These magnificent figures relate closely to some of the most iconic Castilian tomb figures -- particularly those from Toledo, Burgos and Avila -- produced in the late 15th and early 16th century. And while the depiction of these figures do conform to the standard formulas of the time, they are also clearly individuals carved with great attention to detail. And also, as Proske notes, by the middle of the century Flemish realism was already beginning to affect the facial types and angularity of the garments -- giving a far more dynamic appearance to these previously static forms (see B. G. Proske, Castilian Sculpture: Gothic to Renaissance, New York, 1951, p. 175). These elements are absolutely evident in the Columbus figures. Traditionally these figures were carved in two or three sections -- and while the figures would have been originally covered in polychromy and gilding -- the alabaster is now worn clean.
The female figure, resting on the tassled pillows and with her simple robe and veil, and her gloved hands clutching rosary beads, all relate to the effigy of Doña María de Perea, originally in the church of San Pedro at Ocaña, near Aranjuez and now in London (see M. Trusted, Spanish Sculpture: a Catalogue of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996, no. 4). The male figure has a slightly more original arrangement -- a pile of books serving as a pillow -- that shows, perhaps, the greater variety permitted to male sitters. Another example of this is the wonderful pillow of laurel branches under the head of Fernando de Arce, at the Sigüenze Cathedral.