The Baroque is an artistic and cultural movement that appeared in Europe in the 17th century and developed until the 18th century. The baroque sculpture is characterised by naturalism and the desire to represent reality as it is.
In Spain, it developed mainly in the religious sphere. At this time, imagery, religious images, became the main protagonist of the period. Mythological and profane themes were left aside.
The church became the main patron of these works. During the 17th century, Protestantism began to spread, and the Catholic Church sought to curb it by bringing its religion closer to the faithful. That is why sculptors tried to achieve emotion and devotion.
A clear example of this is the Easter processions, which become more realistic and emotional. The first confraternities began to take shape. The construction of altarpieces that depict scenes from the Old Testament was also promoted at this time.
Baroque sculpture developed mainly in Castilla and Andalusia, where relevant schools were established. Polychrome wood continues to be used as the basis for these works.
The Castilian school was characterised by extreme realism. The centre of this school was in Valladolid. Tears, blood, and bruises were the main features of the representations of Christ.
Gregorio Fernández is its greatest representative. This Galician-born artist settled in Valladolid and founded his workshop. The Cristo Yacente from El Pardo and La Dolorosa are two of his great masterpieces.
For its part, the Andalusian school shunned excessive realism and sought a certain beauty without straying from the spiritual. In Andalusia, authors such as Martínez Montañés in Seville and Alonso Cano in Granada stand out.
In addition, in the 18th century, the figure of Francisco Salzillo stands out. The Murcia-born artist was the driving force behind nativity scenes in Spain and is renowned for his processional scenes such as The Last Supper.
Baroque sculpture in Compostela
With the arrival of the Baroque period, Santiago de Compostela underwent its greatest aesthetic transformation. The Obradoiro façade was built in Santiago Cathedral and works under construction adopted typical Baroque characteristics.
The baldachin of the High Altar of Santiago Cathedral was created during this period. Although it was designed by Vega y Verdugo, it was Domingo de Andrade who oversaw its construction. The work consists of a wooden structure supported by four angels.
Gilding is the main feature of this ensemble, although it also features precious stones and coloured jasper. Each corner depicts one of the virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. Above them, in the shape of a pyramid, Saint James on horseback and the coat of arms of Spain are depicted.
Another great 18th century Baroque works that pilgrims can visit in Santiago is the main altarpiece of the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario. Fernando Casas Novoa oversaw its design, although it was executed by the carver Miguel de Romay.
It has a double façade. One can be seen from the choir and the other from the nave of the church. Scenes of the Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin by the Holy Trinity are depicted. In addition, the figure of Saint James appears on one of the sides, as well as Saint Martin the knight sharing his cloak with a poor man.