Saints, artists, queens, nobles, heroines or workers, … today we want to dedicate this article to the women of Seville who have endured in our memory. For their art, for what they financed, for having become icons of the city of Seville or for having starred in local legends. They led a difficult life, suffered cruelty and adversity, yet overcame obstacles.

Chronologically from the oldest to the most recent, this is a small selection of sevillians that deserve to be honored. Not all existed, or if, although sometimes the popular memory has fabled over them. Today, remembering these eight women, we can say that they are alive again.

Justa and Rufina

Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Saints. 4th century. They are considered co-patrons of Seville. They lived in Roman times. They were from Triana and were pottery makers, working the clay. Converted to the new Christian religion, they suffered persecution and died for it, and they were then canonized. Sometimes they are represented accompanied by a lion, since they were condemned to die devoured by one.

A second episode shows them in the 16th century. Due to a great earthquake the Sevillians asked for the intercession of their local saints and it was possible to see how Justa and Rufina came down from the heaven to hold the emblem of the city, the famous Giralda tower. Thanks to them, the tower did not fall and 500 years later it still stands. They therefore carry the tower of the Cathedral of Seville as an identifying element.


Intimad | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Muslim queen. 11th century. The Muslim era lasted 5 centuries. One of the brightest periods for Seville was the Taifa period (11th century) and its most famous king was Al-Mutamid, also called the poet king. Al-Mutamid of great sensitivity created a court full of artists, musicians and poets in the Alcazar of Seville. He fell in love with a slave from Granada whom he brought to live with him and became queen, Queen Itimad. Itimad loved him but she missed Granada and the snow that covered the Sierra Nevada mountains every winter. In a romantic outburst, the king ordered the Alcazar garden to be planted with almond trees, so that flowered at the end of winter, they resemble the snow that his beloved remembered from Granada. They were happy until the Almoravids conquered Seville and Al-Mutamid had to flee to Marrakech where he died.

Doña Maria de Padilla

Doña María de Padilla | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

King’s favorite. 14th century. King Pedro I of Castile nicknamed the Cruel had innumerable lovers, but his favorite was Doña Maria de Padilla. Tragic history and above all brief. The king was married to Blanche of France and intended to annul his marriage in order to marry Maria de Padilla with whom he had had a son. The king’s life passed between wars and betrayals. He was murdered at age 35 by his half-brother Enrique de Trastámara who ascended the throne. Doña Maria could not become queen nor her son heir. If it is a consolation to you today, both Pedro and Maria de Padilla are buried together in the Royal Chapel of the Cathedral of Seville. What could not be in life would be for eternity

Doña María Coronel

Doña María Coronel | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Noble and religious. 14th century. She could have been a champion of the # Me too movement. It was one more conquest of King Pedro I of Castilla. But in this case she refused to satisfy his wishes. The king did not stop harassing her and persecuted her throughout the city. Doña Maria Coronel in full flight took refuge in the convent of Santa Clara. There when the king was about to catch her, she entered the kitchen and spilled a cauldron of boiling oil on her face, totally disfiguring herself.

The king lost interest and it seems that repentant for his harassing action, he gave him money and land to found a convent. This would be that of Santa Ines, of Poor Clares nuns. Surprisingly when Doña Maria Coronel died, her body was incorrupt, even today, 700 years later, and can be visited in her convent every December 2. The aggressor king Pedro no longer likes us as well as in the previous story.

Catalina de Ribera

Catalina de Ribera | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Noble and founder. 16th century. This woman who lived in the Renaissance time was born noble and wealthy, but she used her fortune to improve the city in which she lived. She is the builder of the Casa de Pilatos and the Palacio de Dueñas. But above all, its great legacy is one of the largest hospitals in Europe in the 16th century, the Hospital of the Five Wounds or Blood.

It was not the only one in the city but it was the largest and most modern. Especially necessary in a time of great plagues and epidemics. It was also intended for poor women and men, the most disadvantaged in society. It was built in the Macarena neighborhood and today it is the seat of the Andalusian Parliament.

Luisa la Roldana

Luisa la Roldana | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Sculptress. 17th century. She was the daughter of a great artist, also a sculptor Pedro Roldán. This favored that she could follow the profession of her father whom she equaled and they say that she even exceeded. She fought all her life and defended her trade. She worked for churches, convents and noble families. She was the first female sculptor of the court, that is, an official sculptor in Madrid de los Austrias.

