Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Rojas Retablos - Salamanca: Santa Ana

San Agustín Salamanca
In our first post on San Agustín Salamanca we looked at the retablo of San José, designed and sculpted by Pedro de Rojas.
Here we look at its sister altarpiece, dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

The Santa Ana Retablo

The St. Anne altarpiece employs the same opulent forms and ornament as the San José retablo, as well as featuring several virtuoso tableaux of statuary.

The theme is “the Five Mysteries of Saint Anne with the Seven Princes (Archangels)” as documented in Rojas' contract of 1768. 

Swagged canopies, surmounted by giant openwork crowns frame the statuary in the projecting center pavilion, flanking estípites and exuberant niche-pilasters.

All these are set against an intricate, gilded basketweave backdrop and the entire retablo is aswirl with angels, foliage, scrolls and strapwork.

Although the masterfully executed figure sculptures are arrayed in sumptuous estofado garments, they are almost overwhelmed by the dynamic theatrical setting.

Beneath a grandiose crown, the richly robed St. Anne gestures joyfully in the swagged center niche, while also cradling the infant Mary on her left arm. A triumphant Archangel Michael poses above the crown, silhouetted against the nave window behind. 

The elongated lateral niches show St. Anne again (left) in a frontal pose holding up the swaddled infant Mary on a cradle board, in the presence of a benevolent God the Father above.
 In the Annunciation scene on the right, the restrained, demure figure of Anne is dwarfed by the animated Archangel Gabriel above her head.

A charming scene of the saint with the young Virgin Mary is set in the rather confined upper right niche, balanced by a dynamic, projecting tableau of the Presentation at the Temple on the left, which is dominated by the imposing figure of a rabbi. His bearded visage, like that of God the Father, is  reminiscent of the forceful statue of St Paul in the Cadereyta altarpiece. 

The original centerpiece, reportedly a tableau illustrating the Nativity of the Virgin, is unfortunately missing.

In addition to the sumptuous, overall design of the altarpiece, the consensus seems to be that most of the estofado figures are Rojas' own work, especially the dynamic Seven Princes (archangels,) for which Rojas is believed to have a special fondness and which allowed him greater creative scope than more conventional religious figures.

Text & drawing © 2012 Richard D. Perry;  Photography Niccolo Brooker & Benjamin Arredondo

Information based in part on Pedro de Rojas y su taller de escultura en Querétaro by Mina Ramírez Montes (1988)

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  1. Richard, this is wonderful what you're doing. I love how you spotlight the unusual details. (Funny, I was just talking about a St Anne's church today in a conversation.)

    1. Catherine,

      Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.