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

Heritage and identity (14). Burins, paintbrushes and chisels at the service of illustrious Navarrese (II)

Fri, 07 Jun 2019 11:19:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The figure of the donor and the funerary monument

In the previous partnership, we already made accredited specialization to the presence of portraits as donors of some kings, nobles and distinguished characters in different artistic works. To the figure of the perpetuated donor in sculptures and paintings we dedicated a article in this same newspaper(Diario de Navarra, January 19, 2018) and we refer to it for the main representations of some kings and proceres in monumental sculpture and painting.

Regarding the funerary monument, we must remember that, in correspondence with the historical stages, we find as many speeches, symbols, allegories and images, in some cases by the hand of classical motifs that allude to immortality, in others with numerous allusions to funeral ceremonial and the vanity of earthly things and in others to the resurrection of the dead and eternal life. In most of them the heraldry is not lacking as a sign of identity of the lineage. The figure of the deceased, whether symbolic or more real, in the form of an authentic portrait, proclaims together with the religious or profane speech , a visual report , perpetuating different concepts and values of the personality of the deceased worthy of exaltation in the collective conscience.

Monumental sepulchers grew as the Age progressed average, in Navarre already in the Gothic period. If from the classical stage of the latter style a couple are preserved in relation to Sancho el Fuerte (Roncesvalles and La Oliva), in the radiant Gothic phase (1276-1387), the examples of monumental sepulchres increased in quality and quantity, both in the cathedral of Pamplona and outside of it. The stage corresponding to the international style (1387-1441) includes the exceptional tomb of Carlos III (1413-1419) and a series of works related to its author, Jehan de Lome, and others, such as the tomb of the Villaespesa family (1418-1421), linked to Aragonese masters of the time.

The portrait, as such, with physical resemblance and identifiable and naturalistic facial features, is evident from the second half of the 14th century. The tombs of Charles III and his wife in the cathedral of Pamplona and of the Villaespesa family in the cathedral of Tudela, belonging to the International Gothic period and dating from the first third of the 15th century, seem to show reliable portraits in the case of the men, while those of the wives are more idealized, as would be expected. For their typological originality and Burgundian ancestry, we must mention those of Martín Cruzat "the rich" in San Cernin de Pamplona and that of Enequo Pinel in San Pedro de Olite (1432). In both cases, the deceased are presented before the Trinity or God the Father by the saints of their special devotion.

The Gothic centuries end with the alabaster tomb of the Count of Lerín, commissioned to Gil de Morlanes el Viejo in 1491, now preserved in the Liria Palace in Madrid, rediscovered and studied by J. J. Virto. It arrived in the capital of Spain in 1862, after the exhumation of the remains.

Examples from the Renaissance period are not very abundant, despite what might be expected in the century of humanism. Without conventionalisms of size and in accordance with the uses in the painting of the Flemish primitives, an early painted panel of the Eguía family (c. 1520) in the family funerary monument of San Miguel de Estella must be placed. It shows the 26 sons and daughters of the 30 that Nicolás Eguía and his wife Catalina de Jaso, aunt of San Francisco Javier, had. The topic and issue of children did not go unnoticed by the chronicler and historian of the city Baltasar de Lezáun y Andía in his Memorias históricas de Estella ( 1710), where he writes: "They had thirty children and the twenty-six reached adulthood and in issue equal of both sexes concurred with their parents Nicolás and Catalina to hear mass in the parish church of San Miguel de Estella and altar of Santa Águeda, where on the tomb of this house they are seen until now portrayed in a brush painting, as hearing mass from a priest who is in the middle of the father and the sons on the right hand and the mother with the daughters on the left and it is a singular and rare thing".

Some outstanding examples belonged to the same 16th century, most of which have disappeared. Among the most outstanding is that of César Borgia in Viana, a late Gothic work that according to the chronicles was composed of "profusely ornamented ogee arches.... slender and chamfered buttresses ending in elegant pinnacles". In 1571 dated a set very in tune with Renaissance humanism, that of Doña Catalina de Figueroa, a native of Alcalá de Henares and wife of Don Álvaro Pérez de Veraiz, who died in the capital of the Ribera.

The tombs of Abbot Marcos de Villalba in Fitero (1617), Sancho el Fuerte and Doña Clemencia in Roncesvalles (1622), that of Bishop Gabriel Esparza in Iturgoyen (c. 1675) and that of the Counts of Guenduláin in the Conceptionists of Tafalla (1738) belong to the centuries of the Baroque. A bust portrait, adjusted to physical reality is that of the Count of Gages in his tomb, formerly in the Capuchins of Pamplona and currently in the cathedral. It is a work of Robert Michel made in 1767. The elegant bust of the viceroy is a portrait of classical style and at the same time heir of the berninesque models, in clear harmony with the academic sculpture. It is a faithful exponent of the dignity and majesty required by the figure of Gages, with an enveloping mantle. The face shows a resemblance to the natural one and above all an energy and authority that caused him so many problems with the authorities of Navarre. He wears the golden fleece and the crosses of the orders of San Genaro and Santiago.

The cloister of the cathedral of Pamplona keeps that of Espoz y Mina (1855) with his portrait in a tondo and the cemeteries will witness, from the nineteenth century, new codes of representation in the funerary sculpture, according to the different styles, from the neoclassical.


Portraits in ecclesiastical environments and, exceptionally, in temples.

Sacristies, chapter rooms of important temples were the destination of some portraits of their benefactors, in many cases sent by them to their hometowns, generally accompanying donations and bequests of all kinds subject. The sacristy of the beneficiaries of the cathedral of Pamplona keeps the portrait of its patron, the canon and archdeacon of Roncal Pascual Beltrán de Gayarre, who paid for the sacristy of the beneficiaries and the organ of the cathedral, the altarpiece of San Bonifacio de Garde, his native town, and brought the bodies of several saints to Pamplona and Roncal.