However, she did not get rich and could not even lead a decent life. In fact, she died in poverty in a time of crisis that did not value the profession of artists very much either.


Carmen La Cigarrera | Mujeres ilustres de Sevilla

Cigar maker and opera protagonist. 19th century. Carmen is a fictional character, she rose to fame as the protagonist of a well-known French opera that recounts the vicissitudes of a worker at the Tobacco Factory in Seville in the 19th century. The story is by the French Prosper Merimée and the music by the also French Georges Bizet. It is a foreign and romantic vision of Andalusia from 150 years ago. The society that portrayed brave bullfighters, smugglers and passionate gypsies was not 100% real, but history has transcended and has helped export the image of Andalusia outside our borders.

At the top of the lateral façade of the Palace of San Telmo there are a series of statues of outstanding men: Murillo, Bartolomé de las Casas, Martinez Montañés, Daoiz and some more … without a doubt they deserve it. But these eight women would also have the right to be part of an illustrious selection of Sevillian women.

Ferdinand Columbus was the youngest son of Christopher Columbus. He was born in Cordoba in 1488, his mother was from that city. He was the illegitimate son of the Discoverer, but his father recognized him and they always had a close relationship. He died in Seville in 1539 and is buried in its Cathedral.

Ferdinand (in Spanish Hernando or Fernando) lived in Seville almost all his life and was famous not only for being the son of the most famous navigator in History but for his own merits. He was Canon of the Cathedral of Seville, he rubbed shoulders with the most cultured in Europe such as Erasmus of Rotterdam or Antonio de Nebrija. He was a cosmographer, botanist, historian, poet, traveler, he created the most important library of his time and upon his death passed the Cathedral of Seville with the name of the Columbine Library. Because more than anything he was a bibliophile, that is, a lover and collector of books.

Its library was famous throughout Europe, today it is known by the name of the Biblioteca Colombina or Columbine Library and has been kept in the Cathedral of Seville since the end of the 16th century. Originally it was made up of 15000 volumes. It was located in his Sevillian house next to the Puerta de Goles, one of the doors of Seville that years later was called the Puerta Real when King Felipe II entered the city through it. This house was a focus of cultural and scientific activity. Apart from literary gatherings, it included an academy of mathematics and a botanical garden with many of the plants from which came from the New World these early years.

Hernando Colón, el hombre que amaba lo libros

In the nearby Monastery of La Cartuja, where his father Cristobal had prepared his trip and would be buried for a few years, Hernando planted a tree that is still preserved today and would therefore be the oldest in Seville. It is an ombu or Bella Sombra (Beautiful Shade), with the scientific name Phytolaca Dioica. Today we have a statue of Christopher Columbus next to the centennial tree.

Seville in the XVI Century

Hernando Colón, el hombre que amaba lo libros

This Seville where Hernando Colon lived and died was the most cosmopolitan city in Europe and one of the most populated. All thanks to the departure and arrival of ships
from the Indies. Since the Casa de la Contratacion (House of Trade9 was established here in 1503 to control travel and commerce with the new world, the city experienced
a significant economic takeoff and consequently an impressive activity not only commercial but scientific and cultural. Here lived the doctor Nicolas Monardes, who
introduced new products to Europe (tobacco, cocoa, potatoes, corn …) from the new world, his tomato crops were famous, the first ones in Europe. Here was the printing
press of Cromberger, one of the most important in Spain. Seville was the perfect place for Ferdinand to develop his passion for books.

He was therefore a true man of the Renaissance, a humanist and one of the most educated Sevillians of his time. Organized and thorough. His great project could not finish it. It was the Book of the Epitomes, in which he was going to summarize each one of the books that he had in his library.

Its famous 15,000 volume library, however, is not fully preserved. In 1522 Hernando had traveled all over Europe buying books. He sent them to Spain by boat from Italy, with the misfortune that the ship was wrecked and the books ended up at the bottom of the sea. It seems that more than 1500 were lost.

Others were lost at various times since they were not directly donated to the Cathedral. But there are around 4000 that are kept at the Colombina Institution, named after him, although he would have preferred it to be called Hernandina or Fernandina. This does not mean that he denied his last name, he was always very proud of his father. Hernando at the age of 13 accompanied his father Christopher on his fourth trip to the Indies, and later his older brother Diego, Governor of Hispaniola, today Santo Domingo. He was also interested in science. He worked as a cosmographer at the service of Emperor Carlos V. Humanities and Science, perfect combination for a typical Renaissance man.

