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Women in the Arts and Letters in Navarre (12). The "Illustrious Women of the Palace of the Marquis of San Adrian de Tudela".


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Diario de Navarra

María Concepción García Gaínza

Professor Emeritus of History of Art

Diario de Navarra, in partnership with the Chair of Heritage and Navarrese Art of the University of Navarra, addresses, monthly, with the help of specialists from various universities and institutions, aspects on the relationship of women with the arts and literature in Navarra.

One of the few programs of "Illustrious Women" of the Spanish Renaissance is made up of the paintings that decorate the stairwell of the Palace of the Marquis of San Adrian de Tudela, which brings together twelve women from mythological antiquity and Greco-Latin history and legend. Their identification was possible thanks to some Latin texts that accompany them and some by their attributes. In a time of triumph of women, such as the Renaissance of some small Italian courts, like that of the Medicis in Florence or those of Este in Ferrara, these programs of "Illustrious Women" try to exalt the excellence of women and at the same time present themselves as a moral mirror in which to be reflected. The "Illustrious Women" can be considered a parallel group to the "Illustrious Men", although their existence is not so frequent. Because of its originality and high issue of women represented, the Tudela program is unique in Spanish Humanism.

The Magallón and Soria families, two lineages in the 16th century

Regarding the principals of the building, we know that Don Pedro Magallón y Veraiz married Julia Villalón, daughter of Bartolomé de Villalón and Antonia de Zuera or Chueca, on April 27, 1545 and they had a son, Don Pedro Magallón y Villalón. Bartolomé de Villalón, brother of the famous Dean of Tudela, Don Pedro de Villalón, relative of Pope Julius II and builder of the Dean's Palace and the cathedral choir stalls, founded an entailed estate in 1541, one of whose clauses was to exclude from its possession anyone who did not bear the surname Villalón.

It is easy to understand that this marriage, which united two illustrious lineages of ancient lineage, that of Magallón with that of Villalón that incorporated his entailed estate, coincided with the desire of Don Pedro Magallón y Veraiz to improve his house located on the main street that leave towards San Francisco de Tudela, continuing the works undertaken by his father with the aim of unifying the complex formed by different houses and giving it greater unity and prestige. The documentary information available to us confirms that the works intensified in the middle of the 16th century. The purchase of a house near the primitive palace with a view to its enlargement dates back to the last two decades of the 15th century.

In 1512 the Magallones took possession of the Magallones' houses and in 1525 the foundations were already being worked on. In 1552 permission was given to Don Pedro Magallón to continue the work on his main houses, unifying the eaves. The façade was finished by 1556.

The construction of the courtyard, staircase and mural paintings were carried out later. The paintings could now be dated more precisely to around 1569-1570, coinciding with the preparations for the marriage of Don Pedro de Magallón y Villalón to Laura de Soria, in 1571. Both married in brotherhood in 1592 and founded the Magallón estate, with the obligation that its holders carry the surname of Magallón, its arms and those of Soria as their main arms. Through this marriage, the Magallón family was related to another illustrious lineage of Tudela, the Soria family, whose most prominent member was Don Lope de Soria, ambassador of Charles V in Italy (1528-1532), considered "an essential part of the communication between Charles V and the imperial servants".

From the foregoing it can be deduced that Laura de Soria must have been the daughter of Juan de Soria and therefore grandniece of the ambassador. The figure of Laura de Soria is now better known from the family point of view. The program would be dedicated to her, which is made to extol the excellence of the woman and the housewife.

The iconographic program

It is one of, if not the most, complete program of female topic of Spanish Humanism, being formed by twelve women taken from mythology or Greco-Roman history and legend. The textual sources inspiring the program are to be found in the last written request in classical authors that were in the family Library Services , with works by Homer, Lucretius, Petrarch, Plutarch, Sallust, Pliny, Quintilian, Valerius Martial, or Titus Livius, in editions of the mid or late sixteenth century, some printed in Venice, perhaps brought by the ambassador Don Lope de Soria.

The history of each of these women and their significance is indeed traced in mythology and classical sources, as can be seen below. The four women on the right wall are goddesses taken from mythology. Pallas is the goddess of wisdom and protector of the palace and the house, virgin goddess, counselor and teaching assistant with her presence of the mistress of the house. Juno is represented as the goddess of wealth, whose box she carries in her hands, but in Rome she was also considered the protector of legitimately married women and motherhood. Venus is the goddess of beauty and love. Finally, Discord is understood in this context in relation to the other three, according to the Judgment of Paris.

