Luisa Ignacia Roldán (1652-1706) is the earliest documented woman sculptor in Spain, recognized by the Hispanic Society museum as “one of the few women artists to have maintained a studio outside the convents in Golden Age Spain.” She was the daughter of sculptor Pedro Roldán and studied in her father’s workshop alongside her siblings.
Around 1671, Luisa married Luis Antonio de los Arcos, who also worked in her father’s workshop in Seville. The marriage was against her father’s wishes and they left the workshop to open their own shop. The couple created brightly colored sculptures, characterized by billowing draperies, rosy cheeks, and slightly parted lips.
In 1688, Luisa moved to Madrid to petition for the role of court sculptor for Charles II. She was awarded the position in 1692, serving as the “Sculptor to the Chamber” for Charles II and later “Sculptor to the King” for Philip V.
Despite her position at court, Roldán struggled financially throughout most of her life. She has seven children, only two of which survived to adulthood. Two of the five who did not reach adulthood are recorded of dying of malnutrition. During her time working for Charles II, Roldán and her family all suffered from hunger owning to the general food shortage during Spain’s economic crisis. Like many artists before her who died poor, prior to her death in 1706, Roldán signed a declaration of poverty.
Roldán was a highly regarded sculptor and artist during her time. She was given the title of “Academician Merit” from the Accademia di San Luca in Rome upon her death and many of her brightly colored works are housed in museums around the world. Most of her work was religious and she worked with both wood and terracotta, each painted with rich colors to bring the figures to life.