The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 2 (of 3)

The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 2 (of 3)

Leonard Williams
Leonard Williams

Author: Williams, Leonard, 1871-
Decorative arts — Spain — History
The Arts and Crafts of Older Spain, Volume 2 (of 3)



  St Francis of Assisi; Toledo Cathedral Frontispiece
I. Mediæval Chair 10
II. Gothic Chair 12
III. Spanish Arcón or Baggage-Chest 16
IV. Arca of Cardinal Cisneros 18
V. Armchair; Museum of Salamanca 20
VI. Chair and Table; Salamanca Cathedral 22
VII. Chairs upholstered with Guadameciles 24
VIII. The Sala de la Barca; Alhambra, Granada 26
IX. Door of the Hall of the Abencerrajes; Alhambra, Granada 28
X. Moorish Door; Detail of Carving; Hall of the Two Sisters, Alhambra, Granada 30
X. Door of the Salón de Embajadores; Alcázar of Seville 32
XII. The same 34
XIII. Alcázar of Seville; Façade and Principal Entrance 36
XIV. Door of the Capilla de los Vargas, Madrid 38
XV. Mudejar Door; Palacio de las Dueñas, Seville 40
XVI. Celosía; Alhambra, Granada 42
XVII. Carved Alero 44
XVIII. Carved Zapatas; Casa de las Salinas, Salamanca 46
XIX. Carved Zapatas; Museum of Zaragoza 48
XX. Carved Zapatas; Museum of ZaragozaAlero and Cornice of Carved Wood; Cuarto de Comares, Alhambra, Granada 50
XXI. “Elijah Sleeping”; Statue in Wood, by Alonso 52
XXII. Saint Bruno, by Alonso Cano; Cartuja of Granada 54
XXIII. Saint John the Baptist; San Juan de Dios, Granada 56
XXIV. Choir-Stalls; Santo Tomás, Avila 58
XXV. Carved Choir-Stall; Toledo Cathedral 60
XXVI. Choir-Stalls; Burgos Cathedral 62
XXVII. Choir-Stalls; San Marcos, León 64
XXVIII. Detail of Choir-Stalls; León Cathedral 66
XXIX. Choir-Stalls; Plasencia Cathedral 68
XXX. Detail of Choir-Stalls; Convent of San Marcos, León 70
XXXI. “Samson”; Carved Choir-Stall; León Cathedral 72
XXXII. “Esau”; Carved Choir-Stall; León Cathedral 74
XXXIII. Retablo; Seville Cathedral 76
XXXIV. Retablo of Seville Cathedral; Detail of Carving 78
XXXV. Detail of Retablo; Museum of Valladolid 80
XXXVI. Detail of Retablo; Chapel of Santa Ana; Burgos Cathedral 82
XXXVII. Ivory Box; Madrid Museum 90
XXXVIII. Ivory Casket; Pamplona Cathedral 92
XXXIX. Ivory Box; Palencia Cathedral 94
XL. Hispano-Moresque Ivory Casket; Royal Academy of History, Madrid 96
XLI. Ivory Crucifix; Madrid Museum 98
XLIA. Back View of same 98
XLII. Byzantine Crucifix 100
XLIII. “The Virgin of Battles”; Seville Cathedral 102
XLIV. Spanish Mediæval Baculus 104
XLV. “A Tournament” 106
XLVI. Ivory Diptych; The Escorial 108
XLVII. Amphoraic Vases and other Pottery; Museum of Tarragona 116
XLVIII. Dish; Museum of Granada 118
XLIX. Hispano-Moresque Tinaja 120
L. Coarse Spanish Pottery (Modern) 126
LI. Door of the Mihrab; Cordova Cathedral 134
LII. Mosaic of the Patio de las Doncellas; Alcázar of Seville 138
LIII. Andalusian non-lustred Ware; Osma Collection 140
LIV. Cuenca Tiles; Alcázar of Seville 142
LV. Altar of the Catholic Sovereigns; Alcázar of Seville 148
LVI. The Gate of Wine; Alhambra, Granada 154
LVII. Tiles of the Decadent Period 158
LVIII. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Plaque 168
LIX. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Vase; Alhambra, Granada 170
LX. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Vase; Madrid Museum 172
LXI. Lustred Tiles; Osma Collection 174
LXII. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware; Osma Collection 176
LXIII. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware; Osma Collection 178
LXIV. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware; Osma Collection 180
LXV. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware; Osma Collection 182
LXVI. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware; Osma Collection 184
LXVII. Hispano-Moresque Lustred Ware 186
LXVIII. Dish; Osma Collection 190
LXIX. An Alfarería or Potter’s Yard; Granada 192
LXX. Talavera Vase 198
LXXI. Ornament in Porcelain of the Buen Retiro 208
LXXII. Room decorated with Porcelain of the Buen Retiro; Royal Palace of Aranjuez 214
LXXIII. Porcelain of the Moncloa Factory 218
LXXIV. Vessels of Cadalso Glass 234
LXXV. Vessels of Cadalso Glass 236
LXXVI. Glass of the Factory of San Ildefonso 254
LXXVII. Glass of the Factory of San Ildefonso 258