The “Institution Colombina”

Hernando Colón, el hombre que amaba lo libros

But his best legacy is that library in which several thousand copies of his books are kept. It is on Alemanes street and is an annex to the Cathedral. A simple door is marked with the name of Institucion Colombina. Inside there is a treasure, yes, reserved for historians and researchers who make a pilgrimage here from all over the world. Among his most valuable books are those he inherited from his father Christopher. And many of them are incunable books.

What are incunable books?

Hernando Colón, el hombre que amaba lo libros

The name comes from Latin: in the cradle. These first books were in their infancy since they are the books printed between the invention of the printing press in 1440 by Guttemberg and the year 1500. In addition, a technique with movable types was used, which makes them unique. There are not many and their value is incalculable.

Books on the shelves of the Columbine:

  • The Imago Mundi or Image of the World by Pierre de Aylly that was very popular in his time, on astronomy and geography. In it, the 14th century French Cardinal Pierre d’Ailly stated that the ocean was not as wide as previously thought and could be crossed in a few days. We can imagine that this theory attracted the interest of Christopher Columbus. in fact it was one of the books that Columbus consulted the most before going west and finding a continent. And he even made handwritten annotations in its margins.
  • The Castilian Grammar of Antonio de Nebrija. It was the first work dedicated to the study of the Spanish language and its rules. It was printed in 1492 and therefore considered incunables.
  • Marco Polo’s Book of Wonders, which had been the other major major expedition thus far. The Venetian merchant Marco Polo, following the Silk Road, reached the Far East in the thirteenth century and this led to a knowledge of exotic cultures until then almost unknown.
  • The Historia Rerum, which we can translate as: the History of all Things. It was like an encyclopedia of its time written in the 15th century by Pope Pius II, Piccolomini.
  • The Book of Prophecies. It is not really printed but it is a parchment bound manuscript, it is a collection of biblical texts, church fathers and classics with which Columbus tries to prove that the discovery of the New World had been prophesied in the Bible.
  • Ars Moriendi. It was a popular book in a time of great deaths since it was a kind of guide on “good dying”. Through instructive engravings a series of advice was given on how to pass to the next life in the most Christian way.

The library also includes books from classical antiquity such as Pliny’s Natural History or Virgil’s Aeneid.

In short, the Columbine Institution is a hidden gem in the heart of Seville that tells us about this great book lover who was Ferdinand Columbus

The nickname “painter of painters” was given by the French artist Eduard Manet, who deeply admired his work. Manet had the opportunity to contemplate his paintings in the Prado Museum, which houses the most important part of his pictorial career. However, Velázquez was born about 500 km from the court, in southern Spain, in Seville. He never forgot his origins and he signed as “pictor hispalensis”, that is, Sevillian painter.

He was born as Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez, but he is known worldwide by his second surname, Velazquez, according to Andalusian tradition from Portugal.

He was the eldest son of a Sevillian family of modest fortune and, given his drawing skills, his parents sent him to train as an apprentice at the Seville painter Francisco de Herrera’s “el Viejo”workshop.

Painters workshops and academies

The bad character of this artist made the young Velázquez at the age of 11 change to another workshop also from Seville that would mark him for life, professional and personal. His new teacher was Francisco Pacheco, painter, polychromator, writer and intellectual of great reputation in Seville in the early seventeenth century.

Seville at the beginning of the century was still a great metropolis although it was beginning to be punished by the economic crisis. Culturally it was known as the New Rome and literary and artistic gatherings were frequent, one of the most popular was that of the Casa de Pilatos, residence of the Duke of Alcala, in which the Master Pacheco actively participated and perhaps Velázquez himself. There they talked about painting, poetry, history and mythology … themes that gave our young painter a great culture.

Herrera was Velazquez’s teacher until he became a professional painter after passing the exam that allowed him to open his own workshop. In addition, Velázquez would marry in 1618 with the daughter of his teacher, Juana.

To be a painter they usually started at 10 or 11 years as apprentices in a teacher’s workshop, where they trained. This system came from medieval times and was strongly linked to guilds and artisan work. Then they had to pass a master’s exam, it was then when they acquired the degree of painter and they could already start their own professional career with the right to practice throughout the kingdom.

