Virtual Tours

True Likeness

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The gallery above is titled "True Likeness." Sacred Spain explores the idea that some religious images offered the possibility of divine presence. Some images owed their sacredness to a supposedly miraculous origin. The theological justification for the veneration of these works depended upon the acceptance that they were not made by mortals. Countless “portraits” of the Virgin are ascribed to the hand of St. Luke, while the face of Christ impressed on Veronica’s veil and the Virgin of Guadalupe on Juan Diego’s cloak are believed to have been transferred through direct physical contact with the divine. El Greco’s trompe-l’oeil Veronica bears the miraculous impression of Christ’s bloodied face and implies the presence of the actual relic of the sacred cloth.

In other cases, the religious authority of an image resides in its convincing, sometimes exaggerated, lifelikeness, conveyed through artistic means such as realism or illusionism. The latter is powerfully on display in Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei, which presents a lamb bound for slaughter as the object of prayer, challenging the boundary that exists between the representation of the sacred and its actual presence.


Moving Images

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The "Moving Images" gallery is pictured above. One of the most compelling justifications for the use of religious imagery was its ability to provoke empathetic response and move the beholder toward contemplation of God. Spanish art often manifests the divine in terms that are both palpable and proximate, underscoring the role of the senses in apprehending purely spiritual qualities. Artists employed a wide range of techniques, but most of them shared the aim of intensifying emotional response. This is especially apparent in representations of Christ’s Passion, where the subject is the graphic depiction of human suffering. This section will feature works by both painters and sculptors, including Bartolomé Estebán Murillo, Alonso Cano, Antonio de Pereda, Juan Sánchez Barba, and Baltasar de Echave Rioja.