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Louisa Roldán was a highly successful sculptor who produced many works throughout her life.  She made larger than life, very colorful wooden statues, that dealt with religious subjects.  Her husband was the one who would make her works polychromatic.  She was best known for her work making uniquely small colorful terra-cotta groupings which she rendered with a style, skill, beauty, and detail that she was famous for.  Roldán's figures were characterized by clearly outlined profiles, thick locks of hair, mystical faces with delicate eyes, rosy cheeks, with slightly parted lips and flowing clothing.  It is no surprise that Roldán is known as Spain's first female sculptor.

Louisa Ignacia Roldán was born in Seville, Spain, in 1656.  She was the third daughter of the famous sculptor Pedro Roldán, who taught her the artistic skills that later would make her the heiress to her father's sculpting dynasty.  Roldán's entire family worked in the production of sculpture, collaborating with each other on their works, but, Louisa was the only one who gained the distinction of becoming known by one name, La Roldána.

In 1671, when Roldán was 15, she married a sculptor, Luis Antonio Navarro De Los Arcos, from her father's workshop against her parent's will.  Roldán would leave the family business to strike out on her own as an independent sculptor. 

In 1686, Roldán and her husband moved to Cadiz, where she was commissioned by the cathedral chapter to make several wooden sculptures.  These sculptures included figures of six Angels, seven different Virtues, and four Prophets

In 1687, the city council of Cadiz commissioned Roldán to sculpt two polychrome cedar statues of Saint Germanus and Saint Servandus, the patron saints of Cadiz.  The two statues had been designed by her father, Pedro, but the actual sculpting was done by Louisa, and her husband is the one who painted them. 

In 1688, Roldán and her husband moved to Madrid, where she petitioned for the position of Court Sculptor, which she hoped to acquire through the mediation of the courtier, Don Cristobal De Hantanon.  Her petition was granted by King Charles II in 1692, although without compensation.  In that same year, she was given a royal commission to make wood figures of Saint Michael for the monastery of the Escurial.  This turned out to be one of her finest works.  It had a combination of dynamic composition along with the rich sensuality of the flowing cape and plumed head piece of Saint Michael, and the twisted nude body of Satan under his feet.  Roldán, after receiving her title as Court Sculptor, would sign her works with her name and new title, La Roldána.

Over the next several years, Spain would suffer a severe economic crisis that even affected the food supply of King Charles' court.  In 1697, Roldán wrote to the Queen:

"For more than six years I have had the good fortune to be present at your royal feet executing different figures for the pleasure and devout purposes of Your Majesty, and considering that I am poor and in great need I beseech you, Your Majesty to be kind enough to give me clothing or a gratuity or whatever Your Majesty likes."  And, later that same year: "Because I am poor and have two children I am suffering great want, for on many days I lack enough to buy what is necessary for daily sustenance and for this reason I am obliged to implore Your Majesty to be kind enough to give me an allotment of goods in order that I  may be a little relieved."

On the accession of Philip V, in 1701, Roldán applied for her title as Court Sculptor to be reaffirmed.  The King consulted the Marquez De Villafranca, whose reply stated that although Roldán's terra-cottas were superb, her wooden sculptures were lacking distinction and very ordinary.  Roldán's request for reaffirmation was granted in October of 1701.  She submitted many terra-cotta groups to the King, two of which stand out, "The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine" and "The Death of Saint Mary Magdalene".  Both were signed without the title "Escultora De Samara" (Sculptor of Samara), and therefore, these works could possibly date from before 1692.

Roldán's works and small terra-cottas preceded the Rococo works that were made of porcelain.  Although she was very flamboyant and influenced many sculptors in 18th century Madrid, Roldán had no direct followers. 

Roldán retained her post as Court Sculptor until her death in 1704.

Roldán made some very beautiful sculptures that were very colorful. All of the images I found online were not public domain, so I did not link them. However, if you find her works posted online that are public domain, please feel free to /msg me so that I can add the links to this post.

The colors I saw in one of her sculptures, were like none I have ever seen in any other sculptures, they were so vibrant and filled with great detail.

More information on other lesser known female artists can be found here

Source: Women Artists. 1st ed. : Ruggio Publishing, 1977.

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