The piece of the month of December 2015


Jorge Aliende Rodríguez
Historian and journalist

José López Furió (Benimaclet, Valencia, 1930-Pamplona, 1999) was perhaps the most important 20th-century Navarrese sculptor, having signed hundreds of sculptures from Pamplona all over the world, most of them in the region of Navarre.

The son of the sculptor José López Catalá (Benimaclet, 1903-1958), he trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Carlos in Valencia while working in the family workshop. approve Once he had finished his academic training , he arrived in Navarre in 1957 after taking the competitive examinations for teaching drawing at the high school Laboral de Alsasua.

During his stay in La Barranca he received his first commission as an independent sculptor: the new images for the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Alsasua. Those carvings, which today dress the perimeter wall of the naves, served him as card of presentation before who became his main client: the Church.

In 1964 he moved to Pamplona to teach class at high school El Redín, as professor was an uninterrupted activity throughout his entire career degree program. Later he would also be professor of the now disappeared high school San Miguel de Aralar.

Dedicated from plenary session of the Executive Council to sacred imagery, his particular style as a neo-figurative artist can be summed up in a union between modernity and the avant-garde whose result is a work that he himself defined as "modern, but with classical lines. Simplified and stylised". The stylisation of his figures is synthesised in the lengthening of the canon and the fineness of the bodies and faces, as well as the longitudinal postures chosen. Simplification can be seen in the absence of superfluous attributes and the absence of folds, gestures and other baroque elements.

The iconography of his production is dominated by images of the Virgin, but there are not few crucifixes and different sets created for dozens of churches. His gouge is also responsible for a good issue of sculptures of Saint Francis Xavier in Navarre (such as those at seminar room, Christ the King in Pamplona and The Assumption in Alsasua), one of the most outstanding being the one that occupies this study.

San Francisco Javier. Parish Church of San Fermín. District of La Milagrosa. Pamplona

San Francisco Javier. Parish Church of San Fermín. District of La Milagrosa. Pamplona


On the right side of the parish church of San Fermín in the La Milagrosa district of Pamplona is a wooden sculpture of the Jesuit saint, carved for the blessing of the church, which took place on 20 March 1969 by the bishop of Tudela, Ángel Riesco.

The patron saint of Navarre raises the cross with his right arm in a triumphant attitude and takes his left arm to his chest in flames, as if to support the human pain caused by the divine abrasion. The face of Saint Francis, far removed from the hieratic style customary in the sculptor's imagery, is that of a man of mature age, conveying a certain pain heroically endured by one who seems to use his strength to cling to the cross. The image, which measures 160 cm, reaches 2 metres at the end of the cross.

Saint Francis Xavier. Detail

Saint Francis Xavier. Detail

His gaze, where determination overcomes fatigue, is directed to the left side. The right foot is set well behind the right (both barefoot) and the saint is leaning slightly. In an attempt to make the scene more unstable - as is his custom - the artist takes the saint's foot off the granite pedestal that raises it above the ground.

The tiredness-hope binomial that generates this expressiveness in the image can be explained by some of the sensations described by Xavier in his epistles to his Jesuit companions in Europe:
" often happens to me that my arms are tired from baptising, and I am unable to speak after so many times saying the Creed and the Commandments in his language of them (...) there are so many consolations that God our Lord communicates to those who walk among these gentiles converting them to the faith of Christ, that if there is contentment in this life, this can be said".

The most novel feature of the sculpture in question is the beautiful coppery polychrome that covers the cassock of St. Francis (made by Agustín Guillén, partner of López Furió in dozens of commissions), creating greenish shadows in the most marked folds. Unlike most of the Valencian artist's sculptures, which received only a very thin layer of paint that gave prominence to the arboreal soul on which the paintbrush rested, the paint on this piece helps to highlight the marks of the gouge on the wood, an unmistakable hallmark of the Valencian artist's works.

The images of the Immaculate Conception and the patron saint of the parish, Saint Fermín, located around the altar of the church are also by the hand of López Furió, as is the iron Crucified Christ which was originally placed next to the door of the parish church and which today is worshipped in a Cistercian Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love in the monastery of Santa María la Real de la Oliva.

The three images by the sculptor in the church give an idea of the technical quality and artistic personality achieved by the sculptor, who created for Pamplona groups such as the Assumption of St. John, the Pietà of Christ the King and the Sacred Heart of the seminar room of Pamplona. López Furió was a prolific and discreet artist who today, barely 15 years after his death, is beginning to receive the attention he deserves from the academic world.

-ALIENDE RODRÍGUEZ, J., La escultura religiosa de José López Furió (1930-1999) en la ciudad de Pamplona, work Fin de Degree, Universidad de Navarra, 2014.
-ALIENDE RODRÍGUEZ, J., "La escultura de José López Furió fuera de Navarra", Príncipe de Viana, 262 (2015), pp. 929-940.
-DOMINGO, J. M., "Francisco Javier, siempre más allá", "Santos y santas". Centre de Pastoral litúrgica, Barcelona, 2006.