Untitled [Holy Family]


Produced the year José Escada joined the Religious Art Renovation Movement (MRAR), his membership being formalised in 1955, this drawing also dates to the time of the artist’s involvement in the project to decorate the Moscavide Church, in Lisbon, for which he designed a suspended baldachin. MRAR, which initially comprised a core membership of architects, all laymen of Catholic faith, was founded with the aim of modernising religious architectural and artistic forms, adapting them to a contemporary syntax that married formal interests with new concepts of liturgical celebration. As well as architects, MRAR incorporated a number of visual artists, including Manuel Cargaleiro, Madalena Cabral and, later on, figures such as Lagoa Henriques, Jorge Vieira, Eduardo Nery, and José Escada himself, who in 1961 created the logo that would feature on the Movement’s newsletters until 1966.

In this piece, he creates a “Holy Family” of understated design, focused on the busts of the principal figures, a man and woman – Joseph and Mary – with the only sign of the religious narrative being a discreet halo around the head of the Baby Jesus. It has a classic design in terms of the use of space, being organised in a triangle whose sides are dominated by each of the protagonists. The result is a gentle “Holy Family” in keeping with the Gospel: a bearded, wise-looking St. Joseph, vigilant and protective, facing the Virgin, who has a youthful, virginal look and a veil that is only suggested by a thin wavy thread on the left-hand side. The reclining Baby Jesus provides confirmation of the union between the two adult figures, his parents.

In contrast to other José Escada works in the Modern Collection that date to the same period (see the portraits of Lourdes Castro and Teresa de Sousa), in which the lines are the main visual element, this drawing demonstrates a symbolic treatment of the figures through the use of shadows. These shadows, which are particularly accentuated in the case of St. Joseph, not only add volume to the bodies, but also reinforce the allegoric importance of certain elements: age, the union of the figures, and, at the bottom, St. Joseph’s hand, which frames the right-hand side of the image. As a gesture of support, the hand evokes the status of the biblical figure and artist alike, both of whom work with their hands.

Ana Filipa Candeias


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Updated on 28 july 2016

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