Skip to Main Content

The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture, 1600–1700

February 28 – May 31, 2010
East Building, Upper Level and Mezzanine

Francisco Antonio Gijón, Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz), 1675, polychromed and gilded wood with sgraffitto decoration (estofado), Patrons' Permanent Fund, 2003.124.1

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: 11 painted and gilded sculptures and 11 related paintings were shown in this exhibition of highly realistic works of art depicting saints and other sacred subjects created in Spain during the 17th century. Included were paintings by Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Francisco Pacheco, and painted and gilded sculptures carved by Gregorio Fernández and Juan Martínez Montañés, among others. Many of the sculptures were owned by Spanish churches, convents, and monasteries and had never before been lent for exhibition. The installation also included objects from the collection of the National Gallery of Art and loans from museums in Europe and the United States.

An opening-day lecture, "The Sacred Made Real: The Making of an Exhibition," was presented by exhibition curator Xavier Bray and was followed by a book signing of the catalog. On March 7 Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, London, gave the lecture "Sculpture Comes to Life: Splendor, Color, and Realism in Baroque Spain and Elsewhere." On April 26 National Gallery of Art senior conservators Daphne Barbour and Judy Ozone presented "Demystifying the Mystical: The Making of a Seventeenth-Century Spanish Polychrome Sculpture." The documentary films Sacred Made Real and Making a Spanish Polychrome Sculpture, produced by the National Gallery, London, were shown in East Building auditoriums while the exhibition was on view. Musical performances presented in association with the exhibition included the American premiere of Requiem Aeternam (after Victoria), written by British composer Steven Hough for the exhibition at the National Gallery, London. Ignacio Prego performed harpsichord music by Spanish composers on March 24. In April and May film programs explored Spain's cinematic history.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the National Gallery, London. Xavier Bray, assistant curator of 17th- and 18th-century Spanish and Italian paintings, National Gallery, London, was curator. The coordinators in Washington were Mary L. Levkoff, curator of sculpture and decorative arts, and David Alan Brown, curator of Italian and Spanish Renaissance painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition was presented on the occasion of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union, with the support of the Ministry of Culture of Spain, the Spain–USA Foundation, and the Embassy of Spain in Washington, DC. The exhibition in Washington was made possible by Robert H. Smith, The Charles Engelhard Foundation, and an anonymous donor. Additional support for the Washington presentation was provided by Buffy and William Cafritz. It was supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Attendance: 81,081 (93 days)

Catalog: The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600–1700, by Xavier Bray et al. London: National Gallery Company Limited, 2009.

Brochure: Guide to the Exhibition The Sacred Made Real: Spanish Painting and Sculpture,1600–1700, based on a brochure by Xavier Bray, National Gallery, London.

Other Venues: National Gallery, London, October 21, 2009–January 24, 2010
Museo Nacional Colegio de San Gregorio, Valladolid, June 27–September 30, 2010