Cuerda de presos (Chain Gang)

José María López Mezquita

Granada, Spain, 1883 - Madrid, Spain, 1954
  • Date: 
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    223 x 351 cm
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  • Entry date: 
  • Observations: 
    Entry date: 1988 (from the redistribution of the Museo Español de Arte Contemporáneo [MEAC] collection)
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José María López Mezquita was awarded first medal at the National Exhibition of Fine Arts in Madrid, for his painting Cuerda de presos (Chain Gang), when he was less than 18 years old. The painting shows a number of prisoners under Civil Guard escort, walking down a Madrid street past a smartly-dressed couple watching the group. A gipsy woman holding a baby is talking to one of the guards, pleading for compassion; one assumes that she is related to one of the detainees. According to Javier Pérez Rojas, a López Mezquita scholar, two very different worlds are set against each other in this picture: the world of “good citizens” (the bourgeoisie, watching the prisoners with a mixture of curiosity, disapproval and sympathy, and the representatives of authority) and society’s outsiders. López Mezquita’s work alludes to a conflict that has deep roots in the popular Spanish imaginary: the confrontation between the Civil Guard and gipsies, which would later be taken up by the poet Federico García Lorca, who, like López Mezquita, was from Granada.

Paloma Esteban Leal