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

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

Leonard Williams
Leonard Williams

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


Introduction 1–38
Spanish Silk 38–105
Cloths and Woollens 105–125
Embroidery 125–137
Tapestry 137–159
Lace 159–175

Appendices 177–258
Bibliography 259–268
Index 271–282



  “The Grape-Gatherers”; Tapestry from Cartoon by Goya; El Escorial Frontispiece
I. The “Banner of Las Navas”; Monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos 22
II. Fragment of the Burial Mantle of Ferdinand the Third; Royal Armoury, Madrid 26
III. King Alfonso the Learned; from “The Book of Chess,” MS. in the Escorial Library 28
IV. Spanish Velvet; about a.d. 1500 30
V. The Tunic of Boabdil el Chico; National Museum of Artillery, Madrid 36
VI. The “Banner of Saint Ferdinand”; Seville Cathedral 40
VII. Velvet made at Granada 56
VIII. The Daughters of Philip the Second; Prado Gallery, Madrid 98
IX. A Charra or Peasant Woman of Salamanca, in the year 1777 102
X. Embroidered Priest’s Robe; about a.d. 1500 118
XI. Embroidered Priest’s Robe; about a.d. 1500 120
XII. Embroidered Chasuble; Palencia Cathedral 122
XIII. Embroidered Case of Processional Cross; Toledo Cathedral 124
XIV. Embroidered Altar-Front 126
XV. Embroidered Altar-Front; Toledo Cathedral 128
XVI. Embroidered Altar-Front; Palencia Cathedral 130
XVII. Embroidered Altar-Fronts; Palencia Cathedral 132
XVIII. Costume of Woman of the Balearic Islands; about a.d. 1810 134
XIX. The “Genesis Tapestry”; Gerona Cathedral 138
XX. Tapiz of Crimson Velvet worked in gold tissue; Monastery of Las Huelgas, Burgos 144
XXI. “The Spinners,” by Velazquez; Prado Gallery, Madrid 148
XXII. Tapestry made at Brussels from Granada Silk 150
XXIII. “A Promenade in Andalusia”; Cartoon for Tapestry, by Goya 152
XXIV. Tapestry; Arras-Work, from Italian Cartoons; Zamora Cathedral 156
XXV. Flemish Tapestry; Collection of the late Count of Valencia de Don Juan 158
XXVI. The Marchioness of La Solana, by Goya 160
XXVII. A Spanish Maja; a.d. 1777 162
XXVIII. A Maja, by Goya 164
XXIX. A Lady of Soria; about a.d. 1810 166
XXX. Handkerchief of Catalan Lace, presented to Queen Victoria of Spain on her marriage 168
XXXI. Curtain of Spanish Lace; Point and Pillow Work, modern 170
XXXII. Point Lace Fan, of Mudejar Design, modern 172



Our earliest intelligence respecting textile fabrics of old Spain derives almost exclusively from Moorish sources, and shows, together with the silence of Saint Isidore, that until the subjugation of the Visigoths, the occupants of the Peninsula attached no great importance to this industry. Under the Moors, the south and east of Spain grew rapidly famous for the manufacture of all kinds of textile stuffs, and in particular those of silk. The origin of these silks, or of the most luxurious and artistic of them, may be traced to Almería. According to Al-Makkari, what made this Andalusian capital superior to all other cities of the world was her “various manufactures of silks and other dress materials, such as the dibaj, a silken fabric of many colours, surpassing, both in quality and durability, all other products made elsewhere, and also the tiraz, a costly stuff whereon are inscribed the names of sultans, princes, and other personages, and for making which there used to be no fewer than eight hundred looms. Inferior fabrics were the holol (a kind of striped silk), and brocades woven upon a thousand looms, while as many more were employed continually in making the scarlet stuffs called iskalaton. Another thousand produced the robes called al jorjani (or ‘the Georgian’), and yet another thousand the Isbahani robes, from Isfahan, and yet another thousand the robes of Atabi. The making of damask for gay-coloured curtains and turbans for the women kept busy as many persons as the articles above-mentioned.”

Edrisi, a chronicler of the twelfth century, says of the same capital that she was the principal city belonging to the Moors in the time of the Moravides. In fact, she was then a great and prosperous industrial centre, possessing, together with other kinds of looms, eight hundred which produced the fabrics known as holla, debady, siglaton, espahani, and djordjani, curtains with a flowered decoration, cloths of a smaller size, and the stuffs which were denominated attabi and mi djar.

