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Women in the Arts and Letters in Navarre (2). Also in Navarra

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Diario de Navarra

Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Chair of Heritage and Navarrese Art University of Navarra

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.

Also in Navarre we can find, throughout the centuries, women who carried out their particular history in an environment that was not at all easy for them to carry out their outstanding projects. The casuistry in the field of promotion is quite varied, although generally we must speak of women of privileged estates, the only ones who, because of their status , could afford the possibility of investing surpluses in artistic works, libraries or other areas of culture. Another group is constituted by some religious women who, from their cloisters, practiced or promoted writing, poetry or the arts.

Over the next few months, different specialists will summarize various topics: painters and artists, promoters of the arts, music and culture, collectors, printing press managers, widows of artists and printers and management of stores and workshops. Also, other contents related to her image and iconographic representation will be addressed, where she acquired prominence of different values and merits in different contexts.

From the Age average to the 17th century

Among the female figures who promoted buildings in the Middle Ages, average, we must highlight Queen Leonor of Castile, who was fundamental in the first expansion of the palace of Olite. Her works began at her impulse, in 1399, when he ordered the construction next to the church of Santa María of the chapel of San Jorge and the Cambra et morada de la reina. The sets of funerary sculpture with female recumbent statues or their representations with their families, as in the tomb of the Villaespesa family in Tudela, are very unique pieces.

The sixteenth century left us unique traces in core topic female. At the head, the set of "Illustrious Women" of the palace of the Marquis of San Adrián de Tudela, one of the very few examples of the Spanish Renaissance, which brings together twelve women from mythological antiquity and Greco-Latin history and legend.

In front of this visible ensemble made in honor of a noblewoman, another woman also belonging to the nobility, but from a Pamplona cloister, the discalced Carmelite Leonor de la Misericordia wrote, painted and collected prints sent to her by her friends and relatives from various European capitals.

Distinguished women, with more or less means, exercised the board of trustees on chapels of different temples, for which they endowed them with delicate pieces, as did doña >Beatriz de Beaumont y Navarra, who commissioned the realization of the altarpiece of the main chapel of the church of the Dominicans of Pamplona and promoted the foundations of the convents of Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona and Soria.

Doña Brianda de Beaumont, Countess of Lerín, excelled in the promotion of the factories of the mansions of the Constable of Pamplona and Baigorri, residences of the family. Juana López de Dicastillo did the same in the house of the Mencos de Tafalla.

In plenary session of the Executive Council XVII century and for reasons of board of trustees, doña Dionisia de Eguaras ordered to place his coat of arms in the main altarpiece of the Carmen de Tudela in 1653.

An important chapter is the donation of jewelry and silver pieces by women to their devotional images or to the monasteries where they professed. The inventories of the great devotional icons are full of names of outstanding women, a fortiori, if we take into account that those who took care of those trousseaus were usually leading women of that society of the Ancien Régime.

In the Hora Navarra of the 18th century: a qualitative leap

A special moment for the feminine protagonism in the arts was that of the 18th century. Undoubtedly, what Don Julio Caro Baroja called the Navarrese time left its mark. The wife of the bookseller from Tafalla José de Orta, Doña Bernarda Munárriz, paid for several works for the Franciscans of Olite and Tafalla in the middle of the 18th century, commissioning some of them to the sculptor Luis Salvador Carmona.

Some outstanding works of that century were possible thanks to the sisters and nieces of some Navarrese viceroys in the Indies. Outstanding portraits from the middle of the century have Navarrese women as protagonists. The first honorary academic of the Royal Academy of San Fernando, in 1781, was the Pamplona-born Agustina Azcona y Balanza, author of two drawings for the prints of the couple of Roncaleses made by Juan de la Cruz, in 1782, for the collection of Costumes of Spain.

Of international projection for the world of arts and culture was the figure of Mª Ignacia de Azlor, born in the Indies, of Aragonese and Navarrese descent and with a not inconsiderable fortune, she made her novitiate in the Company of Mary in Tudela, where she remained between 1742 and 1752. From the capital of La Ribera she left for her native land to found high school in Mexico, the first formal educational center for women in Latin America and, in turn, a center of expansion in other countries.

At the level of confraternities, we must highlight the only one composed exclusively of women in the town of Lesaca, in honor of St. Francis Xavier, which was formally constituted in 1720, although it existed unofficially before that time.

The XIX and XX centuries

In a context that was not easy for the development of the arts, as was the nineteenth century, we will highlight some women who paid for outstanding works. The image of Saint Benedict of the main altarpiece of the Benedictine Sisters of Estella, today in the monastery of Leire, work of Tomás Llovet, 1820, was financed by Doña Josefa Galbán y Alonso, a native of Peralta. Marcelina Bisié in Corella, when she died in 1881, left her fortune to build the towers of San Miguel, the organs of the two parishes and other outstanding artistic works. At the end of the century María del Carmen Aragón-Azlor, Duchess of Villahermosa, promoted the restoration of the Castle of Javier, construction of the high school, as well as its furnishing with a rich pictorial collection (1891-1904).

As for collecting, practically nonexistent in previous centuries except for the Navarrese canon Juan Miguel Mortela, Mª Josefa Huarte, who gathered an important collection of contemporary art, which was the origin of the University Museum of Navarre, stood out until the second half of the 20th century.

Similarly, the time will come for women artists and musicians, which will be the subject of several installments. Until the 20th century, the names of a few painters, embroiderers, performers or composers were exceptions. But the new learning contexts and the opening of academies and Schools to women, made some of them stand out brilliantly in the arts and literature.