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Spanish School, possibly Francisco Giralte (Palencia, 1510 – Madrid, 1576)
Pair of Putti, 16th century
Carved and polychromed wood
Height (of each): 53 cm, Height (on mount): 186 cm

This pair of wooden sculptures is carved in the round and finished with polychromy and gilding. The figures represented are two Putti, children of idealized classical beauty and anatomy, with pink faces and golden curls. They are seated on gilded molded corbels that curve up and behind them. Both figures are naturalistic and exhibit a high level of classicism in their forms. The lower half of their bodies remain straight while the torso twist slightly, following the movement of their arms. Their faces are almost entirely in profile, completing the twisting motion, and forming an upward spiral, a Mannerist element that was one of the most important aspects of Italian sculpture, in spite of the movement towards the Baroque.

The formal characteristics of these sculptures can be associated with the oeuvre of Francisco Giralte, a member of the sixteenth century Palatine School of sculpture. He was a pupil and later a partner of Alonso Berruguete, who he worked with creating the choir of the Cathedral of Toledo. Thus, his style is clearly derived from his teacher, as can be seen in these figures, with their expressive faces and contorted bodies. However, Giralte departs from the poignancy of Berruguete’s works by creating an atmosphere of serenity, and the Putti do indeed have sweet faces - idealized yet differentiated – with individualized expressions.

Among the masterpieces created by Giralte are the altarpieces of the Church of the Magdalene in Valladolid and in the collection of the Diocesan Museum of Valladolid. His altarpieces and sculptures are also exhibited in the Cathedral of Palencia and the Parish Museum of Paredes de Nava. Also from his hands came the sumptuous mausoleum of the Marquis of Poza in the church of San Pablo in Palencia. Apart from these works of exceptional quality, his masterpiece is considered to be the Capilla del Obispo in Madrid.

In the early sixteenth century, Spain was the European country most well equipped to implement and adapt to the new humanistic concepts of life and art due to their spiritual, political and economic conditions. However, when it comes to the visual arts, the implementation of Italian influences by Spanish artists was slowed by the need to learn new techniques and to change the tastes of their customers. Sculpture, perhaps more so than any other artistic medium, reflects this desire to return to the classical Greco-Roman world that celebrates individuality through the nude male form, creating a new style that went beyond mere copies. Soon, there emerged a renewed appreciation and interest in anatomy, the movement of the figures, compositions with a sense of perspective and balance, naturalistic folds in fabric, and classical poses. However, the strong Gothic tradition that preceded this period of enlightenment held strong, using the expressiveness of figures and faces as a vehicle for spiritualism, which informs the best of Spanish Renaissance sculpture. This strong tradition favored the continued production of wood polychrome sculpture that absorbed the formal aesthetics of Italian Renaissance art with a sense of balance that prevented it from overpowering the intangible emotions upon which the forms are based.

In the early years of the sixteenth century, there was an active important of Italian art to Spain and migration of great Spanish sculptors to Italy. Once there, they learned first-hand the new styles in the most progressive Italian centers, be it Florence or Rome, and even Naples. Upon their return, the great masters such as Berruguete, Diego de Siloe, and Ordoñez revolutionized Spanish sculpture within the orbit of Castile and advanced the new Mannerist style, which was an intellectualized and abstracted version of the Italian Cinquecento. All of this was occurring almost simultaneously with the shifts in artistic styles and tastes in Italy.

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