The Murcian sculptor Francisco Salzillo is without a doubt the best example of 18th century Spanish sculptors, and one of the Greats amongst the many Spanish Baroque artists dedicated to religious sculpture.
The museum was created in the year 1941 and it was reopened in the year 2002 after some important renovations, is made up of two completely different buildings which are harmoniously joined: That of the church of Jesus and the newly built, linear part.
In this way, a visit to the museum becomes, according to its architect Yago Bonet, like a labyrinth of emotions where the spaces are merged, turning them into a unique space which is psychologically transcendent.
What is more, the permanent museum exhibition holds an extremely important and large collection of original models from the workshop of this great artist. In spite of their small size and the poor material used, the figures show Salzillo´s artistic inspiration and his talent for sculpting. The rich range of Sumptuous Art belonging to the processional collection of the Easter sculptures is equally of gold and silver work, material and embroidery from XVII, XVIII and XIX centuries. Together with an interesting display of small- scale prayer sculptures, they are very typical of the Roccoco style.
"El Belén", or Nativity Scene is made up of almost six hundred pieces no taller than 30 cm., made basically, from baked clay and beautiful painted, and which, in a clear narrative style, represent the Birth of Christ. On the one hand, they recreate in great detail the main elements of the Christmas Tale and, on the other, pastoral life in the 18th century. The over- all effect of the Nativity Scene stresses the sculptural quality of each of its pieces. This unique group is arranged in such a way that the narrative and overall vision of this work is not lost. Each of the tiny sculptures should be admired at close range so as not to miss their perfectly recreated details.
The Processional Sculptures
Belong to the Arch- brotherhood of Our Father Jesus of Nazareth. This brotherhood has an important role in the city. Its most significant public act is the organisation of the Good Friday morning procession, known as the procession of the "Salzillos", when the sculptures are paraded through the streets, carried on the shoulders of the brothers, ensuring that the magnificent sculptures fulfil their duty year after year.
San Juan (1756), is the most valuable example of Salzillo´s expression of movement: a single figure captured walking. The harmonious layout of the body, the relationship between the different distribution of the parts, the lifelike vertical, slanting and even curved folds of his clothing, in contrast to the heavy form of the tunic, are extremely realistic and come together to give a clear and vigorous impression of movement. The beauty of this image is unchangeable from any point of view. Veronica (1755). A single figure, she is represented with the cloth, which she holds in her hands on which she discovers, surprised, and anguished, the imprint of the face of Christ. Dressed in the fashion of the bourgeoisie Murcian ladies of the 18th century, her clothes are outstanding even in the folds. The almost ordinary beauty of Veronica is complemented by an example of the cloths bearing the Face of Christ.
Of the rich collection owned by fellowship, the oldest of the cloths, belonging to Domingo Valdivieso (19th century), is permanently displayed, as well as two others, which are periodically renewed by contemporary Murcian artists.
La Dolorosa (1756). The exquisite sculpture, the delicate colouring and the expression of extreme pain archived without disturbing any of the beautiful features of the mature woman. This, together with the marked sensation of movement, rarely achieved in a dressed image, mean that in this work, the height of Baroque sculpture, the artistic value given to it by critics and experts, is as important as the adoration, which the people feel for her.
Developing his expertise in sculpting infants, La Dolorosa is flanked by four child angels, accompanying her both in her pain in the procession and throughout the whole year, when they disconsolately observe her in the museum hall.
La Cena (The Last Supper)(1783). This is a sculpture, which was difficult to create, given the obligatory distribution of 13 figures around one table. Salzillo resolves this difficulty by choosing the scene of the announcing of the betrayal which provokes varied expressions from the disciples and by the individually of the bodies, ages and attitudes showed by each of them.
La Oración en el huerto (1754). The excellent composition, the knowledge in the study of the ages of the men represented in the three sleeping Apostles and especially the incomparable grouping of Christ and the Angel, mean that this sculpture would provide sufficient proof of the genius of the artist, even if we did not known of any other pieces of his work.
Los Azotes (1777). It is the last figure completed by Salzillo for the Brotherhood of the Nazarenes, and one in which we can see that its creator, in spite of his Baroque spirit, is familiar with the artistic modes of the time. The image of Christ tied to the column possesses in certain aspects a Neoclassical character, although the Baroque spirit remains obvious in the realism and poignancy of the tunics.
La Caída (1752). The infinite gaze of Christ and the dramatic tension shown in the scene makes this one of the most admired sculptures.
El Prendimiento (1763). The heads of Jesus and Judas figures, made from the same block of wood, and the facial expressions, are incredibly realistic. On the other hand, the admirable group formed by St. Peter and Malco, is a true artistic achievement in the capture of physical strength and movement.
Jesus of Nazareth. An Enigmatic and overwhelming image, which represents Jesus on the road to Calvary with the Cross-on his back, it is the central point of the narrative. An unknown artist very well loves it loved by the people of Murcia.