A few years later a group of Sevillian painters: Murillo, Herrera el Joven and Valdes Leal founded a drawing and painting academy in the Casa Lonja (current Archive of the Indies) to change the guild system of learning in workshops, there they innovated using people as models. With this they intended to renew the arts and the training of painters.

But above all they intended to give a greater intellectual category to the profession of painter, until now considered as one more crafts without qualification. That was also the objective of Velazquez from another area, the Madrid court, where he worked. Always a proud painter of his art, he fought for the social and noble merit of the Cross of the Order of Saint James, to get away from the idea of the artisan painter of the Middle Ages and be part of the intellectual and noble elite of the Spanish society.

What are famous works by Velázquez in the sevillian period

Until the age of 24, Velazquez was living and working in his hometown, so we have a good number of pictures from this period, although unfortunately few of them are preserved in Seville.

Velazquez’s painting from Seville’s period is characterized by the naturalism, color and strong influence of drawing, following in the wake of Andalusian painting from the beginning of the 17th century. He mainly painted portraits, religious subjects and genre or everyday life painting.

Among the best works of the Seville period are:

  • The Old woman frying eggs. 1618. Currently in the National Gallery in Edinburgh. A still life scene and portraits of humble people of his time, highly influenced by chiaroscuro, fashionable in those years.
  • Adoration of the Magi. 1619. In the Prado Museum, Madrid. It is a religious theme and it has been interpreted that the models were the relatives to the painter. Francisco Pacheco, teacher and father-in-law of Velazquez would be the king Melichior, the one with the white beard. The Virgin Mary would be Velazquez’s wife, Juana Pacheco, whom he had married a year earlier, the Child Jesus would be the painter’s own eldest daughter, and Diego Velazquez would give King Caspar a face.
  • The Waterseller of Seville. 1618. at the Wellington Museum, London. A great example of the imitation of nature that young painters were chasing in the 17th century. It is the portrait of “a water carrier”, a common occupation in Seville. It is also symbolically related to the three ages of man: youth, maturity and old age.
Qué obras famosas pintó Velázquez en esta etapa

Where you can see Velázquez paintings in Seville: The hospital of venerables

Dónde se pueden ver Velázquez en Sevilla: El Hospital de los Venerables

In the heart of the Santa Cruz Quarter is the Hospital de los Venerables, which was a haven for elderly priests in the 17th century. Restored a few years ago, it belongs to the Focus Abengoa Foundation and houses the Velazquez Center.

This small but important collection of Sevillian baroque painting includes some of Velazquez’s paintings that are preserved in Seville, all of them from his early years.

  • Portrait of Santa Rufina. It inaugurated the collection and represents one of the Holy Patronesses of Seville as a girl. If there was a “Santa Justa”, since they usually go as a couple, it has not been preserved. It includes the symbols that represent her: the palm of martyrdom and the ceramic pots that refer to her pottery trade.
  • Imposition of the chasuble to San Ildefonso, property of the Seville City Council, today in the Velázquez Center.
  • Immaculate Conception. A religious theme that would be very successful, especially in Seville from that time on, and a field in which our young painter also experimented.
Retrato de Santa Rufina

In addition, in the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville we can see two other Velazquez: the Portrait of Canon Cristobal Suárez de Ribera and in small format a Head of Apostle.

Why there are not many paingtings of Velázquez in Seville

Either because they were sold to private individuals at the time or due to the French invasion of the early 19th century that involved a plunder of works of art in Seville, or because of the closure of convents and religious orders that owned works by Velazquez, the result is that today few of these works are in the place where they were made.

Velazquez’s Sevillian period did not last long, about five years, since in 1622 the king’s painter’s place in Madrid became vacant and through the mediation of the also Sevillian, Gaspar de Guzman, Count Duke of Olivares, Diego Velázquez left his hometown to go to the capital of the kingdom.

