Art and Ritual in Golden-Age Spain: Sevillian Confraternities and the Processional Sculpture of Holy Week

By Saint-Saens, Alain | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Art and Ritual in Golden-Age Spain: Sevillian Confraternities and the Processional Sculpture of Holy Week


Saint-Saens, Alain, The Catholic Historical Review


Art and Ritual in Golden Age Spain: Sevillian Confraternities and the Processional Sculpture of Holy Week. By Susan Verdi Webster. (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1998. Pp. xxi, 298. $55.00.)

Susan Verdi Webster has written an important, pioneering, book, the title of which, Art and Ritual in Golden Age Spain, goes far beyond her center of interest, that is, the interconnections between the Sevillian confraternities and the processional sculptures of Holy Week, better defined in the subtitle. Indeed, publishers, Princeton University Press in this case, should stop giving titles to books that mislead the reader and that are invented only to attract more customers. You will not find there a study on art and ritual in Golden-Age Spain, but a very strong, well-rounded, analysis of polychrome wood sculptures in seventeenth-century Seville. That makes the value and the limit of Webster's book. Only in one footnote (15, p. 212), are the other great school of processional sculptures, Valladolid, and its master, Gregorio Fernandez, mentioned. Webster's study would have been enhanced through the comparison of the Sevillian case with the Valladolid case, and we would have understood better what made Seville maybe unique in seventeenth-century Spain.

More problematic are the bibliographical references left behind. Although Webster seems to know well the Spanish secondary sources, she did not use major French ones, crucial for her subject, that were accessible in Spain at the Casa de Velazquez, the French Institute for Advanced Spanish Studies in Madrid. She should have consulted the magnificent 1993 These d'Etat of Liliane Fallay d'Este on Francisco Pacheco, the 1989 fundamental article of Alain Saint-Saens on "Contraintes et liberte du sculpteur espagnol apres le Concile de Trente," and the important 1990 work of Yves Bottineau on LArt baroque espagnol.

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