In the capitular conference room of Santa María de Viana is the superb portrait of the archbishop of Mexico Pérez de Lanciego, benefactor of his native city. It is a Novo-Hispanic painting signed by Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as the Mexican Apeles, and a specialist in portraits for having painted viceroys, bishops, nobles, officials and ladies. In a letter dated 1720, one of his secretaries noted that the aforementioned archbishop was sending his brother living in Viana three portraits -one for the parish of San Pedro de Viana, another for Nájera and the third in unknown whereabouts-, a silver box with "six little fountains and a basin of holy water" and an altar set. The portrait boasts a long registration in which his cursus honorum as abbot of Nájera, royal preacher, Inquisition qualifier and archbishop of Mexico is given.

In the sacristy of Santiago de Puente la Reina we find the portrait of Ximénez de Rada, traditionally considered a son of that town, next to another of the same style and invoice of Father Vicente Bernedo. It is the work of the sculptor and painter Anselmo Salanova, established in Pamplona in 1817. The Franciscans of Olite kept in their convent staircase the portrait of Viceroy Francisco Bucarelli y Ursúa, who paid for the paintings of the presbytery of their church and the gilding of the main altarpiece (1778-1779) and that of San Buenaventura with his image.

The sacristy of Santiago de Sangüesa keeps the portrait of Fray Raimundo Lumbier in a rich baroque framework and is a literal copy of the previously mentioned engraving by R. Collin. In the sacristy of the parish of Cintruénigo hung until not so long ago the portrait of its great benefactor Don Benito Ferrández y Echeverría (1802-1872), with whose will bequest paid for the great expansion of the parish between 1877 and 1881.

For the exceptionality of its location, within the space of the church, the one of the bishop of Michoacán Martín de Elizacoechea in the presbytery of the parish of Azpilcueta, and the one of Miguel Francisco Gambarte in the chapel of the Snows of San Pedro de Puente la Reina stand out. That of Bishop Elizacoechea (1751), he sent from Michoacán the necessary funds for the total reconstruction of the parish church to one with his portrait in which he appears with the episcopal cauda. In a letter from Antonio Gaston de Iriarte to Don Martin de Elizacoechea, dated June 8, 1751, he wrote "The people are very happy and grateful for how much Your Illustrious Lordship is doing for your country". A very long registration gives an account of the curriculum of the bishop from Baztan, from his time as a collegiate and Full Professor complutense, canon of Mexico, canon of the university of the latter city until his consecration as bishop of Durango and passage to the mitre of Michoacán.

The one by Miguel Francisco Gambarte (†1783), is in the great chapel of the Virgen de las Nieves of San Pedro de Puente la Reina and arrived from Mexico in 1753. It is the only portrait, in large format, of a non-ecclesiastical person found in a sacred setting. The figure of a donor, outside the altarpiece or painting is a very striking fact to consider not only on the part of the donor, with an evident desire to be recognized physically and morally by his countrymen, but also on the part of the board of trustees of the Parish, who consented to it without any problem. The fact that he appears praying gives an idea that the painting was made for this purpose and for the present location. Gambarte dedicated himself to commerce and rose socially in the New Spain capital, sending outstanding gifts to his native town and to Estella, where he had a niece.


At the public monument

The last step in the recognition of great characters has been the dedication of streets or squares and the erection of public monuments to commemorate their deeds and exploits. Professor J. J. Azanza carried out in 2003 a monographic study about the commemorative monument in Navarre, in which we can illustrate the meaning of this subject of works. Works by J. Mª Muruzábal and F. J. Zubiaur complete the study of this subject of works in Pamplona and the geography of Navarre. Since this is a better known topic and these publications are available, we will only make a few brief reflections.

To the formal values of the same one must always add their ideological message, because they carry important political and cultural loads of the moments in which they were erected. Musicians, saints, politicians, heroes of the militia, teachers, founders, doctors, writers, etc., are represented in different populations, having increased its issue in the last decades of the twentieth century.

The role of many city councils, as the first to be interested in propagating the image of their great men, should be highlighted. On numerous occasions, popular subscriptions helped to raise funds, while at the same time fostering collective enthusiasm. Handwritten accounts and journalistic chronicles of their inaugurations are sources for interpreting the meaning given to them at the time.

Although those of Pignatelli in El Bocal (1857) and of General Gutiérrez de la Concha in Abárzuza (1879) would be the first in chronology, as far as personalities of the Old Kingdom are concerned, those of San Raimundo in Fitero (1916), Gayarre in Roncal (1917), Navarro Villoslada and Sarasate in Pamplona (1918) and Fermín Leguía in Vera (1919) occupy the chronological primacy in the second decade of the last century. Five monuments, in as many points of the foral geography, that augured a great development of the artistic typology that, in reality was not reached until a few decades ago, since between 1920 and 1930 three and a project were raised, between 1930 and 1940, other three and a project, in the decade of the forties, other three and in the decade of the fifties and the sixties, seven in each one. The largest issue of monuments erected in the last century corresponds, without a doubt, to the decade of the nineties.

As far as typologies are concerned, the variety typical of the evolution of the arts throughout the 20th century is perceptible, from the standing figures or group to the relief of the figurative current, to those in which the starting point is figuration, gathering different trends and ending in geometrization and, of course, works immersed in the conceptual or abstract interpretation. Artists of different projection and quality have been doing position of these projects, usually by direct award, although there was no shortage of public tenders.