Bust of Elena Koch - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum

Buy image

Bust of Elena Koch

Aguirre, Marcial

Bergara, Gipuzkoa, 23/11/1840-San Sebastián, 10/05/1900


60 x 36.5 x 23 cm

c. 1870-1875

Third quarter of the 19th century


Acquired in 2003

Aguirre was introduced to sculpture by his father, and began to draw at the Provincial School (1851-1854) and the Industrial School (1855-1858), both in Bergara. In 1858 he arrived in Rome, where he came into contact with the Spanish artistic colony and struck up a lasting friendship with painter Eduardo Rosales, who over time painted several portraits of him. Aguirre began his training at the Academia Chigi and with the sculptors Obici and Togletti, who instructed him in a purist concept of sculpture. A pension grant from the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa in 1864 allowed him to extend his training and become a regular at the National Exhibitions, where he was awarded a third-class medal in 1864 and the second-class medal in 1866.

By the late 1860s he was an established artist, and in 1869 his marriage to Lavinia Wittmer, daughter of one of the later Nazarene painters, Johann Michael Wittmer, and granddaughter on her mother's side of one of the oldest members of the group, Joseph Anton Koch, opened the doors to a new circle of friends and clients, the Germans resident in Rome.

Almost certainly dating from the early seventies, before his return to Gipuzkoa, the busts of his parents-in-law would have been a helpful reminder of them for his wife. Curiously, the two works are quite different, not only in size but also in the degree of realism used. Both are imbued with the desire for realism, but while Wittmer¿s has the air of an official portrait, his wife's is more intimate. The degree of realism Aguirre gives Elena Koch's face is hugely impressive, particularly the effect of light on the surface. [Mikel Lertxundi]

Selected bibliography

  • Lertxundi Galiana, Mikel ; Arretxea Sanz, Larraitz. "El escultor guipuzcoano Marcial Aguirre, 1840-1900", Ondare, n° 23. 2004. p. 432, il.
  • Adquisiciones 02/07 [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2007. pp. 28-29, n° cat. 5.
  • Guía Artistas Vascos. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2008. pp. 24-25.
  • De Goya a Gauguin : el siglo XIX en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao [Cat. exp.]. Bilbao, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, 2008. pp. 269-272, n° cat. 47.
  • Arretxea Sanz, Larraitz ; Lertxundi Galiana, Mikel. El escultor Marcial Aguirre = Marcial Aguirre eskultorea. Bergara, Ayuntamiento de Bergara = Bergarako Udala, 2010. pp. 90-91, 224-225.
  • Guide Basque Artists. Bilbao, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, 2012. pp. 24-25, n° cat. 8a.
  • Gida Euskal Artistak. Bilbao, Bilboko Arte Eder Museoa, 2008. p. 24.