Lot 15
  • 15

Francisco Zúñiga (1912-1998)

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Francisco Zúñiga
  • Madre e hija sentada
  • inscribed with artist signature, dated 1975 and numbered II/IV MEXICO D.F. on the base 
  • bronze
  • 48 1/2 by 55 by 32 3/4 in.
  • 123 by 140 by 83 cm


Acquired from the artist by the present owner


Fundación Zúñiga, Francisco Zúñiga, Catálogo Razonado/Catalogue Raisonné, Volumen I/Volume I, Escultura/Sculpture, Mexico City, 1991, no. 626, p. 369 
Carlos Francisco Echeverría, Francisco Zúñiga, Mexico City, 1980, p. 187, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Francisco Zúñiga grew up in the San José studio of his father, a sculptor of wooden santos, Christian devotional figures of saints and biblical characters. From an early age, he drew, painted, and most of all sculpted, using his family and his father’s work as models. This primary exposure to direct carving inspired his lifelong love for the immediacy of the method, lending his work a tactile quality even after he went on to master the lost-wax method of bronze casting, first in the School of Fine Arts in San José, and later in Mexico City at the National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking (widely known as La Esmerelda).  He describes this formative period in a later interview, noting, “I was initiated into sculpting by doing direct carving. And this is done by following the block closely; modeling the surface is drawing and sculpting from the surface toward the inside. The strength of great sculpture is precisely that which is borne from the inside out, always imposing its structure.” (1) Throughout his oeuvre, Zúñiga’s elemental relationship to the timeless material of bronze shaped both the works themselves, and his ceaseless explorations in form and shape.

Francisco Zúñiga found upon his arrival in Mexico City the beating cultural heart of the country, an epicenter of modern life built on top of the greatest ancient city in North America, the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Although he admired and studied the technical achievements of modern masters, particularly Rodin and Moore, in his mature production he pivoted away from the dominant influence of the Western sculptural canon, looking instead to pre-Columbian sculpture for inspiration. He described his entrancing experiences upon arriving in Mexico in a letter to a friend: “I spent most of my days in the Museum of History and Archaeology; I went to the museum every day to study and draw. I was enraptured by the works in stone, with something akin to fear and enchantment, and I began to study them one by one …In those days, I could touch the works, differentiating every texture. Today, you cannot do this. I studied every porous stone, the highly polished textures, their forms; they had the coldness of steel.” (2) This formative, mystical experience awakened Zúñiga’s desire to connect to the past through careful observation of nature, to seek timeless beauty in the eternal medium of bronze. He would go on to monumentalize not the lithe athletes of classical antiquity, but the strength of Mexico’s indigenous women.

Madre e hija sentada, standing at the imposing height of nearly 1 ½ meters, is an iconic example of Zúñiga’s mature sculpture. The two figures rest with their backs to one another, their weary expressions belying the strength in their postures; their massive cloaked forms rise from the ground almost like the twin volcanoes of the valley of Mexico, primordial and mysterious. The realism in their faces suggests that, characteristically of this period, they are sculpted from life; Zúñiga selected his models not only for beauty but for their vitality. At once naturalistic, emotive portraits and icons of indigenous strength, these timeless feminine figures remain firmly rooted to the earth as they gaze stoically ahead to the future. Zúñiga monumentalizes “hieratical… mestiza women – beings whose nation has lived and continues to live between greatness and misery, between hope and despair, people who…believe in… the breath of life that animates them and in the elementary realities of human existence: children, bread, the sun that touches the skin...” (3)

1: Francisco Zúñiga and Carlos Echeverría, Francisco Zúñiga, Mexico City, 1980, p. 83
2: Sheldon Reich, Francisco Zúñiga, Sculptor: Conversations and Interpretations, Tuscon, 1980, p. 14
3: Francisco Zúñiga and Carlos Echeverría, Francisco Zúñiga, Mexico City, 1980, p. 25