14 October 2008

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


Luis Salvador Carmona between Valladolid and the Court

Mr. Jesús Urrea.
Director Honorary Member of the National Museum of Sculpture, Valladolid.

The future sculptor's arrival in Madrid in 1722 was preceded by an adolescence that later biographical information assures us was precocious. The hackneyed story, as Palomino would say, of the boy who was determined to carve small figurines with a penknife may be plausible given the interest and beauty of the works of art that the parish church of Nava del Rey, his home town, could provide him with as models.

While there was no artistic tradition in his family, the Navarrese town was experiencing an economic boom that allowed it to continue with dignity the furnishing of its main church, which had recently suffered the consequences of the partial collapse of its tower. The arrival in Nava of assemblers from Medina del Campo and Valladolid such as Francisco Martínez de Arce and Juan Correas, of original sculptural works by Juan and Pedro de Ávila that followed in the wake of Gregorio Fernández and Bernardo Rincón, as well as the presence of other Salamancan craftsmen, such as the assembler Pedro de Gamboa and the sculptor José de Lara, who were responsible for the church's choir stalls, amply justify the fact that a restless young man's emulation of their aesthetic inclinations was aroused.

According to Ceán, he was given the backing to begin the proper artistic training by a Segovian canon who had observed the beginnings of his genius and who generously sponsored his departure for Madrid to study in the workshop of Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron, the most reputable sculptor at that time at the Court. Luis Salvador's apprenticeship contract was signed by José Martínez de Arce, who has been assumed to be the Medinese assembler of this name, the son of Francisco Martínez de Arce, which is somewhat problematic since on 24 June 1723, when the aforementioned obligation was signature , he was five years older than Carmona, making it strange that someone who had not yet reached the age of majority acted as tutor and manager for the future sculptor. It is more likely that it was graduate José Martínez de Arce, uncle of the assembler, who legally represented the figure of the apprentice's father, and whose biography must be known in order to justify his relationship with Villabrille.

Along with the teachings of the Asturian sculptor, Carmona would take contact with the sculpture of other artists working at the Court, such as those who placed their works in the altarpieces designed by José de Churriguera (d. 1724) or Miguel de Irazusta (d.1743) and among whom were Pablo González Velázquez or Juan de Villanueva. The casticismo of these or that of Alonso de Grana, developed within an exalted Baroque direction, would give way to a new taste of marked refinement and exquisiteness in whose acceptance, in addition to the pieces imported from Naples or Rome, those produced by French artists in the sculpture workshop of Balsaín had to play a decisive role, as well as the pieces imported from Naples or Rome. 

Carmona's stay with Villabrille exceeded the limits established by the term of the contract (until 24-VI-1729) - during which time he collaborated directly on works contracted by the latter, such as the sculptures of the Toledo Bridge (1723) or the group of San Fernando (1726) for the Hospice in Madrid, Before the death of the master (between 1730 and 1732), his disciple joined forces with the Segovian sculptor José Galván, Villabrille's son-in-law, in order to complete various commissions.

From that date until 1739 there is no news of any of his works, but when he commissioned twelve sculptures for the main altarpiece of the church of Santa Marina de Vergara, the assembly of which was the responsibility of position de Irazusta, the artist's ability to take on large commissions is clear, as he undoubtedly had a highly specialised workshop at his disposal at the time. Undoubtedly this ensemble opened the doors of the Basque Country to him and made him known to a powerful clientele who would insistently visit apply for for his creations, which were always of the highest quality and beauty.

The active protagonists of the so-called "Navarrese hour" residing at the Court found in Carmona the best translator of their aesthetic feelings. For his national church of San Fermín, then located in the Prado de San Jerónimo, he produced from 1743 onwards a wide range of sculptures capable of satisfying the spiritual, emotional and artistic aspirations of the Indaburu, Aldecoa, Gastón de Iriarte, Lavaqui and Goyeneche families.

Doña Sancha de León. Sculpture for the Royal Palace of Madrid

Doña Sancha de León. Sculpture for the Royal Palace of Madrid

J. A. Villabrille y Ron, San Joaquín (detail). Church of Las Calatravas, Madrid

J. A. Villabrille y Ron, San Joaquín (detail). Church of Las Calatravas, Madrid

That same year Carmona also began to collaborate in the decoration of the new Royal Palace, under the orders of the Carrarese Gian Domenico Olivieri, sculpting masks, modillions and trophies as well as statues of the kings Ramiro I, Ordoño II, Dª Sancha, Felipe IV and Juan V and, years later, several reliefs for the gallery of the main room. He carried out such hard work as stone carving at the same time as numerous requests for wood sculptures for the church of Segura in Gipuzkoa or the churches of Lesaca, Azpilicueta, Idiazábal, Lecároz, etc. in Navarre, which were prodigiously carried out while he worked on others for La Granja de San Ildefonso or for private individuals, parishes and religious congregations in Madrid.

Although in 1748 he aspired to be appointed royal sculptor, he did not succeed, perhaps because of the well-founded jealousy of other sculptors or perhaps because of his declared ambition, and had to content himself with working on different occasions in the service of the Crown, both in the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario in La Granja and in the Pantheon of Philip V in the Collegiate Church of the aforementioned Royal Site. His ability for the teaching was clearly demonstrated both at Olivieri's academy and, from 1752 onwards, at the programs of study of the Royal Academy of San Fernando, where he held the position of Lieutenant of position Director , and he was very proud to have been the master of the sculptor Francisco Gutiérrez.

The compendium of his life and work written in 1775 stated that there were "very few temples in this Court in which there are no more examples of Carmona's eminent ability". Mercedarians, Oratorians, Dominicans, Trinitarians, Jesuits, etc., the Duke of Frías, the Marquis of Estepa, the Marquis of La Bañeza, etc., were among his clients. were among his clients, and it has been calculated that he produced more than five hundred effigies recorded in "a notebook which, in their order, set them down", including small crucifixes, the Passion Children or stucco figures and, of course, the large issue of sculptures he made for outside the Court (León, Astorga, Segovia, Salamanca, Talavera, Los Yébenes, Nava del Rey, Serradilla, Brozas, La Rioja, Loyola, etc.), satisfying the demand of those who wanted them, and also of those who wanted to see them.) satisfying the demand of those who were interested in obtaining the most up-to-date and prestigious artistic products.

Carmona's death in 1767 deprived us of knowing the direction his art would have taken at contact with the new current that was emerging and how his genius would have accepted the more rigorous academicism that ended up overcoming the delicate tenderness and fresh spontaneity of his most personal creations.