A similar notice is contained in the Chronicle of Rassis the Moor. Referring to the end of the tenth century, this author wrote that “Almería is the key of profit and of all prosperity. Within her walls dwell cunning weavers who produce in quantities magnificent silken cloths inwoven with gold thread.” Other important centres of this trade and craft were Málaga, Baeza, Alicante, Seville, and Granada. Rassis wrote of Málaga: “She has a fertile territory, wherein is made the finest sirgo in the world. From here they trade in it with every part of Spain. Here too is made the finest of all linens, and that which the women best esteem.” Of Baeza he wrote: “She manufactures excellent and famous silken cloths of the kind which are called tapetes”; and of Alicante, “This city lies in the Sierra de Benalcatil, which in its turn is situated in the midst of other ranges containing prosperous towns where silken cloths of finest quality were made in other days; and the weavers of these cloths were skilled exceedingly.”

Málaga is described by the Cordovese historian Ash Shakandi (thirteenth century) as “famous for its manufactures of silks of every colour and design, some of them so costly that a suit is sold for thousands; such are the brocades of beautiful pattern, inwoven with the names of caliphs, emirs and other wealthy personages…. As at Málaga and Almería, there are at Murcia several manufactories of silken cloth called al washiu thalathat, or ‘the variegated.’ This town is also celebrated for the carpets called tantili, which are exported to all countries of the east and west, as well as for a sort of bright-coloured mat with which the Murcians cover the walls of their houses.”

The ancient Illiberia or Illiberis, believed to have been situated not far from where is nowadays Granada, is described in Rassis’ chronicle as “a city great and flourishing by reason of the quantity of silk that she exports to every part of Spain. She lies at sixty thousand paces distance from, and on the southward side of Cordova, and six thousand paces from, and to the north of the Frozen Sierra” (i.e. the Sierra Nevada).

Another chronicle—that of El Nubiense, who visited Spain towards the twelfth century—states that in the kingdom of Jaen alone were six hundred towns which produced and carried on a trade in silk.

The foregoing extracts show that under the Spanish Moors the manufacture of textile fabrics attained in mediæval times a very great importance. It is also certain that during the same period the textile fabrics in use among the Christian Spaniards were strongly and continually influenced, and even to a large extent produced, by Spanish Moors, while, as the Moorish cities fell into the power of the enemy, the Christian rulers encouraged their newly-sworn Mohammedan lieges to prosecute this industry with unabated zeal. A privilege is extant which was granted by Jayme the Conqueror in the year 1273, to a Moor named Ali and his sons Mohammed and Bocaron, empowering these artificers to manufacture silk and cloth of gold at Jativa, in the kingdom of Valencia. The fabrics produced by Mussulman weavers such as these, found ready purchase with the wealthier classes of the Christian Spaniards. The dress and other materials thus elaborated possessed a great variety of names, whose meaning cannot always be determined at the present day. Among the fabrics most in vogue were those denominated samit (also xamed or examitum), ciclaton, tabis or atabi, zarzahan, fustian or fustan, cendal or sendat, camelote (also chamelote or xamellot), drap imperial, and bougran (also bouckram, buckram), stated by Dr Bock to be derived from Bokhara, and which was of a quality far superior to the buckram of more modern times. These Saracenic or semi-Saracenic stuffs were manufactured from an early period, but modern experts are not agreed as to their character. Miquel y Badía and some other authorities believe that samit was a costly material which was sometimes coloured green, and shot with gold or silver thread. Others believe it to have been a kind of velvet. In either case it is known to have been used for shrouding the bodies of the wealthy. Ciclaton was a strong though flexible material used for robes and also for wall-hangings. Tabis or atabi was a kind of taffeta, and probably consisted, as a general rule, of silk, though sometimes it was mixed with cotton. Chamelot was an oriental fabric of rich silk, coloured white, black, or grey. It is mentioned, together with velvets, taffetas, and cendal or sendat (another silken stuff) in a law passed by the Cortes of Monzón in 1375, and which is quoted in Capmany’s Memorias.[1] Fustian is thought to have been first produced in Egypt. It was woven of thread or cotton, and was largely used in England from at least as early as the twelfth century. From about the same time buckram was also popular in northern countries.

Early in the fourteenth century a number of other costly stuffs began to be made in various quarters of the civilized world, including Spain. Among these fabrics were zatonin or zatony (perhaps the same as zetani, aceituni, or aceytoni—that is, satin), several kinds of drap d’aur or cloth of gold, several kinds of velvet, sarga or serge, and camocas, which is stated by Miquel y Badía to have been a strong material used for lining curtains, coats of mail, etc. The same writer observes that the stuff called by the name zatonin and its variations is the same as the Castilian raso and the Catalan setí or satí, a favourite though expensive and luxurious fabric in the fourteenth and succeeding centuries. Under the name aceytoni it is mentioned in a work in the Catalan language titled Croniques d’Espanya, by Pedro Miguel Carbonell, in which we read that at the coronation of Don Martin of Aragon this monarch’s consort, Doña María, was “dressed in white cloth of gold and a long mantle … and rode upon a white horse covered with trappings of white aceytoni.”