Whether the primitive Iberians ate as well as slept upon their cave or cabin floor, or whether—as some classics call upon us to believe—they used a kind of folding-chair (dureta) and (more advanced and comfort-loving than the Andalusian rustics of this day) devoured their simple meal from benches or supports constructed in the wall, is not of paramount importance to the history of Spanish furniture. The statements of those early authors may be granted or rejected as we please; for not a single piece of furniture produced by prehistoric, or, indeed, by Roman or by Visigothic Spain, has been preserved. But if we look for evidence to other crafts, recovered specimens of her early gold and silver work and pottery show us that Roman Spain grew to be eminently Roman in her social and artistic life. This fact, together with the statements of Saint Isidore and certain other writers of his day, would seem to prove that all the usual articles of Roman furniture were commonly adopted by the subjugated tribes, and subsequently by the Visigoths;—the Roman eating-couch or lectus triclinaris, the state-bed or lectus genialis, the ordinary sleeping-bed or lectus cubicularis, made, in prosperous households, of luxurious woods inlaid with ivory, or even of gold and silver; lamps or candelabra of silver, copper, glass, and iron[1]; the cathedra or chair for women, the bisellium or seat for honoured guests, the solium or chair for the head of the house, the simpler chairs without a back, known as the scabellum and the sella, and the benches or subsellia for the servants. Further, the walls were hung with tapestries or rendered cheerful by mural painting; while the fireplace[2] and the brasier (foculus) have descended to contemporary Spain.

Advancing to a period well within the reach of history, we find that early in the Middle Ages Spain’s seigniorial mansions and the houses of the well-to-do were furnished in a style of rude magnificence. Roman models, derived from purely Roman and Byzantine sources through the Visigoths, continued to remain in vogue until the tenth or the eleventh century.[3] Then, as the fashion of these declined, the furniture of Christian Spain was modified in turn by Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance art; or two of these would overlap and interact, or even all the three.

