The Death of Saint Agnes - Symbolist Masterpiece by Julio Romero de Torres

JULIO ROMERO DE TORRES THE DEATH OF SAINT AGNES (RETABLO DE LA MUERTE DE SANTA INÉS)  1919 OIL ON CANVAS

JULIO ROMERO DE TORRES

THE DEATH OF SAINT AGNES (RETABLO DE LA MUERTE DE SANTA INÉS) 

1919

OIL ON CANVAS

The Julio Romero de Torres museum sits directly across the courtyard from the Córdoba Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts) in Andalucía, Spain. 

I had never heard of Julio Romero de Torres, although it turns out I'd seen his work in the MNAC Catalonian National Museum of Art in Barcelona. Torres was effectively a late Symbolist painter, but one whose style very much reflected the age in which he flourished: the Roaring Twenties - most of his paintings feature slick modelling and flashy subject matter, painted to look shiny and glamourous.

Apparently Julio Romero de Torres was quite famous in Spain, as there exists a much-covered popular song about him, and pictures of his funeral show thousands of people attending his funeral in Córdoba. 

I walked away from the Julio Romero de Torres Museum feeling uplifted by the unabashedly sleek showiness of his oeuvre. I wouldn't say I'm a convert, but his work definitely has a consistent and memorable flair. If he would have further sussed out and empasized his excellent Symbolism - which is evident in all his paintings, but overt in only a few - I think he would have made himself more important on the world stage - a la Dalí. 

What thrilled me the most were his amazing 20th century neo-rococo ormolu frames which fill the entire museum. It suggests he had access to extant Spanish frame carvers and gilders who must have still been in demand for the upkeep of all the baroque and rococo altar façades throughout Spain. 

The Death of Saint Agnes, or Retablo de la Muerte de Santa Inés, is constructed in the form of a baroque altarpiece, and was first exhibited in Bilbao in 1919.  It exhibits the life and martyrdom of Saint Agnes in Symbolist motifs. As The Death of Saint Agnes was his mother's favourite painting (mine too [of Torres']), Torres refused to ever part with it. 

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Jesse Waugh