The gap that Velazquez left in Seville when he left in 1623 was occupied by other distinguished painters such as Zurbaran, Murillo and Valdes Leal. But that is another story…

In 1518 Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães in Portuguese) had proposed his idea of reaching the Moluccas to obtain spices to King Manuel I of Portugal. Faced with his refusal, he presented his project to the young emperor Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany, at that time the most powerful monarch of Europe. In full expansionism of the kingdom of Castile, the emperor supported the company and gave Magellan the money necessary to charter five ships with 245 men. The expedition was going to be very profitable economically if they managed to trade in the Moluccan Islands and get the precious spices there: Cloves, Cinnamon, Pepper, Ginger, Nutmeg …

Why were spices so precious in Europe?

Por qué eran importantes las especias en la primera vuelta al mundo

In 16th century Europe, spices were almost or so much more valued than gold. Their value resided on the one hand in food preservation and they were also an ingredient for perfumes, medical recipes and a luxury for dishes in an increasingly rich and refined Europe. Like silk, porcelain, and of course gold and silver, there was a great demand for spices. And the place to find them was far away, on the other side of the world, in the exotic Spice Islands, called Moluccas and today corresponding to the Indonesian archipelago.

To get there, the the usual route was bordering Africa and crossing the Indian Ocean. But that area was in Portuguese power. A new route arose in Magellan’s mind, sailing west across the Atlantic, finding a passage to the Pacific (later known as the Strait of Magellan) and arriving after the long journey to the Spice Islands. The return trip would be made bordering India, crossing the Indian Ocean and going to the Atlantic by surrounding Africa.

Three years of adventure and hardship lasted this journey. Of the 245 men, only 18 survived, of the five ships that started the expedition, only one, with a symbolic name, returned to Seville: Nao Victoria (Victory).

Along the way riots, shipwrecks, diseases, internal struggles and fights with the indigenous people threatened the trip. However, despite the large number of human losses, the objective of the expedition was fulfilled: they successfully traded, returned laden with spices and it was also the first time that the roundness of the Earth was 100% demonstrated. A milestone that at first they were not looking for, they had made for the first time in History the First World Tour.

Why Seville

Magallanes y Elcano: La primera vuelta al mundo 1519-1522

The Andalusian city was the starting and ending point of this trip.

Seville became in 1503 the world center of commerce with America. This decision made by Queen Isabel de Castilla was motivated by the strategic position of the Andalusian city crossed by a river, the Guadalquivir, which was navigable to its mouth in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, allowing the arrival of the ships 80 km inland. This made Seville much safer than any other city on the Atlantic coast. The Guadalquivir was therefore the gateway to the first products to come from the New World: tomatoes, corn, tobacco or cocoa. And, of course , gold and huge amounts of silver from the mines of Mexico and Potosí (Bolivia). All the overseas expeditions managed by the House of Trade, nowadays in current dependencies of the Real Alcazar of Seville.

The Port of Seville in August 1519 saw the five ships commanded by Ferdinand Magellan in search of the Spice Islands depart towards Sanlúcar de Barrameda first and then west.

A Portuguese and a Spaniard

Magallanes y Elcano: La primera vuelta al mundo 1519-1522

Ferdinand Magellan, captain and ideologist of the expedition organized this trip with the help of the also Portuguese cosmographer Rui Faleiro. However, the expedition also included men of 10 nationalities, of whom 166 were Spanish men.

Magellan had the misfortune to die in the middle of the trip in a skirmish with the indigenous people in the Philippines (they would be called with this name years later in honor of King Felipe II). Luck wanted an experienced Basque sailor from Guetaria (Guipúzcoa), Juan Sebastián Elcano, to command the expedition. He was the one who ended the trip in Seville on August 13, 1522 when the battered Victoria with 18 survivors climbed the Guadalquivir and arrived in our city.

In such a way that the feat was shared by two navigators, from two different nations: the Spanish and the Portuguese.

The first round the world was made, and with it the roundness of the Earth was demonstrated, since always marching in the same direction, the starting point was reached. The emperor Carlos I, upon receiving Juan Sebastián Elcano, gave him as a shield a globe with the Latin legend: Primus circumdedisti me (“you were the first in surrounding me”). And also 500 ducats of income per year.

