Fitzwilliam appeal for Mena's 'Mater Dolorosa'

August 28 2014

Image of Fitzwilliam appeal for Mena's 'Mater Dolorosa'

Picture: Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam is hoping to raise £85,000 by the end of September to complete its purchase of the above Mater Dolorosa by Pedro de Mena. The museum says:

It is not known for whom the Mater Dolorosa was made, but the superior quality of both carving and polychromy suggest that it must have been produced at the height of Mena’s creative powers, c. 1673-4, for a discerning patron. The intimacy of scale (33.6 x 31.0 x 19.8 cm), the care lavished on both the carving and the painting and the fact that the back is fully finished, indicate that it was designed to be seen close up, and in the round, most probably in a private devotional context. Likely made for the private chapel, study or bedchamber of a devout patron, it would almost certainly have been protected under a glass dome and originally paired with an Ecce Homo (Christ as the Man of Sorrows). This mesmerisingly beautiful image of the Mater Dolorosa, with its understated pathos and startling realism—thanks to the naturalism of the flesh tones, the glass eyes and tear drops and the real hair eyelashes—still elicits a powerful response from the viewer, 350 years after it was made.

The Virgin of Sorrows will be permanently displayed in the Spanish & Flemish Gallery, alongside other masterpieces by contemporary Baroque sculptors and painters. It is being displayed there now to promote this Appeal.

The museum's just giving page is here, and they're at £57k so far, which is impressive. I saw the bust in the flesh recently, and very fine it is too. 

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