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Virgin of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) by Pedro de Mena

Acquisition Appeal

It is not known for whom the Mater Dolorosa was made, but the superior quality of both carving and polychromy suggest that it must have been produced at the height of Mena’s creative powers, c. 1673-4, for a discerning patron. The intimacy of scale (33.6 x 31.0 x 19.8 cm), the care lavished on both the carving and the painting and the fact that the back is fully finished, indicate that it was designed to be seen close up, and in the round, most probably in a private devotional context. Likely made for the private chapel, study or bedchamber of a devout patron, it would almost certainly have been protected under a glass dome and originally paired with an Ecce Homo (Christ as the Man of Sorrows). This mesmerisingly beautiful image of the Mater Dolorosa, with its understated pathos and startling realism—thanks to the naturalism of the flesh tones, the glass eyes and tear drops and the real hair eyelashes—still elicits a powerful response from the viewer, 350 years after it was made.

The Virgin of Sorrows will be permanently displayed in the Spanish & Flemish Gallery, alongside other masterpieces by contemporary Baroque sculptors and painters. It is being displayed there now to promote this Appeal.


Fundraising has been progressing well, with support from the Art Fund and several other Trusts & Foundations, but £85,000 is still needed to secure the work for the Museum by the end of September.

Please help the Fitzwilliam purchase this highly important and rare sculpture. Give a donation on-line by clicking the button

Alternatively, you can send a cheque made out to ‘The Fitzwilliam Museum Development Trust’ to:
Sue Rhodes
Development Officer
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge CB2 1RB

Or make a payment direct to:
The Fitzwilliam Museum Development Trust, Sort Code 40 52 40 Account No 00092954
(If appropriate please request a Gift Aid form so we can make the most of your donation).