What can we see in Seville in relation to the First round the World

Qué podemos ver en Sevilla en relación con la Primera vuelta al Mundo

In addition to the Guadalquivir river, which witnessed trade and expeditions to the New World and beyond there are historical places and monuments in Seville that inform us and illustrate this important event and the History of the Andalusian capital in the 16th century. These are the most remarkable ones:

  • Tower of Gold. Built as part of the Wall in the 13th century by the Muslims, it was the starting and ending point of trips to the Indies. Today it houses an interesting Naval Museum and clearly exposes the main events of the First World Tour.
  • Archive of the Indies. Declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, it houses a true treasure inside. There is all the documentation about this trip. Unfortunately for us, the documents are reserved for researchers and there is very little that they reveal to the general public. The impressive Exhibition “The Longest Journey” about the first round world has been hosted from September to February can now be visited in the city of San Sebastián.
  • Monument to Juan Sebastián Elcano. Fountain built in the 70s by the sculptor Antonio Cano Correa. It is Seville’s tribute to the figure of this Basque navigator, captain of the expedition at the arrival.Monumento a la Primera Vuelta al Mundo en la calle Adriano. Mas reciente del año 2014 es este monumento hecho en mármol que recuerda la expedición. Estáestratégicamente situado en el antes llamado Monte del Baratillo del Barrio del Arenal, barrio marinero por excelencia en aquel tiempo.
  • Monument to the First Round the World on Adriano Street. Most recent in 2014 is this marble monument that it is a tribute to the expedition. It is strategically located in the formerly called Monte del Baratillo of Barrio del Arenal, a sailors district at that time.
  • Armillary sphere-Mile 0 next to the “Muelle de las Mulas (Mule’s Dock)” in the Plaza de Cuba. From here the expeditionaries left and here the returned three years later. A few meters from the Gold Tower, this great sphere is a tribute to the scientific expeditions that changed our world.
  • Chapel of the Virgen de la Antigua (at Seville Cathedral). In the largest chapel of the Cathedral, this precious image of a Gothic Virgin was especially venerated in the 16th century. Our expeditionaries entrusted themselves to her and the eighteen survivors returned to give thanks for the return. A plaque on the floor at the entrance to the Chapel remembers the name and job of those who returned.
  • Nao Victoria Foundation and replica of the ship Victoria. Next to the river, on the ground floor of the Paseo Marqués del Contadero. It is currently the most interesting and concrete exhibition we have about the First Round the World of Magellan and Elcano. Although it is not very extensive, the trip is told in a didactic way and it allows us, above all, to visit the replica of the main ship anchored on the banks of the river. For a while we can feel like sailors from 500 years ago who sailed wide unknown seas and performed feats hitherto unprecedented in the History of Humanity.

Baroque sculpture in the Fine Arts Museum of Seville (November 2019-March 2020)

The subtitle of this exhibition is “Teacher of Teachers” and this is true, since we must not forget that his art was inherited by sculptors such as Juan de Mesa or Francisco Antonio Ruiz Gijón, authors of the Christs of the Gran Poder or el Cachorro who can be contemplated in the famous processions of Holy Week in Seville.

But our protagonist of today was the called already in his time “God of the Wood”. Juan Martinez Montañés was born in a town near Jaén in 1568. At that time the most important artistic center in the south of the Iberian Peninsula was Seville, so Juan Martínez went to the capital of Andalusia to work on his sculptures. Here he could have numerous commissions from the convents and churches that flooded the city. His religious sculptures are splendid examples of naturalism and realism. The San Juan Evangelista, San Juan Bautista, Immaculate Concepcion, Christs and Children Jesus even today, 400 years later, surprise us for their quality and mastery, it does not surprise us therefore that in their time he was considered the “God of the Wood”.

Now we have a magnificent opportunity to see 57 of his best works gathered in an exhibition of the Museum of Fine Arts in Seville.

Why the sculptures where made in wood

Por qué la madera | Martínez Montañés

In Italy the sculptures were made mostly in marble, this was due to the abundance of this material in that country. The best sculptures by Michelangelo or Bernini were made in a beautiful white marble.

However, in the Iberian Peninsula, it was originally worked in terracotta or baked clay, in this material was the San Jerónimo de Pietro Torrigiano of the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, an Italian sculptor, colleague of Michelangelo, who introduced naturalism in Spain but using a local material like terracotta.

Gradually this was passed to the wood, which allowed sculpting with greater detail and was a stronger material, not as heavy as marble, of a more moderate weight and which allowed these sculptures to be carried in procession. Those religious processions that began to become popular in these lands.

