St Gines De La Jara, is dressed in a lavish gilded robe, emblematizing fine embroidery threaded
with gold. He is life size, and erect at approximately thirteen feet. His eyes are made from glass,
imitating real human ones. The craving and detailing of this piece is elegantly done, that the color red of
his cheeks are clearly visible, as well as the veins in his hands and feet. In the dim of the night, anyone
could easily mistake this for an actual saint.
Luisa Roldan’s (1652-1706) known as La Roldana completed her masterpiece in 1692, and was
painted by her brother-in-law Tomas De Los Arcos. During the seventeenth century most of the artwork
produced came from family workshops, in which artistic skills were taught generation to generation.
Roldan worked on the saint, in her family workshop, and probably had help from her father Pedro
Roldan, who helped establish the first drawing academy in Spain. She was appointed royal sculptor to
the reign of Charles II in the late 1600’s, though it is uncertain whether or not he was a royal summon.
According to folktale St. Gines was born a son to the brave medieval hero Roland, who was the nephew
of King Charlemagne. During a pilgrimage, off the coast of Spain, a storm breaks loose. He and his
followers manage to reach the shore safely, because miraculously they were able to float on his robe.
Not only is St. Gines recognized as a saint through fables, but because of his iconography. These
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distinguishing symbols include the phrase “S. Gines De Laxara,” inscribed along the hem and the sleeve
of the robe. Luisa Roldan’s piece of work would have passed unnoticed, if it were not for the surviving
signature on the base of the sculptor. It is barely visible to read out “Luisa Roldan, sculptor to the Royal
Chamber year 1692,” yet this unclear text helped attribute the artist.
The construction of St. Gines, (an additive sculpture) first began with two separate hollow boxes,
one smaller than the other one: the smaller one on top and the larger box on bottom. Then additional
wood was carved and nailed to the hollow boxes to illustrate the folds of the robe. Once the frame was
finished, Roldan would carve the shape of the feet, hands, head, and robe, with chisels and rasps. The
veins and creases found in the feet, and the hands were carefully smoothed with dried shark skin, and
cuttlebone. The hands and head were carved and attached separately. The center of the head is
hollowed out, allowing glass eyes to be placed in the saints face. After completing the carving and
smoothing of the sculpture the painting was then realized. Tomas De Los Arcos, Roldan’s brother-in-law
used a technique called Estofado. This technique is used to create fine patterns in gold and silver in
fabric. He also used Encarnaciones; mixing and applying blended oil paints to give color to the veins,
cheeks, and slightly pink knuckles.
The life-like figure of St. Gines depicts a physical presence that projects authority, and religion.
His aura of holiness is reflected through his marvelous robe, and simplicity. His immediate attractions
include his detailed veins, and realistic style, thus creating the focal point of this piece. This realistic
piece was among the many that Spanish sculptors made around the covenants in order to better
personify there saints. Roldan was able to express peace, and serenity through St. Gines. She was
successful in creating a life-like saint, that symbolized seventeenth century religious imagery.