Procesión de la muerte (Procession of Death)

José Solana (José Gutiérrez Solana)

Madrid, Spain, 1886 - 1945

The macabre Solana, fascinated by the Grim Reaper and the irreversible effects of his visit, is best represented by La procesión de la muerte (Procession of Death). On the subject of these paintings, Emiliano M. Aguilera, a scholar of the painter’s work, claims that José Gutiérrez Solana is showing an influence of the macabre scenes of Brueghel the Elder, Holbein the Younger and Dürer (Ritter, Tod und Teufel [Knight, Death and the Devil]). But it should be noted that the main homage being paid here by Solana is to a specific and equally macabre Spanish tradition particularly embodied by Valdés Leal’s vanitas. The imposing baroque compositions, created to remind the viewer that time is fleeting – tempus fugit– and death is imminent, are reborn in compositions like this striking procession or other similar works by the painter: La guerra (The War, 1920), El espejo de la muerte (The Mirror of Death, circa 1929) and El osario (The Ossuary, 1931), one of the strangest iconographic contributions he made.
The attraction that this kind of scene held for Solana is clearly shown by a story in his España negra (Black Spain), recounting how in Valladolid’s National Sculpture Museum he came across a skeleton carved by the sculptor Gaspar Becerra, its fleshless bones covered with worms.

Paloma Esteban Leal