Pelagia Mendoza was our first famous woman sculptor. As a sculptor, she made statues of people and figures of animals and other subjects out of clay, stone, and marbles. Together with her husband, Crispulo Zamora, she also started a business of medal-making. The business still exists today.
Pelagia as a Child
On June 9, 1867 in the town of Pateros, Rizal, a girl was born who was to become a famous woman. She was Pelagia Mendoza. Her parents were Leoncio Mendoza and Evarista Gotianking, both of whom were of Chinese descent.
Pelagia could draw and make statues while still very young. Her parents encouraged her in this. They sent her to study first in the Escuela Municipal in Intramuros, and afterwards in the School of Fine Arts. She studied drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Pelagia Wins A Contest
In 1892 the Spanish government held a contest to celebrate the 400th year of Columbus’ discovery of America. The contest was to make the best statue of Columbus’ head. Pelagia won the first prize in the contest. The prize consisted of a gold medal called Cruz de Merito Civil and a diploma. Pelagia received her prize from Governor Despujol.
Pelagia Builds a Business
In 1893 Pelagia married one of her classmates, Crispulo Zamora. Crispulo had a special talent for making beautiful medals. He was known as the “Platero de la Virgen del Rosario.” The couple decided to start a business of making religious medals and other ornaments.
As they were thrifty and industrious, they were able to save money enough to improve their business. They bought machinery and built a modern factory. Their shop introduced the art of baked enameling in the country.
Pelagia as a Mother
Pelagia was not only an excellent sculptor. She was also a good mother. She trained her children in the business built by her and her husband. Her children were also talented. One of them became a sculptor like her. The others built their own respective engraving shops for the making of medals and metallic ornaments. They carried on their mother’s artistic work in metal.
Pelagia Mendoza’s chidren were the proof of her success as a mother and artist. She died on March 13, 1939.