Miquel y Badía has discovered the names of other fabrics which are known from documentary evidence to have been used in older Spain, and which were called aducar, alama, tela de nacar, primavera or primavert, almexia, picote, and velillo. It is probable that alama and tela de nacar had silver interwoven with their texture. The primavera or “spring fabric” was so named from the flowers which adorned it. Almexía is mentioned in the Chronicle of the Cid. It was a costly and elaborate stuff, and is believed by Miquel to have taken its title from the city of Almería. Picote was a kind of satin manufactured in the island of Majorca, and velillo a thin, delicate fabric decorated with flowers and with silver thread.

The devices on all these stuffs were very varied. Prominent types among them were the pallia rotata, containing circles which are commonly combined with other ornament, the pallia aquilinata, in which the dominant motive was the eagle, and the pallia leonata, in which it was the lion. Other beasts, birds, and monsters were also figured with great frequency, such as griffins, peacocks, swans, crows, bulls, tigers, or dogs; but the emblem most in favour, especially throughout the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, was the eagle, owing to the numerous and illustrious qualities attributed to it, such as majesty, victory, valour, and good omen. These creatures, too, were frequently represented face to face or back to back, in pairs; nor were they so disposed in textile fabrics only, but on ivory, wood, or silver caskets, and on numerous other objects, as well as on the painted friezes of a place of worship.[2]

The colours of these fabrics also varied very greatly. That which was most admired was probably red, crimson, or carmine, used by preference as a ground, with the pattern inwoven or super-woven in gold, silver, or otherwise. Velvets, too, were not invariably in monochrome, but would contain two or three colours such as purple, crimson, blue, or yellow, besides gold and silver. Miquel y Badía mentions a magnificent velvet pluvial in gold and three colours, belonging to a church in Cataluña. The following observations are by the same authority, who himself possesses a valuable collection of early textile fabrics, many of which are Spanish. “The same prevailing colours are found in the Mudejar textile fabrics as in those of the Spanish Moors—the same ground of red inclining to carmine, of dark blue, or of bluish green, with a pattern in yellow, green, blue, or red, according to the colour which combines with it. I have seen copies of Mudejar stuffs in which there is no white, because this was wanting in the fragments which the copying artist had before him. And it is a fact that from some cause, which we cannot now determine, white silk is that which disappears soonest from among the textile fabrics of the Spanish Moors and Mudejares, so that by far the greater part of them contain no white at all, or only traces of it.”

In Spain these handsome stuffs were used by all the wealthier classes, and some idea of their prevalence and popularity may be formed from the voluminous mass of sumptuary laws which deal with them at almost every stage of Spanish history. Thus, an edict of Jayme the First of Aragon established, in the year 1234, that neither the monarch nor any of his subjects were to decorate their clothes with gold and silver, or fasten their cloaks with gold or silver clasps. The Ordenamiento of Alfonso the Tenth, subscribed at Seville, February 27th, 1256, provides that no woman is to carry aljofar-work, trim her dress with gold or silver, or wear a toca decorated with those metals, but only a plain white one, the price of which is not to exceed three maravedis. It is also provided by this edict that on the celebration of a wedding, the cost of the bridal clothes must not exceed sixty maravedis, nor may the number of guests who sit down to the marriage banquet exceed five women and five men, besides the witnesses of the ceremony and relatives of the bride and bridegroom. This absurd law was so extensively neglected that two years later the Cortes of Valladolid took up the matter afresh, and even resolved that the expenses of the king’s table, without the cost of his invited guests, were not to exceed a daily total of a hundred and fifty maravedis.

In a.d. 1286 the Council of Cordova decreed that knights and squires, upon the celebration of their marriage, were not to present their brides with more than two dresses, one of these to be of scarlet, without trimming of ermine or grey fur, or decoration of gold, silver, or aljofar. A law of Alfonso the Eleventh, dated May 6th, 1338, proclaimed that the women of the upper classes were not to clothe themselves in any silken fabric decorated with gold thread. Similar restrictions were laid upon the other sex. “No man, whatever be his condition (excepting only Us, the King), shall wear cloth of gold, or silk, or any stuff adorned with gold lace, aljofar, or any oth

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