The four warrior women who occupy the central wall exalt the courage of women in defense of their husbands and children. The story of Camilla, who possessed the courage of a warrior, comes from Virgil, who narrates it in the Aeneid. The story of Hypsicratea, more unknown, is told by Valerius Maximus and Plutarch, who refers how, disguised as a man, she accompanied her husband Mithridates, king of Pontus, in his wars against Pompey. Herodotus and Valerius Maximus tell the story of Queen Tomiris, who avenged her husband and son killed in their fight against the Persians. Finally, Zenobia comes from the history of Rome and was a famous woman who confronted the Roman power and conquered Egypt.

The remaining four women occupying the left wall are women who have chastity in common. Thus, Sulpicia is a woman model of this virtue and her story is told by Valerius Maximus and Pliny. A larger issue of classical authors dealt with the story of Tuccia, such as Valerius Maximus, Pliny, Titus Livy or St. Augustine, the vestal who was unjustly accused of violating her virginity. More widespread is the story of Lucretia told by Titus Livius, Ovid and Valerius Maximus, who, after being raped by the son of Tarquinius the Superb, committed suicide. The same authors cited above narrate the life of Virginia, who was killed by her father to prevent her from being outraged.

The knowledge of mythology and classical literature by humanists favored the realization of this program and, undoubtedly, the rise of feminist literature in the Renaissance and especially the wide dissemination achieved in our country by the work of Boccaccio De claris mulieribus, which includes more than a hundred women from Eve, heroines of Greek and Latin antiquity, and ends with Joan, Queen of Naples, would have contributed to it.

In this environment of feminism we have to place the mentor of the program, for whom I proposed the figure of a teacher of the Estudio de Gramática de Tudela, either Melchor Enrico, an ecclesiastic who taught for forty years (1541-1580) and who fits perfectly with the chronology of the paintings, or Pedro Simón Abril, whom Menéndez y Pelayo described as "one of the most active and intelligent vulgarizers of ancient science", who could not be the mentor because of dates. He could also be Jerónimo Arbolanche, a fervent humanist and poet, author of Las Abidas, a work in which he extensively handles mythology as the main source and accompanies the accredited specialization of each mythological divinity with an account of his legend, in a parallel way to how it appears in the paintings.

There is undoubtedly another possibility that in view of our present knowledge we can contemplate, and that is that it would have been the Italian painter Pietro Morone himself who would have proposed the program, since he must have had suitable prints to represent them. To him we attributed years ago the authorship of the paintings, at the same time that we pointed out its similarity with the Virtues of the chapel of the Doctor Lucena in Guadalajara, then attributed to Cincinato. Today we know that this last set was commissioned, in Rome, to Pietro Morone and Pietro Paolo de Montealbergo by Doctor Don Luis de Lucena in 1548.

Once the chapel of the erudite Doctor Lucena was finished, Morone settled in Zaragoza and worked seasonally in Tarazona, the Ribera Navarra around Fustiñana and Tudela, and Calatayud, where he died in 1577 "with his hands, arms and feet impaired by a pain called gout or puagre so that he is crippled in bed". In Tarazona he was responsible for the main altarpiece of the parish of Santa María Magdalena and various projects in the Episcopal palace, as well as his work on the dome of the cathedral. This experience would be valid for the layout of the courtyard and staircase of Tudela (1569-1570).

The formal language of the set

The style of the paintings of Tudela is dependent on the Roman language created around Paul III, following the models of Michelangelo, Raphael, Daniele Volterra and, especially, Perino del Vaga, a disciple of Raphael with whom Pietro Morone was able to collaborate in the papal rooms of Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. The "Illustrious Women" of Tudela, absolutely dependent on Raphaelesque mannerism like the Virtues and Sibyls of Guadalajara, show the presence of the Roman model of the middle of the century. But in addition to these stylistic similarities that are obvious, we can now also speak of direct inspiration in visual models of Raphael. We have found the closest reference in the cycle of the Seven Virtues of Raphael engraved by Raimondi, not only for its general air in postures, transparent tunics and movement, but for the exact copy in some cases such as Zenobia, which is taken literally from Justice, and other similarities; Tuccia with Hope or the figure of Minerva, which does not belong to the series of the Virtues, which inspires Hipsicratea. The painter Pietro Morone surely possessed these prints that served him as inspiration, probably from his years in Rome when he must have made a collection. Jusepe Martínez gives us news of this use of prints on the part of Morone: "This one left us an example of great humility in his works, not having the least to make use of other people's works; whose figures he arranged with so much grace and union, and so well arranged that his stories seemed to be natural daughters of the understanding".

Some technical aspects fit with what has already been exposed, the "Illustrious Women" of Tudela inspired by Raphael through Raimondi's engravings are painted in grisaille with a dry technique of clear Italian filiation.