Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artifact: Sagrada Familia Façade

Not so much an artifact in the traditional sense, Spanish artist and architect Antoni Gaudi's master project, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is, in every other sense, a truly astounding piece of art.

The temple depicts hundreds of moving biblical scenes around and inside it's stone confines, but this one in particular, found in an apse on the north eastern face (the Portal of Hope) caught my eye for it's sheer blunt dramaticism. In it a Roman soldier lifts a child to be killed in a scene inspired by the passage 'Massacre of the Innocents' (Matthew 2:16-18), in which King Herod orders the deaths of Bethlehem's youngest male children - the bible is just full of feel good moments, isn't it.

Despite the dark subject matter however, the depiction is both powerful and (oddly) beautiful. The stone has been carved in a very stylised manner and appears almost to expand out of the surrounding rock organically, the colour and smoothness really give the scene additional strength, light and shadow playing off each other theatrically. The sword is conversely made of metal, and tears your eyes down with a real thrust towards that poor woman grappling desperately in protest.

For the sculptures which were to adorn the basilica, Gaudi chose real life subjects and coated them with plaster which he would later replicate to make the final stone pieces. The man playing the soldier was allegedly a rather tall man from the area who's granddaughter is alive today and recounts her pride at her forefather's immortalisation - despite his somewhat awkward role.

This image can be downloaded from by right-clicking here, and makes for a rather awesome background.



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