Luísa Roldán, better known as La Roldana was a Spanish sculptor of the Baroque period. And she was the first woman sculptor documented in Spain.
According to Antonio Palomino (Spanish artist and writer on art) her work was so good that she was considered as important as her father. But as many artists of the time, she died poor, in fact she had signed a declaration of poverty shortly before her death.
Luisa Roldán was born in Seville (city in the south of Spain). She was the fifth of the twelve children of her parents. Her father was a sculptor, as his workshop received many orders, it was needed the help of Luisa and some of her siblings, so he taught her.
When she was only 15, she married Luis Antonio de los Arcos (he was a sculptor too) but the marriage didn’t have the consent of her family.
Her work includes sculptures in wood and small-scale terracotta as well as statues for the Cathedral of Cádiz. When she moved to Madrid she became court sculptor serving to kings Charles II and Phillip V. She also served the Duke of Infantado and at the end of her life she was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca (an association of artists in Rome), nonetheless she died in poverty in Madrid.
During the time she was working to Charles II, her husband and their children suffered from hunger due to the big economic crisis affected the food supply. They had seven children, but only two survived to adulthood.
Much of her work was religious sculptures for churches in Andalusia (south of Spain). While her terracotta sculptures were very popular among the petite bourgeoisie of Madrid.
Some of the most important characteristics of her work are: the clearly delineated profiles; thick locks of hair; billowing draperies and the mystical faces with delicate eyes, knitting brows, rosy cheeks and slightly parted lips.The knitting brows are very common in her terracotta works, while her works in wood are characterised by open or even arched brows.
She was a very prolific artist and her pieces were widely distributed in the centre and south of Spain.