This should have gone up Easter week. The nice thing about art, if not my posting schedule, is that its timeless. Photos from the National Gallery Website.
The show, "The Sacred Made Real" was at the National Gallery in Washington, DC last year. The focus was on Christian religious sculpture and paintings on loan from Spanish religious institutions.
The sculptors and painters did every thing they could to make the art as realistic as possible. The materials for the Pieta include polychromed plaster, macerated linen fibers, gesso- or glue-soaked fabric, wood, papier-mache, glass and other materials.
Talk about mixed media!
It was such a revelation and a relief to me as a wood sculptor to realize that these over the top figures are NOT all carved from wood. They didn't carve every vein, that was quickly build up in gesso. Those beautifully carved draperies? Well, it's fairly easy to make cloth look like cloth, dip in plaster, arrange folds and voila! Drapery.
Those artists were also on deadlines and budgets and used whatever materials would work most efficiently.
Here's a good background review on the artists, the work, and how the guilds worked in the 1600, by Stanley Meisler from the LA Times.