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Ricardo Fernández Gracia, Director of the Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art.

Work and days in Navarrese art (3). Hunting and fishing scenes

Fri, 05 May 2017 11:37:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

average In the Middle Ages, hunting went, little by little, from being a necessary activity to obtain sustenance, to a pastime of the wealthy classes, who sought in it, among other purposes, the pleasure of capturing animals. Medieval literature describes hunting and authors such as Alfonso X the Wise or the Infante Don Juan Manuel stand out for their writings on the subject.

The Navarrese legislation contained in the Novísima Recopilación of 1735 provides us with numerous laws approved and in force in the Kingdom. Hunting and fishing ordinances date from 1556. Two years earlier it had been forbidden to shoot domestic pigeons with arquebuses or crossbows. In 1558, the King was asked that the law allowing the hunting of foxes and foxes be perpetual and also that dogs be requisitioned from hunters who were noblemen. In the Cortes of Sangüesa in 1561, it was requested that partridges in cages or with nets in snares or other devices should not be hunted, and that farm laborers, day laborers and mechanical officers should not be allowed to carry or shoot harquebuses except on feast days, after the parish mass. The penalties for those who entered other people's groves with banishment and whipping were legislated in the Cortes of Pamplona in 1569, at the same time as it was forbidden to take goshawks and hawks in the nest, with penalties of whipping, as well as fishing with esparvel or network round. In 1572 it was decreed that ecclesiastics could hunt with crossbows and hounds, outside the breeding season, and in 1580 it was forbidden to fish with small nets during the months that were not closed. In 1617 it was allowed to hunt in the common mountains and in 1624 it was forbidden to fish by hand and with baskets, except in the four rivers, namely: Ebro, Aragon, Arga and Ega. The law of rewards for killing wolves was passed in 1652 and extended in 1662.


Hunting scenes in the Middle Ages average

The wild pig or wild boar was the protagonist of several hunting scenes in Navarrese and Hispanic medieval art, in harmony with the documented royal hunts of Carlos III, in 1396, in the groves of Cortes and Castejón or Juan II and Doña Juana in 1457, in the grove of Mora, near Cortes. Its abundance in the forests and its character of prey coveted for its meat, with a possible metaphorical meaning of preparation and struggle of the miles christianus against sin and evil explain the scenes. In this way we should see more than a representation of an everyday scene, a moralizing reflection, a fortiori, because it is an animal with a negative and even demonic meaning due to its ferocity, wildness, dangerousness, dominated by gluttony and lust, as well as sharing with the wolf and the fox the quality of smelly. The hunting of the wild boar is found, among other examples, in the monumental sculpture of the following Gothic buildings: the cathedral of Pamplona, the church of the Holy Sepulchre of Estella, San Zoilo de Cáseda, the monastery of La Oliva and Ujué, the latter studied in depth by Professor E. Martínez Lagos in her doctoral thesis . In the Pamplona cloister the hunter appears, exceptionally, on horseback, since the correct form was on foot. In the example of the refectory of the same cathedral concluded by 1335, in a very graphic way, sample in a polychrome bracket the hunter sticking the long knife in the animal that is bitten by a dog, while he steps on another dog.

Another hunting scene is located in the Barbazana chapel of the cathedral of Pamplona, in this case centered on the hunting of the deer, which has other connotations than that of the wild boar. If the latter exalted the courage, skill and bravery of the hunters due to the ferocity of the animal, in the case of the deer it was less dangerous and considered the most aristocratic, because its skill and agility to mislead the hunters and dogs highlighted the skill and cunning of the hunter. In both corbels we find a hunter on horseback and with a spear accompanied by an enormous dog, in one, and a deer lying down and scratching its ear in the other. Professor Martínez de Lagos has studied examples of deer hunting in the cathedral of Pamplona, the façade of Santa María de Olite, the parish of Obanos and the cloister of La Oliva, although in the latter case a true hunting scene is not reproduced.

Leaving the monumental sculpture, we have a beautiful example of a hunter with his crossbow in the altarpiece of the Villaespesa chapel in the cathedral of Tudela, specifically in a table in which a passage of the life of San Gil is narrated, spread by the Golden Legend. The altarpiece of the chapel was made by Bonanat Zaortiga in 1412 and exceptionally it is a work signed by its author. According to the aforementioned text, when the saint lived as a hermit, the king's sons went hunting in the area where the saint lived and when they saw a doe at a certain distance, they went in pursuit of it. The animal, harassed by the dogs, ran to take refuge in the cave of St. Giles. The latter, on seeing the restless doe, bawling pitifully, went out to the mouth of the cave, prayed to the Lord and the hunters left, although they returned the next day and wounded the saint for protecting the doe that had accompanied him and had served as a wet nurse, allowing herself to be milked for the hermit's food, since some time before. The literary source served the painter to design a beautiful scene with details such as the one we are commenting on, in which the vegetation and the hunter with his richly painted weapon stand out.

One of the medieval chests and the remains of another from the monastic treasure of Fitero are dated between the 13th and 14th centuries, and show on their ivory plaques a series of falconry scenes painted and framed in circles made with a compass. The falconers on horseback stand out for their precise drawing.


