Julio Antonio’s work represents the attempt to bring together modernity and popular culture at the turn of the 20th century. Regenerationist thinking in parallel with the ideas of the intellectuals of the Generation of 98, such as Miguel de Unamuno, was the driving force behind the work of young artists putting forward new images of ordinary people in an attempt to renew the crumbling panorama of Spanish culture from the bottom up. The clearest response to the call was in the artistic ideas of Julio Antonio, who, from 1908 to 1914, produced his series Bustos de la raza, made up of popular characters, portrayed in the mixture of idealisation and realism typical of the classical portraits of the Italian Quattrocento. María la gitana (María the Gipsy) preceded the series, which is held by the Museo Reina Sofía in its entirety, but is part of the ethnological interest in representing social ‘types’, in this particular case from the various strata of Spanish society. Specifically, this piece represents the archetypal gipsy matriarch associated with the traditional representation of the figure of the Virgin Mary. Julio Antonio’s sculpture created a new plastic expression for the 20th century, which the critics of the time compared to the painters Ignacio Zuloaga and Julio Romero de Torres.
Carmen Fernández Aparicio