Technics for painting the sculptures whith gold

The wooden sculptures were “estofado” and polychrome. “Estofado” is a very difficult technique that consists of applying gold leaf (also silver or copper leaf) to the wood, some sheets of metal that print this golden hue on the surfaces on which it is placed. Then, with different pigments these sheets are covered, and finally by scraping these last layers, drawings are made and colored (polychrome) exposing the underlying gold. As you can imagine it is a very expensive procedure but with a brilliant result, great color and artistic richness.

Normally the sculptor did not deal with this stage but it was carried out by another artist. Often the sculptures of Montañés were polychromed by Francisco Pacheco, painter, writer and teacher, best known for being Diego Velázquez’s father-in-law.

What are the best sculptures by Martínez Montañés

His most important works in Andalusian baroque sculpture can be seen in the Fine Arts museum exhibition.

The Christ of Clemency was always considered one of his greatest works. He did it for the Priest Vazquez de Leca, a rich religious who ordered him to have it for his personal devotion. Later on this sculpture would be exposed in the Cathedral of Seville. This work of 1.80 meters, of surprisingly exact details that show us the muscles and veins of a Crucified Christ, was a role model for all the sculptors of later generations.

La Cieguita | Martínez Montañés

Do not forget your other key work, the so-called La Cieguecita, “the Little Blind”. This is a sculpture that represents the Immaculate Conception, 1.64 m high. His eyes with a low and modest look that give an impression of being blind are the origin of his nickname. This sculpture was quickly famous for its great beauty and delicacy. Its serene face and harmonious proportions make it one of the most accomplished works of its author. The Immaculate was a very repeated theme in both painting and sculpture, accompanied by its usual elements such as the crown of twelve stars, the blue mantle, the tread on the crescent moon or the heads of angels at its feet that propel it towards the heaven.

But Montañés also worked for the most influential Sevillian monasteries of the time. For San Isidoro del Campo, a Hieronymite monastery on the outskirts of Seville made a splendid altarpiece in which are the praying sculptures of Guzmán el Bueno and his wife Maria Alonso Coronel, founders of the medieval monastery. Also San Juan Evangelista and a surprisingly realistic San Jerónimo Penitente.

The Child Jesus of the church of the Holy Sacrament, the Christ of Passion or the San Cristobal from the Church of the Saviour are also among his masterpieces.

Diego Velázquez and Juan Martínez Montañés, contemporary artists

Juan Martínez Montañes, o el Dios de la madera

Among the contemporary artists of the sculptor were the writer Cervantes and the painters Rubens or Velazquez himself.

We are lucky to have a portrait of Martinez Montañés made by the latter. Diego Velazquez, somewhat younger than the sculptor, worked in Madrid for King Felipe IV but the fact of being from the same city, Seville, and that they were both artists and frequented the same circles, led him to make a portrait of the “god of wood” in 1635. In that year the sculptor was called to the Court to make a bust of the king who wanted to send to Florence. That bust, that can be see in the picture, would be the model for the statue of Philip IV of Spain that adorns the Square of Oriente in Madrid.

Black death of 1649

Velázquez y Montañés, artistas contemporáneos

The catastrophic plague epidemic of Black death this year took the lives of almost half of the Sevillians and among them that of Montañes, who was already 81 years old.

In his long life he left us amazing sculptures of the highest quality. Luckily we can see them all together today in this interesting exhibition that has its doors open until March 15, 2020.

Do not miss it!

Maybe he was not the first but definitely one of them.

In the spring of 1828, Washington Irving arrived at the port of Seville, this happened 190 years ago. He came aboard the Betis, the first steam ship in Spain that traced the Guadalquivir from Cádiz. Irving was born in New York in 1783 and was already a well-known romantic writer and journalist and was also a tireless traveler and ambassador throughout Europe.


Among his most famous works known worldwide were: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, better known as The Legend of the Headless Horseman (adapted to film by Tim Burton in 1999) and Rip Van Winkle, which tells the story of someone who sleeps for dozens of years.

He also wrote: The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus (History of the life and trips of Cristóbal Columbus, 1828), Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada (1829), Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus (1831). But the most celebrated book about Spain was Cuentos de la Alhambra (Tales of the Alhambra) (1832), where it recasts for the English public the best known Spanish-Arabic legends about the Red Castle. He is also owed some Legends of the Conquest of Spain (1835).

