To the Ideal” by Miguel Blay y Fàbregas

“To the Ideal” by Miguel Blay y Fàbregas Travel photography Family-friendly: true

1896. Plaster, 195 x 87 cm.

Blay made this extremely delicate and highly idealized sculptural group to show that he was capable of creating works outside of the strictures of realism. As he put it: "I plan to call it White Souls, two predestined souls that reach their goal, moving forward resolutely, overcoming setbacks and wanting neither to feel the thorns on which they walk nor to pay heed to the stumbling blocks they encounter on life's path." The resulting piece is "a breath of spirituality, a mysticism beyond the earthly, the work not only of a sculptor, but also of a poet and believer, a work that demonstrates an emotive sensitivity of the highest order", as Ferrés Lahoz declared (2005, p. 16). The adult figure is holding an iris as a symbol of purity and virtue. This group became a paradigm of symbolist sculpture, a style that drew away from reality to transmit spiritual ideas using, as an essential element, female nudes and elegant figures of both sexes with long, ample clothing and no reference to any specific reality.

It has been suggested that Blay may have based his evocation of pure souls on the book Pia Desideria (Antwerp, 1624), which Pedro de Salas had translated in 1658 with the title "Afectos divinos con emblemas sagrados" ("Divine Feelings with Sacred Emblems"). This "devotional book of Christian meditation illustrates the soul's progress towards its union with God" through emblems "that depict the soul as a barefoot girl on the path to perfection, accompanied by Divine Love embodied by an Angel." And this sculpture certainly does recall the iconography of a guardian angel protecting the soul and leading it towards mystical contemplation. The adult figure could also be indentified as Faith guiding souls, in which case it would be an inspiring precedent for Faith, one of the four sculptural groups at the Errazu pantheon, which is also known as The Believers.

A small terracotta model for this work in a private collection reveals the sculptor's first idea, in which both figures are nude and the older one adopts a more protective posture (Text drawn from Azcue, L.: Solidez y belleza. Miguel Blay en el Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2016, pp. 25-28).