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The Cristos Yacentes of Gregorio Fernandez: Polychrome Sculptures of the Supine Christ in Seventeenth-Century Spain.

Colon Mendoza, Ilenia, The Cristos Yacentes of Gregorio Fernandez: Polychrome Sculptures of the Supine Christ in Seventeenth-Century Spain (Visual Culture in Early Modernity), Farnham, Ashgate, 2015; hardback; pp. 220; 16 colour, 54 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. [pounds sterling]60.00; ISBN 9781409430681.

The objects that are the subject of this book are early seventeenth-century sculptures of the dead Christ in repose. Concerned with the corpus of Cristos yacentes sculptures made by or attributed to the prominent sculptor Gregorio Fernandez of Valladolid and his workshop, Ilenia Colon Mendoza highlights networks of artistic exchange and patronage in Spain as well as cataloguing Fernandez's contribution to this unique sculpture genre. As a work of art-historical cataloguing, this is a useful volume. It also serves as an accessible introduction to the Cristo yacente genre. Colon Mendoza explains the main iconographical elements of the Cristos yacentes, examines some medieval and early modern sculptural precedents, and suggests that early modern print media also influenced the genre's development.

The book's four chapters mostly provide descriptive and contextual information regarding individual sculptures or this sculptural tradition. Colon Mendoza compares exemplars, charts iconographical similarities, points to their emotive aspects within Counter-Reformation piety, and argues throughout the volume that these sculptures can best be read as coded Eucharistic symbols. Some sculptures served as tabernacles or contained an inbuilt monstrance component, either of which explicitly connected the Consecrated Host with these sculpted bodies of Christ. These sculptures underlined the theology of Incarnation and Transubstantiation, and implicitly also the Resurrection. This is interesting material, although the connections are mostly pointed to rather than explored in significant theological detail.

Unfortunately, while Colon Mendoza's sub-arguments are generally convincing the work strays very little beyond Colon Mendoza's 2008 dissertation of the same title, although it potentially brings that research to a wider audience. This is a bit disappointing because some of the material about the theological and liturgical uses of the Cristos yacentes could be further developed. Similarly, a more effective copyedit may have ironed out some idiosyncrasies. The Christian faithful longing for 'spiritual resurrection' (p. 108) rather than bodily resurrection particularly stood out as an obvious disconnect with the subject matter and arguments. Nevertheless, with extensive appendices, excellent illustrations, and an interesting subject matter, there will certainly be something of interest here for scholars looking at this Spanish sculptural tradition in the early seventeenth century.

NICHOLAS D. BRODIE, Hobart, Tasmania

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Title Annotation:Short Notices
Author:Brodie, Nicholas D.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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