He was the first American to achieve celebrity as a professional writer, thanks to literature, and that is why numerous streets and cities in the United States are named after him. He influenced well-known authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving also popularized the nickname “Gotham” to refer to New York, used in Batman comics; He is also known as the inventor of the expression “the almighty dollar.” He died in New York in 1859 and is buried in the cemetery of Sleepy Hollow.



He came first to Madrid called by the ambassador of his country to study in El Escorial the documents related to the discovery of the New World (1826-1829). This assignment marked the beginning of his diplomatic career.

It is shortly after when Washington Irving appears in Seville.

1828 had a bright spring and Washington Irving stayed in a picturesque big house of the Callejon del Agua “alley of the Water”, today house number 2, by the Alcázar wall, in the old
Sevillian Jewish quarter.

In Seville he spent a whole year, as a tourist and as a scholar of the History of Spain and the city. He wrote a diary that has been edited by the Hispanic Society of New York: Diary of
Washington lrving of the Sunnyside Spain, a suggestive name that evokes the sun of Andalucia.

He spent the mornings in the study halls of the Archivo de Indias (Archive of Indies), between bundles and voluminous cartographic documents. Some days he visited the archives of the cathedral and other palaces raised with gold and silver brought from the New World.

His meticulous work ended with the publication, some time later, of the book Vida y viajes by Cristóbal Colón (Life and Journeys of Christopher Columbus). But above all he discovered during his stay in Seville the spirit of the Andalusian heritage, raised centuries before Christians came and entered through the gates of the capital. The enchanted buildings, wrapped in the hazy legend of lost times amazed him.

As a good tourist Irving tries to see everything typical of Sevillian life: the body of San Femando on the day of saint’s festival and on that night the illumination of the city and the Giralda; the dance of the Seises the day of Corpus, the procession, the appearance of the city the night before.

This is what he writes in his diary about the Cathedral that impressed him so much:

“If you ever come to Seville, do not miss visiting its glorious cathedral … visit it at dusk, when the last rays of sun, rather the last shining of the day, shine through its polychrome stainedglass
windows. Visit it at night, when its chapels are poorly illuminated, its immense ships barely illuminated by the rows of silver lamps, and when the mass is prepared on the high altar, between flashes of gold and clouds of incense … I do not believe I have never felt an equal pleasure in any other monument of this kind … It is close to the house where I stayed  in Seville and it was my daily resource. In truth, I visited it more than once in the course of the day. A slow wander through that cathedral, especially towards dusk, when the deepest shadows and the light of the polychrome stained glass more confused and vague, produced in me the impression of a walk through one of our great American forests … ” But Irving needed to do one more journey, he wanted to know the last Islamic city of the Iberian Peninsula and his studies took him to Granada, a few days away from the capital of Seville. A year after his arrival, Irving undertook the trip to the city of the Alhambra.

The gardens of the Alhambra has a sculpture dedicated to him.



The Council of Europe created years ago the Routes of the Andalusi Legacy, to promote tourism and make known the Andalusian land by focusing on its Arab past and the legacy of that time. Among these, there is a “Washington Irving route” that takes 250 km from Seville to Granada passing through Antequera.

This route goes through the steps followed in 1829 by the American romantic and diplomatic writer, fascinated by the wealth and exoticism of the Hispano-Muslim civilization. An artery of communications established many centuries before, which, in the late Middle Ages, served as a commercial route between the southern Christian peninsular and the Nasrid kingdom of Granada. Route that, like others, had a marked border character.

This route brings to life a second story, that of the romantic, and tourist “discovery” of Andalusia. In tune with the new sensitivity of romanticism, and after the staging of the Iberian Peninsula with the War of Independence, Spain, and Andalusia in particular, began to receive an increasing attention as a travel destination. The visits of Chateaubriand and Lord Byron, who spoke of Andalucia in their works, followed the trips and stays of Washington Irving himself, Richard Ford, Borrow, Delacroix, David Roberts, Gautier, Dumas and especially French Prosper Merimée creator of the mythical story of Carmen, the Cigarrera.

These travelers, French, British or American created a mysterious, romantic and folkloric image of Andalucia. Full of passionate characters, sometimes cruel and in love, perhaps it doesn’t correspond to 100% with the real image, in a panorama of legends, bullfighters and bandits, majas and smugglers but certainly it served to raise awareness of our region outside our borders and to popularize its landscape, history and culture.

To those first “tourists” and “travelers” are dedicated this post.