Meadows Acquires Work Attributed to Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron

Posted in museums by Editor on June 2, 2013

Press release (29 May 2013) from the Meadows Museum in Dallas:

Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron (Spanish, c. 1663-1732), St. Paul the Hermit (detail), c. 1715, terracotta. Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas.

Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron, St. Paul the Hermit (detail), ca. 1715, terracotta (Dallas: Meadows Museum, SMU)

The Meadows Museum has acquired the first terracotta sculpture attributed to Spanish Baroque master Juan Alonso Villabrille y Ron. In-depth research conducted by museum staff members sheds new light on the identity of the bust-length sculpture’s subject and its historical significance. When the sculpture was initially offered to the Museum it was believed to depict St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church. Meadows curators’ research, however, determined that the subject is in fact St. Paul the Hermit.

Villabrille y Ron is considered one of the most important Spanish sculptors of the Late Baroque period because of his mastery of technique. In addition, he taught another renowned sculptor of the period, Luis Salvador Carmona, and worked for the court in Madrid in the early eighteenth century. The quality of his work was such that he received commissions to create sculptures for some of the most important monuments in the city, such as the Puente de Toledo and the façade of the former Hospicio Provincial (now the Museo Municipal de Madrid). This sculpture is the first terracotta work to be attributed to Villabrille y Ron; not many examples of Spanish terracotta sculptures from the period have survived. Most of the works attributed to Villabrille y Ron are of polychromed wood or stone.

“Villabrille’s sculpture is a work of staggering realism and powerful emotion, and it provides an excellent complement to our already strong collection of works from the Baroque period,” said Mark A. Roglán, director of the Meadows Museum. “The acquisition of this prime example of Late Baroque sculpture will increase our ability to educate our visitors on this rich and versatile era in Spain by using objects that exemplify the style of the period. The students who use our Museum as a learning space and the visitors who come for pleasure will have an enriched experience because of this unique and beautiful example of Spanish sculpture.”

When the sculpture was initially offered to the Museum it was believed to depict St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church, who retired as a hermit to the Syrian Desert for three years’ penance. Meadows’ curators, however, took note of the subject’s prominently positioned woven reed garment, a vestment not present in any of the many other existing depictions of St. Jerome, and concluded the likeness had been misidentified. Their research determined that the subject is in fact St. Paul the Hermit, the first hermit saint of the Christian church, who is always shown as an old man wearing a woven reed garment made of palm leaves sewn together. Various experts in the field of early modern religious iconography, including George Washington University Professor Barbara von Barghahn and Richard P. Townsend, independent art historian, have confirmed the amended identification. (more…)

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