Madonna and Child Statue in Vancouver Cathedral by Granda Liturgical Arts

Photos: OC-Travel

The lady altar of Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver showcases an exquisite Spanish polychrome and gilded wood sculpture of the Madonna and Child that is definitely worth a mention.  The statue is a creation from Granda in Spain, so impressive that for some locals it may resemble something almost from the Spanish Royal Court.  According to Bishop David Monroe, the former rector of the Cathedral of Vancouver, the statue was purchased during the time of the Cathedral's 1983-1984 renovations, in preparation for the papal visit scheduled for September 17-18, 1984.  It was during that visit Pope St. John Paul II blessed the statue on September 18, 1984 during his pastoral visit to Canada.  

Our good friend Lucas Viar of Granda, an internationally recognized consulter in the area of liturgical arts, has looked into the history of the statue.  Lucas points out the statue has an "estofado" finish, meaning it is a wooden statue that was gilded before being painted, achieving a remarkable look and realism.  In fact, the finished product is a highly realistic three-dimensional statue with faces that shine with a certain glow.  

The beautiful estofado is a signature mark seen on many Granda statues, a decorating technique that goes back to the Middle-Ages.  Similarly it is also known as sgraffito which is basically the same process (derived from the Italian word "to scratch").    Estofado comes from the Italian "stoffa," the word used in the 16th century in Spain to refer to brocade cloth of gold.  This style of decoration is made when a surface is born away or "scratched" to reveal a lower layer of contrasting color. 

The statue is a depiction of Our Lady under the title of Sedes Sapientiae or "Seat of Wisdom." Mary is seated in a moment of spiritual contemplation while effortlessly balancing the Christ Child on her lap, where she becomes like His throne.  His left hand the infant Christ places on her womb, with His right hand over His heart.  Meanwhile, he slides from her lap into our hands where we receive Him at the altar.    

Christ is girded in a golden cloth while Our Lady is dressed in a Renaissance gown and elaborately adorned vest and cape with golden floral patterns.  The intricate pattern and highly realistic details of the face and hands of the heavenly figures are stunningly lifelike in appearance.  Mary is in some ways in motion, seated on a golden bench while almost stepping toward the viewer, enhancing a sensation of movement.  

The statue was created through the process of polychroming, or the decoration of a surface in various colors.  For statues this is best done on a wood surface.  The expertly applied details of the faces and garments make for an overwhelming impression of liveliness, illustrating a unique work of art for the Canadian Northland.  According to Lucas, a plaster cast in the Granda collection is similar, but not identical, because the sculptor always introduces variations in each piece.  Interestingly, the archive cast bears a crest of the Carmelite coat-of-arms on her chest, seen below on the right.  Another version is seen below on the left, taken from a Granda catalogue.    

The Granda inventory record describes the original statue as a "French" madonna, likely sculpted sometime in the late 1950's.  It is believed other versions were made after this original model, including the Vancouver statue.  In those days the Granda workshop in Madrid used to make plaster casts of their carvings for future reference or for scaling up or down.  There exists another very similar finished version, in half-relief, that was made in 1962 for Tajamar, one of the first Opus Dei schools in Madrid, seen below as it looks today.    

For those interested in ordering a similar statue, contact Granda directly.  In addition to resin and marble, Granda offers carvings and reliefs in wood of a variety of natural or painted finishes, including polychromy and estofado.  Granda artists sculpt and create in all manner of sizes to suit individual needs and wants.  Most statues intended for public spaces start at about three feet.  If you are interested in a similar statue for your chapel, parish or religious institution, be sure to contact Granda for more info and a complimentary proposal. 

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