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Home Culture The millennials who keep religious sculpture alive in Murcia: “Copying Salzillo would be ridiculous” | Culture

The millennials who keep religious sculpture alive in Murcia: “Copying Salzillo would be ridiculous” | Culture

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Model of the Santísimo Cristo de las Almas pass by Sebastián and Juan Martínez Cava.

In the San Antón neighborhood of Murcia is the sculpture workshop of the Martínez Cava brothers. It’s Holy Thursday, and since early morning they have been helping to set up the altars of the Church of San Pedro. “You caught us at the worst moment, everything is upside down,” apologize the young Murcian image makers, Juan (36 years old) and Sebastián (31 years old). Next to the tools, the cans of plaster and paint, a mannequin displays a hanging cloth: “The folds of the soldier’s cloak must be real, we cannot make any wrinkles that would not really form. For the face of the man who mocks Christ, we have looked at photos of us and our friends making evil faces,” they explain. Three sheets cover the figures – weighing 50 kilograms each – that next year will star in the Holy Christ of Souls, the new step that the Brotherhood of Christ of Hope has commissioned from this duo of sculptors who are exponents of the new school of imagery. in the city of Salzillo.

When they were little Juan and Sebastian Martínez Cava preferred processions to video games. They spent the afternoons recreating Holy Week in Murcia with pieces of the Nativity scene they found around the house, until the figures were insufficient. “We got tired of always playing with the same ones and decided to try creating them ourselves, so we would have as many as we wanted,” remembers Sebastián. At the ages of 17 and 11, playing with “mud sticks” became a demanding hobby in which they invested all their time and effort. “When we had to opt for a professional career, we could already respond to the first commissions, even though we weren’t even sure that we wanted to dedicate ourselves to sculpture,” explains Juan.

It took them several years to accept a project for a procession, while they received orders from individuals, such as sculptures for houses and parishes. In 2021, their first wood carving, La Virgen de la Aurora, saw the light of day, for the brotherhood of the same name in the city of Lorca, for which they were awarded the XIV La Hornacina Prize for sacred sculpture. “They were the first to trust us for this type of work,” admits Sebastián. Word of mouth led to the sculpture of San José, named patron and protector of the province of Almería, San Antonio of the Church of Carmen in Murcia and a San José and a Purísima as patrons of the Minor Seminary of the archbishopric of Murcia. “The award was a before and after in our career, and a way to show our parents that this profession does have a future,” says Juan.

The Martínez Cava brothers agree that the world of religious sculpture is on the rise and the new school of imagery from southern Spain—Murcia and Andalusia—is gaining followers every year. In Murcia, the work of the sculptor Pepe Hernández stands out, now focused on the training of his young and “talented” disciples such as Alberto Marín (25 years old), Antonio José Villavazquez (23 years old), or Pablo Espinosa of the same age. “His works perpetuate Hernández’s line, but with his own touch. The beauty of Holy Week in Murcia is the diversity of styles, we love that there is variety in the craft,” says Sebastián. The loss of popularity of the Catholic religion in new generations does not prevent the renewal of sacred art: “Holy Week will always have its audience and so will this profession. Many of the sculptors who dedicate themselves to imagery are not believers, although it is noticeable,” Juan emphasizes.

What distinguishes civil sculpture from imagery is that religious pieces must move the viewer, calling people to pray. “If the creator does not feel that devotion, he cannot capture it and the sculpture will be very beautiful but it will be colder,” he says. The work of the image maker not only involves imbuing the carvings with divinity, it is also linked to a rigorous knowledge of saints and Gospels. “We have to break down the stories, know each scene very well or read in depth the life of the Saint we are going to sculpt,” says Sebastián. Once the scene has been studied, the sculptors shape the image according to their style.

For the Martínez Cava brothers, in Murcia there are two great schools of reference: that of Juan González Moreno, a post-war sculptor, and that of Francisco Salzillo, which these young image makers have opted for. The similarity of its carvings with those of the baroque genius has led the Brotherhood of Nuestro Padre Jesús de Orihuela to choose Juan and Sebastián to recover the María Magdalena de Salzillo—lost during the Spanish Civil War—, located at the feet of Christ of Agony. Even so, they insist: “We do not replicate sculptures. Copying Salzillo would be ridiculous, our creation would always be inferior to the original. We follow his school but with our compositions that, indeed, leave the flavor of the 19th century. We have our own style,” says Juan. The painting of Murillos, the Roman marbles of Bernini and the sculpture of Salzillo are the three elements that define the Martínez Cava firm. “We were inspired by the fusion of these three factors, what we manage to do is another thing,” they say with a laugh.

With this aspiration they now face the greatest challenge of their career: composing a procession for the procession of their Brotherhood, that of the Cristo de la Esperanza of Murcia. “Creating a carving for our city is our most ambitious project,” confesses Sebastián. The scene chosen is a moment before the crucifixion of Christ, when a man tries to deceive him by offering him poor quality wine during the climb to Calvary. The hopeless gaze of Christ is directed to heaven asking for consolation, “the tongue protruding between his teeth and the shape that his belly adopts indicate that this is a moment in which Jesus stops to breathe, to take a breath,” they explain. . “With a model we have recreated the folds that form in the torso and with a doctor we have studied the veins, tendons and ligaments that are marked in the skin, we do not want to leave any loose ends,” he says.

They have big dreams and are willing to give their all in each new project, but the Martínez Cava brothers prefer to focus on the present: “Making the Christ of Souls is a gift from heaven. Whatever comes next we will face with enthusiasm, but it will not be comparable to what we feel debuting in our Brotherhood,” they clarify. Juan and Sebastián Martínez Cava have already started the countdown to Palm Sunday next year, when the image debuts on the streets of Murcia. “My hair stands on end just thinking about it,” confesses Sebastián.

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