Renaissance recreations of hunting scenes

In the Renaissance period, the panel of Saint Julian hunting the deer of the Ororbia altarpiece (c. 1523) is the most outstanding example. It represents, from agreement with the Golden Legend, the passage of the saint's life in which, chasing a deer, the animal turned to him, asking him why he wanted to kill it and informing him that in the future he would kill his parents involuntarily, so he left home to avoid it. The topic forced the painter to give great prominence to nature, dogs and some hunters, one of them sounding the horn. Graphically, he was inspired by an engraving of Duero de San Eustaquio, reworking the model.

The sculptural version of the same hunting topic is found in a relief of the main altarpiece of the parish of San Julián de Vidaurreta, highlighting in it the dogs, one of them in the foreground jumping fiercely, as well as the horse in a corvette, in front of a static deer. The work dates from 1558 and must be attributed to the circle of Pierres Picart or Friar Juan de Beauveais, masters who were very active at that time.

Some friezes with carved decoration of singular altarpieces, such as the largest one in Genevilla, show dynamic scenes with lion hunting. This is an early Renaissance altarpiece whose friezes still depicted scenes from this subject and even mythological and allegorical scenes, before the application of the Tridentine decrees on images. Professor Echeverría Goñi has studied this entire repertoire, noting that the lion hunt is repeated with some frequency in Roman sarcophagi and in the Age average and the Renaissance. Its iconographic origin seems to be linked to the mythical hunts of the heroes Adonis, Hippolytus and Meleager. The triumph over the lion, ancient sign of death, took on the meaning of eternal life, so that its inclusion in an altarpiece with religious, Eucharistic or protomartyr contents, such as San Esteban in Genevilla, would have its parallelism and justification.


Few examples from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Another testimony of hunting, much later, we find it in an ex-voto of the sanctuary of the Virgen del Yugo in Arguedas. It is dated 1719 and is related to a hunter, who is represented with the shotgun firing at the moment of exploding the weapon and releasing fire. The attire of the protagonist has been modified later, since it does not correspond to that of the date of the painting, it is moreover the repaint is appreciated in the zone of the jacket if it is looked at with detail. The history of the event is related in a lower text in which it is read: "In 13 of setieme of 1719 Dn Diego Martin de Ziga, hunting codorni- / zes in the term of the Villa of Caderita the esco- / peta was opened to him from the culato asta average bara , inboco to Nª Sª del / Yugo and remained without lesion none".

Hunting and fishing are the protagonists in two rococo style reliefs that appear on the bench of the main altarpiece of Aguilar de Codés, an unpublished work by the master established in Logroño, Miguel López de Porras (1777), who had shortly before carved the choir stalls of Cabredo, with panels decorated with architectures and landscapes and the collaterals of the parish of El Busto. A fisherman next to a maritime landscape, several gatherers, two hunters with their shotguns, and one of the latter drinking from a gourd, constitute a very special set of genre introduced in the context of an altarpiece destined, per se, to be a receptacle of sacred iconographic repertoires.



The fishing representations lead us to the well-known gospel passage of the miraculous catch of fish, when Jesus returned to Galilee, and found Andrew and Simon mending their nets and invited them to follow him, and they left their families, their businesses and their nets, and went with Jesus for good. After the miraculous catch of fish, Christ said to them: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men". A Renaissance panel by Juan de Bustamante from the main altarpiece of the parish of Cizur Mayor, dedicated to St. Andrew, from 1538, relates the event with the three characters, Christ, St. Peter and St. Andrew who are about to cast the nets into the sea from the boat. A renaissance embroidery of a chasuble from the parish of Peralta also includes the Gospel passage. Fishing is also present in a large canvas from the end of the 17th century that decorates the walls of the chapel of the patron saint of Estella, San Andrés, in San Pedro de la Rúa. In spite of being located in the background, the detail of the fishing, behind the figure of the apostle that capitalizes the composition, is very well treated and carried out.

Fishing, in this case of oysters, was represented on the cover of the title page of the Investigaciones históricas de las antigüedades del Reyno de Navarra, by Father Moret, in his 1665 edition, engraved by Cañizares, with a drawing by the Flemish painter Pedro Obrel, established in Pamplona. In the lower part, under the co-patrons San Fermín and San Francisco Javier, an emblematic composition is developed, consisting of some pearl hunters at dawn, with the motto: Ima labor quaerit, lux aurea clausa recludit (The work investigates the deep, the light discovers enclosed treasures). The meaning of the scene and of the Latin text is related to study and effort, having been employee in other contemporary examples. In the Pamplona edition of the same work of 1766 we find again the same scene of oyster fishing, in this case according to a version drawn and engraved by the Aragonese José Lamarca. The preparatory drawing was approved by the Diputación del Reino, with the following warning: "adding a figure dabbling in the water", something that Lamarca took into account when opening the plate for the engravings. The core topic to understand the composition is provided by some emblems of the time, such as Nuñez de Cepeda and Josep Romaguera, who understand it as a gloss of effort and hard work.

A fisherman in a sea port in which there is no lack of boats of different depths and even a small fortress, with all subject of details, we find on the side of the organ case of Isaba (1751), with polychrome a little later, possibly made by the gilder Andrés Mata, who in those years worked on some works in the Roncal valley, such as the gilding of the main altarpiece of Urzainqui, in 1768.

A little later, in 1777, in one of the mentioned panels of the bench of the main altarpiece of the parish of Aguilar de Codés, its author Miguel López de Porras, also took the licence to place a fisherman next to a beach where the arrival of a ship can be seen, in front of a foreground with a bell tower with its colorful and dynamic spire.