Before becoming other emigrant, I used to live in Granada, Spain. Specifically in a town called Ogíjares. I grew up there, and there I met some of the stuff that define me. Maybe, the first or second church in which I came in was the Church of Saint Anne, in the low neighbourhood. I want to dedicate this post to it because there is a curious episode in it. It doesn’t mean that there are not another interesting things and stories in Ogíjares, but now we just have time for this.
This story goes back four hundred years, when it was decided to build a new church over the remains of a first church built on the same place that the primitive mosque. This new church was dedicated to Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin. The style was that which spread on the most of the parishes those years, Mudejar. Under elaborated traceries and muqarnas it was built a altarpiece dedicated to Saint Anne dated in 1567. The panels in the centre division were made by Diego de Pesquera. But, if we stare carefully at it, we would notice that something is missing, exactly on the first floor, a panel has vanished and a little wooden figure of Christ-Child has taken its place.
Why? Where is it? Was it broken, damaged and it was removed? Did the author not finish the work? Far from it all. One may find that panel in the gallery 535 of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It is there, lost, hanging anywhere, it being seen for millions of visitors. It is the New Yorker Cachurro (my village’s gentilic).
Diego de Pesquera was a sculptor of the Sevillian and Granadan Schools, he was influenced by the great Diego de Siloé, once he settled down in Granada. Pesquera worked side by side with Diego de Siloé in the Cathedral of that city from 1563 to 1571. There is a piece called The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne carved for the Cathedral in which Saint Anne’s face (black and white picture) is alike Ogíjares’s Saint Anne’s face (coloured picture). Deep eyes, sharp chin, strong facial wrinkles and coarse cheekbones.
With reference to the whole panel, the iconography represents the Holy Family with Saint Anne and Joaquim. The old face of the Saint contrasts with the young and soft of the Virgin. The relief’s composition is quite classical so the figures are shown by symmetric order, except the Child, whose hand rises grasping that of Saint Joaquim, centre of the masterpiece. These aspects and the Child’s size make one to think on classical context of the author. Even some sources point out he was educated in Italy. The MET description says “The surface is amazingly intact, and the relief is a model display of the Spanish estofado technique, in which gilding and polychromy interact in vibrant patterns. Brocaded fabrics are imitated with particular skill”. I want to stress Saint Joseph’s position. He is in the background, and his shy gesture shows that the Counter Reformation attempts to enhance the figure of Christ’s father, still hadn’t caught up the artistic periphery. The panel towards right.
I emailed MET recently, asking them if could facilitate information about that panel because I just discovered that it stayed at Ogíjares still 1881, date when it was purchased by a private. It was in 1944 when Helen Hay Whitney, unrecognized name for me, donated the piece to MET. I would like to find out more, but the almighty conservatives don’t have time to answer me, a poor pleb.
I may offer here the exact position of the work. It is between first and second floors, in a hallway which connects both floors. I am sure it is there, lone, forgotten, a masterpiece of local renaissance imagery, among Courbets and Bassanos, accidental sight of who is looking for Gudea, ignored and surprising. I wonder if somebody would look at it, if it remained on its original place, my town, on the altarpiece which it was made for. I guess not. You know, if you are a masterwork and you have been working in New York, you are not as worthy as if you had been hanging in a spanish lost village church. It supposes that the personal success works this way, doesn’t it?
Any mistake? Advise me.