Francisco Zuniga: Interplay of Masses

September 26, 2013

Various works from Costa Rican sculptor Francisco Zúñiga will be offered in the October 13, 2013 Modern Art & Design Auction. One such work, a bronze sculpture from 1978, demonstrates Zúñiga’s mastery in depicting the human form.

Mujer Envuelta con Rebozo (1978), Francisco Zúñiga

Francisco Zúñiga (1912-1998) was born José Jesús Francisco Zúñiga Chavarría in a small suburb of San Jose, Costa Rica. By the age of 13, Zúñiga assisted his father in the studio by whittling slabs of wood for Santos, traditional religious sculptures of saints and angels for local clients and churches. The European Colonial style in which his father rendered these holy figures clashed with Francisco’s aspiration to depict veritable and humanistic forms. Seeking further training, Zúñiga enrolled at the School of Fine Arts in 1927, followed by a move from his native Costa Rica to Mexico City in 1936. While in Mexico, Zúñiga studied ancient artifacts at local museums. The delicately rounded yet stoic forms of Pre-Columbian idols intrigued the artist and confirmed his desire to refine his sculpting skills. He abandoned painting in 1937 by enrolling in the Direct School of Carving (later known as the School of Painting and Sculpture) where he stayed as a faculty member for over thirty years. In 1958 he was awarded the first prize in sculpture from the Instituto Nacional de Belles Artes y Literatura at the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico.

Detail of Mujer Envuelta con Rebozo (1978), Francisco Zúñiga

In Mujer Envuelta con Rebozo (1978), the artist shows his mastery in deriving sentiment from a figure made of impenetrable bronze. The woman is crouched and enveloped head to toe by a traditional shawl. Although only her face and hand is exposed, it is enough to convey a sense of deep introspection. The woman’s face is weathered with a series of crevices that form as wrinkles around the curves of her nose, lips, and eyes. To Zúñiga she represents not only an anonymous Mexican woman but also a holy figure full of power that could challenge any traditional Santos.

Detail of signature, Mujer Envuelta con Rebozo (1978), Francisco Zúñiga

Although the artist ceased to paint he frequently drew and sketched, as he deemed it significant to the formation of all his sculptural works: “Various sketches sensed as sculptures help me to create three-dimensional forms. I am particularly careful of the contours of objects, their projections and depressions, their rhythm of composition, their structure which creates tensions in the interplay of masses in which the play of light and shadows define the contrasts and sinuosities; in which the forms emerge in their full monumentality.” Although the women Zúñiga renders may be anonymous, they are unified by the artist’s hand in elevating the ordinary woman into the realm of the spiritual and sacred.

Lot Information:

Lot 79
Francisco Zúñiga
Mujer Envuelta con Rebozo
#3 of 3
Incised signature “ZUNIGA” with date and edition in Roman numerals
LAMA would like to thank the Fundacion Zúñiga for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Together with Francisco Zúñiga Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture Volume I
17.5″ x 12″ x 19″
Literature: Zúñiga, Francisco. Francisco Zúñiga: Catalogo Razonado I Escultura, 1923-1993. Mexico: Albedrio, En Acociacion Con Fundacion Zúñiga Laborde, 1999. p 480, #825.
Estimate: $18,000 – 25,000

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