Anonymous catalan artist
Late 12th century
Polychrome wood, 130.5 x 107 x 14.7 cm
Donated by the Banco de Bilbao in 1961
This figure of Christ is a clear exponent of Catalan Romanesque sculpture and reveals the solemn and conceptual nature of mediaeval art. An extremely frequent motif in the Catalan Pyrenees throughout the twelfth century, Jesus Christ was usually portrayed either as the Dead Christ Mourned or as Christ in Majesty (Maiestas Domini), i.e., Jesus alive and triumphant on the cross as we see here. This last type, derived from Byzantine tradition, is characterised by the rigidity and the frontal view of the figures, depicted with large, wide-open eyes and feet nailed separately.
This work, of an exceptional quality and in a good state of preservation, presents Christ without a crown, dressed in a long Syrian robe or colobium decorated with imperial eagles. The schematic treatment of the figure, its rigid and majestic attitude and its face, that reveals no signs of suffering, endeavour to convey its sovereignty and magnificence.
The cross, polychrome on both sides, is another symbol of royalty and therefore a throne rather than an instrument of torture. Above the head of Christ we read the inscription IHS XPS REX ON, an abbreviation of “Iesus Christus Rex Iudeorum” (Jesus Christ King of the Jews), which is flat and widens out at the ends. The upper area contains personified representations of the Sun and the Moon that refer to the eclipse that took place upon Jesus’ death; the Virgin Mary stands to the right and St John to the left. The lower area presents Adam emerging from the sepulchre as a symbol of man’s redemption by Jesus. These figures represent a step forward towards naturalism and announce a new style: Gothic. [A.S.L.]
Independently of its permanent collection, the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum regularly organises temporary exhibition programmes.
Please consult the exhibition calendar for more information about the museum's latest proposals.
Basque sculptor Néstor Basterretxea (Bermeo, Biscay, 1924) recently donated one of the most celebrated series of Basque sculptures dating from the second half of the XX century to the Museum: the Basque Cosmogony Series. The Series was first exhibited by the Museum in 1973.
The current exhibition comprises 18 sculptures, 17 of which are made of oak and 1 of bronze, which the artist created between 1972 and 1975. The finely crafted works executed in contemporary language are based on mythological characters, forces of nature and traditional objects from Basque culture taken from José Miguel de Barandiarán’s Diccionario de Mitología Vasca (Dictionary of Basque Mythology, 1972). Visitors will also have the opportunity of admiring 5 works from the Máscaras de la Madrina Luna Series created in 1977 as well as several preparatory drawings.
It is also on exhibition two movies directed by Néstor Basterretxea and Fernando Larruquert, entitled Pelotari (1964) and Ama Lur (1968), and a documental about the artist.
BASQUE COSMOGONY SERIES
1. AKELARRE and AKER BELTZ (Black billy goat)
Meadow where wizards met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights to worship Aker Beltz, a spirit which took the shape of a billy goat and protected the livestock. Pagan tradition.
3. EIZTARIA (The hunter)
Legend has it that a hunter, punished for his excessive love of hunting, wanders ceaselessly over the mountains with his dogs.
4. GAUEKO (He who stalks the night)
Spirit of the night in the shape of a cow or a monster; his presence is marked by gusts of wind.
5. IDITTU (Night spirit)
Night spirit with the form of an animal; his presence is marked by a flame.
6. ILLARGI AMANDRE (Godmother Moon)
A divinity associated with fertility.
7. INTXIXU (Wild demon)
Legendary spirit haunting caves and deserted areas.
8. AMALAU ZANKO (The ghost of the fourteen stilts)
A strange malignant being.
9. ARGIZAIOLA eta ARGIZAIOLA ZUTA (Light of the dead)
Tablets in remembrance of the departed; the wax scroll symbolizes the fire in the hearth that lives on in the temple.
11. BOST HAIZEAK (The five winds)
Natural phenomenon. The lauburu (four heads) is a pre-Christian symbol, used from the 16th and 17th centuries in funeral steles, on houses fronts or as an amulet or charm.
12. EATE (The harvest destroyer)
Spirit of storms, fire, floods, lightning and hurricanes.
13. MAIRUAK (The cromlech builders)
Pagan builders of dolmens and cromlechs.
14. OSTADAR (Rainbow)
Natural phenomenon considered to be magical in the ancient world.
15. TRIKU HARRI (Stone of the hedgehog. Homage to the dolmen)
Name of a dolmen, a prehistoric monument widely found in the Basque Country.
16. MAJUE (Subterranean spirit)
Pernicious underground spirit; with his wife Mari he conjures up hailstorms.
17. MARI (Main goddess of Basque Mythology)
Female spirit living in caverns. Legend has it that her cave is one of the faces of Mount Amboto, in the Duranguesado area.
18. TORTO (Malign one-eyed spirit)
Malignant, man-eating spirit with one eye.
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05|16|14 • 09|01|14
06|10|14 • 09|15|14
10|07|14 • 01|19|15
THE GUEST WORK
04|09|14 • 06|30|14
02|18|14 • 05|19|14
01|24|14 • 04|28|14