José Palacios (Zaragoza, documented between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century)"Our Lady of the Pillar"Sculpture in vermeil silver and polychromed silver. Signed and dated: "Josefs, Palacios fecit, zaragoz anno 1698".Virgin Mary measurements: 48 x 17 x 16.5 cm. Total measurements: 96 x 21.5 x 21 cm.Magnificent Our Lady of the Pillar in uncoloured and gilded silver, with carnation on the face, the hands of Mary and the body of the child. Despite lacking a mark, an inscription on the foot indicates the name of the maker, José Fuentes; the year, 1698; and the city where it was produced, Zaragoza. This data enables us to establish that this is the first identified work of the artist, documented between 1696 and 1748, as until now no work of his has been preserved. In addition, this is one of his first productions as an independent master, since barely two years separate him from his accession to the Zaragoza guild of San Eloy silversmiths.Among the silver images of this Marian dedication made throughout the 17th century, the best known is the one kept in the Basilica of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, executed by Miguel Cubels between 1617 and 1619. However, the piece we have here is more similar to the one kept in the cathedral of Tarazona (Zaragoza), which was also produced at a similar time (c. 1685) and has a Zaragoza hallmark. Both the sculpture from Turiason and that of José Palacios refer directly to the image venerated in the Holy Chapel of Our Lady of the Pillar, attributed by María del Carmen Lacarra to Juan de la Huerta.The choice of this carving from the second quarter of the 15th century as a model became common in all artistic disciplines as the Modern Age progressed. From the second half of the 17th century, its dependable depiction as a true effigy of the Virgin prevails, abandoning the various traditional plastic interpretations of the story of the appearance of Mary before Saint James on the outskirts of Cesaraugusta. The first documented example of this iconographic mutation is found in a View of Zaragoza from the Hernández Mora collection dated in 1669. This fact has been linked to the moment the worship of Our Lady of the Pillar became widespread, which was due to the miracle of Calanda in 1640, the designation of Our Lady of the Pillar as patron saint of Zaragoza in 1642 and the construction of a new temple with the support of Juan José de Austria from 1681.All this engouraged the making of numerous silver virgins, among which we find a good example in this piece made by José Palacios. In addition, it has the interesting peculiarity that a vine is entangled around the shaft of the Holy Pillar, a fact that distinguishes it from the rest and gives it a new meaning. Grapes have strong Eucharistic symbolism as the fruit from which the blood of Christ is obtained, but this plant is also identified with the Christian community that must remain united (John 15, 4-5). Taking this last meaning, the pillar left by the Virgin Mary in Zaragoza would be the base on which Christians people are sustained and strengthened, a sense that is emphasised in texts such as the Miraculous Foundation of the Angelic and Apostolic Chapel of the Mother of God of the Pillar of Fray Diego Murillo (1616).Reference bibliography:Hycka Espinosa, O., Nuestra Señora del Pilar: de la tradición a la devoción, Zaragoza, Tipolínea, 2022; Barrón García, A., “Jocalías de la Catedral” in Ainaga Andrés, Mª T. et al., La catedral de Santa María de la Huerta de Tarazona, Zaragoza, Diputación de Zaragoza, 2013, pp. 229-257; Naya Franco, C. and Morte García, C., “La pervivencia de una devoción: la imagen procesional barroca de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Zaragoza, en plata, oro y gemas preciosas”, Ars Renovatio, 2, 2014, pp. 60-98; Esteban Lorente, J. F., La platería de Zaragoza en los siglos XVII y XVIII, Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura, 1981.We would like to thank Marc Millán Rabasa for cataloguing this piece.
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