perdido. Conventos desaparecidos de Valladolid,
Valladolid 1998, pp, 69–70, 95.
8 E. GARCÍA CHICO, Documentos para el estudio del arte en
Castilla. Escultores, Valladolid 1941, p. 175; MARTÍN
GONZÁLEZ, El escultor Gregorio Fernández cit., pp. 225,
233–234.
9 MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, El escultor Gregorio Fernández cit., p.
224.
10 Ibid., p. 233.
11 Ibid., p. 225. See also S. ESCANCIANO, ‘Una Inmaculada de
Gregorio Fernández en la catedral de Astorga’, in Archivo
Español de Arte, 1950, p. 73.
12 MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, El escultor Gregorio Fernández cit.,
p. 231.
13 Ibid., p. 230.
14 Ibid., pp. 231–232.
15 L. VASALLO TORANZO and F. JAVIER LORENZO PINAR, ‘Otra
Inmaculada inédita de Gregorio Fernández’, in Boletín del
Museo Nacional de Escultura de Valladolid, no. 5, 2001, pp.
10–13.
16 Gregorio Fernández, 1576–1636, exhibition catalogue,
Exposition Galleries of Banco Santander Central Hispano,
Madrid 2000, pp. 152–153.
17 MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, El escultor Gregorio Fernández cit.,
p. 229.

Measurements
64 cm high (25 ¼ in.)
Type
Wood, polychromed
Provenance

Francisco Marcos, Salamanca

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Subject
Religious: New Testament
School
Spanish
Catalogue
Price band
Sold or not available