Juan Martínez Montañés
48 x 27 x 24 1/2 in. (121.9 x 68.6 x 62.2 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase, Meadows Museum Acquisition Fund, MM.79.01
Hear a reading of the object label (1:12 minutes)
Juan Martínez Montañés was among the most prominent sculptors of seventeenth-century Spain. Although he trained in Granada, Montañés was active mainly in Seville, where he established an enormously productive and influential studio. He won countless ecclesiastical commissions with his elegant, harmonious, and contemplative sculptures. This characteristic work depicts the young Saint John the Baptist as a dignified and somewhat idealized youth, who benevolently caresses the symbolic lamb that leans, docile, against his knee.
This sculpture, which likely served as the central image of a carved wooden altarpiece, or retablo, is representative of the artworks for which Montañés was most celebrated during his lifetime. With the help of his workshop, Montañés executed large-scale retablos for churches within Seville and abroad, consisting of both relief panels and individual figures like this one. These figures were the artist’s forte: physically robust, naturally posed, and richly robed, with a gentle expression and a legible gesture. With works like these, Montañés helped establish Seville as a major center for polychromed sculpture in the early modern period and himself as one of its luminaries.