During the Middle Ages the furniture of the eating, sleeping, and living room which formed the principal apartment in the mansion of a great seignior, was very much the same throughout the whole of Christian Europe. Viollet-le-Duc has described it in the closest detail. The dominant object, looming in a corner, was the ponderous bed, transformed into a thing of beauty by its costly canopy and hangings.[4] Throughout the earlier mediæval times the Spanish bedstead was of iron or bronze. Wood, plain at first, then richly carved, succeeded metal towards the fourteenth century, and with this change the bed grew even vaster than before. Often it rose so high above the level of the flooring that the lord and lady required a set of steps to clamber up to it. These steps were portable, and sometimes made of solid silver.[5] I quote herewith a full description of a mediæval Spanish bed, extracted from an inventory of the Princess Juana which was made upon her marriage with the Count of Foix, in 1392. The same bed had formerly belonged to Juana’s mother, the Princess Martha, at her marriage with King Juan the First. It had “a velvet canopy with lions of gold thread, and a dove and a horse confronting every lion. And each of the lions and doves and horses bears a lettering; and the lettering of the lions is Estre por voyr, and that of the doves and horses aay, and the whole is lined with green cloth. Item, a counterpane of the said velvet, with a similar design of doves and lions, and likewise lined with green cloth. Item, three curtain-pieces of fine blue silk, with their metal rings and cords of blue thread. Item, three cushion-covers of blue velvet, two of them of large size, bearing two lions on either side, and four of them small, with a single lion on either side, embroidered with gold thread; with their linen coverings. Item, a cloth of a barred pattern, with the bars of blue velvet and cloth of gold upon a red ground; which cloth serves for a state-chair or for a window, and is lined with cloth. Item, another cloth made of the said velvet and cloth of gold, which serves for the small chair (reclinatorio) for hearing Mass, and is lined with the aforesaid green cloth. Item, two large linen sheets enveloping the aforesaid canopy and counterpane. A pair of linen sheets, of four breadths apiece, bordered on every side with a handbreadth of silk and gold thread decoration consisting of various kinds of birds, leaves, and letters; and each of the said sheets contains at the head-end about five handbreadths of the said decoration. Item, four cushions of the same linen, all of them adorned all round with about a handbreadth of the aforesaid decoration of birds, leaves, and letters. Item, two leather boxes, lined with wool, which contained all these objects. Item, five canvas-covered cushions stuffed with feather, for use with the said six coverings of blue velvet bearing the said devices. Item, three large pieces of wall tapestry made of blue wool with the same devices of lions, horses, and doves, made likewise of wool, yellow and of other colours. Item, five carpets made of the aforesaid wool, bearing the same devices. Item, three coverlets of the same wool, and with the same devices, for placing on the bed. Item, a coverlet of red leather bearing in its centre the arms of the King and the Infanta. Item, another coverlet made of leather bars and plain red leather. Item, a woollen coverlet with the arms of the Infanta.”[6]

Another corner of the room was occupied by the dining-table,[7] spread at meal-times with a cloth denominated by Saint Isidore the mappa, mápula, mapil, mantella, or mantellia; and laid with the mandíbulas or “jaw-wipers” (i.e. napkins; see Du Cange), plates (discos), dishes (mensorios, messorios, or misorios), spoons (cocleares, culiares), though not as yet with forks,[8] cups of various shapes and substances, with or without a cover (copos, vásculos, and many other terms), the water-flagon (kana, mikana, almakana), the cruet-stand (canatella), and the salt-cellar (salare).

This table also served to write upon, while in its neighbourhood would stand the massive sideboard, piled with gold and silver plate, and vessels of glass or ivory, wood or alabaster.

Besides the bed and table in their several corners, the chamber would contain a suitable variety of chairs and stools, mostly surrounding the capacious fireplace. Members of the household also sat on carpets spread upon the floor. The great armchair of the seignior himself was more ornate than any of the rest, and was provided somewhat later with a lofty Gothic back (Plates i. and ii.). A chair with a back of moderate height was destined for distinguished visitors. The back of ordinary chairs reached only to about the sitter’s shoulder, and coverings of cloth or other stuffs were not made fast, but hung quite loosely from the wooden frame. This usage lasted till the sixteenth century, when the upholsterers began to nail the coverings of the larger chairs and benches.

Owing to the oriental influence brought back from the Crusades, the furniture of Europe, not excluding Spain, grew ever more elaborate and costly, while further, in the case of this Peninsula, the native Moorish influence operated steadily and strongly from Toledo, Seville, Cordova, Valencia, and elsewhere. Tapestries of Eastern manufacture (alcatifas) were now in general use for decorating floors and walls. The bed grew more and more gigantic, and its clothes and curtains more extravagantly sumptuous, until the florid Gothic woodwork harmonized with canopies and curtains cut from priceless skins, or wrought in gold and silver thread on multicolor satin and brocade. And at the bed’s head, like some jewel marvellously set, rested, in every noble home, the diptych or the triptych with its image of the Saviour or the Virgin Mary.

Under the influence of the Renaissance this love of luxury continued to increase among the royal and the noble families of Spain. In 1574 an inventory of the estate of Doña Juana, sister of Philip the Second, mentions

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