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

Work and days in Navarrese art (8). The image of the schoolboy and the student

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 16:55:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

As with the representation of various professions, the arrival of the 19th century brought with it an interest in costumbrismo and everyday life. To this we must add the development of photography, which since the second half of the aforementioned century, provides us with varied representations of students in the classroom, at group or alone. Previously, the image of schoolchildren had to be recreated in scenes related to learning, generally of religious subject .


In the cloister of the Pamplona Cathedral

The great example of the medieval period is provided by one of the capitals of the north wall of the Gothic cloister of the Pamplona cathedral, made between c. 1280 and c. 1320, which contains some interesting and delicate scenes, where schoolchildren are instructed in the liberal arts, as studied by Professor Fernández-Ladreda. Grammar is represented with a teacher with a rod dictating a lesson to three students; dialectics with two teachers in dispute; rhetoric with a teacher in front of two disciples; arithmetic with a teacher and a student sharing a table with circular beads as coins; geometry with a woman seated showing a drawing board -now lost- next to a student with compass and square; music with a disciple next to his vihuela playing a melody next to a bell and, finally, astronomy with two seated characters conversing, one of them pointing to the sky.

In final, an excellent representation of the trivium and quadrivium, the contents of which were studied in antiquity and in the first European universities during the Middle Ages average. The trivium alludes to three ways or paths and groups together the arts of "eloquence": grammar, rhetoric and dialectics, which today we could consider the Humanities. The quadrivium groups the four ways or paths and congregates the sciences related to numbers and space: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

The set was called liberal arts because the purpose of their study was to train men with freedom. The latter was obtained through the knowledge and development of intellectual or liberal skills, in civil service examination to the servile arts that provided man only the internship to perform trades and manual labor.


The example of St. Anne teaching the Virgin Mary to read

From the end of the sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth century, we have the expansion of an iconography that places us in learning. It is the passage of Saint Anne teaching the Virgin to read, which takes place in intimate interiors with the presence of a book on whose text the Virgin fixes her eyes, helped by Saint Anne, who points out the lines. It is a topic taken from the apocrypha, where the historical reality is sample transferable to the ordinary life of a mother who has left the housework to teach her daughter to read. Although the tradition pointed out that the child Mary was educated in the temple, the artists represent the Virgin quite older, emphasizing that Saint Anne had educated her in all the virtues, reaching to sublimate all of them. Although treatises such as Pacheco, Velázquez's father-in-law, condemned this topic energetically for its lack of propriety and historicity, it was not prevented from proliferating in different domestic and convent environments and from being represented by masters of the category of Alonso Cano, Murillo or Carreño de Miranda.

The sculptures of Viana and Torres de Elorz and the relief of Ilundáin belong to the Navarrese Renaissance. Early examples of an iconography that would reach its apogee in the following century. The sculpture of Viana, from the end of the 16th century, has been attributed to Diego Jiménez I by J. C. Labeaga. The image of Torres de Elorz is monumental and the relief of Ilundain stands out for its polychromy, due to Pedro Alzo.

The baroque paintings with the topic in the 17th century of Corella, Compañía de María de Tudela, Benedictines of Estella, Dominicans of Pamplona, Discalced Carmelites of Pamplona or of the Comendadoras of Puente la Reina follow, in general, a Rubenian composition known by the print signed by Cornielis Galle the young. Sometimes St. Joachim also appears.

On one occasion, in a popular relief of the Orbara altarpiece (1673), Saint Anne teaches the Child Jesus himself to read in the presence of the Virgin. In a not so explicit way, Saint Anne with the book with her daughter and grandson appears in the Flemish carving of the Magdalena de Tudela (c. 1530), a late Renaissance panel from Cadreita from the beginning of the 17th century. In the seiscentist sculpture of Santa Ana triplex of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fair Love de la Trinidad de Lumbier, the three characters are present, although the book is held by the Virgin.

Girls in apprenticeship on a baroque canvas in Tudela

A commemorative painting of the founding of the Company of Mary from its Tudela high school of the teaching represents the vision of St. Joan of Lestonac to realize the foundation of her high school. In the composition we find in the lower and earthly part, three girls next to a novice who watches over the tasks of the three schoolgirls who are dedicated to reading, writing and sewing. It is a work that is exceptional for its content. Stylistically the painting can be related to Francisco Meneses Osorio (ca. 1640-1721), Murillo's most direct disciple. The freshness of the scene and its rich coloring leads us to a Sevillian painting of the time, in which the girls dress according to the customs of the moment and the objects are treated with their own prominence.

As is well known, the high school in Tudela was founded by nuns from the convent of Barcelona, in 1687, and its promoter was Don Francisco Garcés del Garro, a wealthy father of a family concerned about the lack of educational centers for women. Over time, from the house in Tudela, the Company of Mary expanded to the following foundations: Zaragoza (1744), Mexico (1754), Santiago de Compostela (1759), San Fernando (1760), Vergara (1799), Valladolid (1880), Almeria (1885), Logroño (1889), Talavera de la Reina (1899) and Pamplona (1966), with La teaching in Mexico City being the first formal educational center for women in Latin America and, in turn, the center of expansion to other countries.


The teaching of music: the choir children

A popular painting that adorns the case of the organ of San Pedro de Puente la Reina, a work made in 1762, probably by Andrés Mata, sample a choir scene with two older musicians at the back in front of their music stands and with stringed instruments. In the main area and in front of a balustrade appear the infants singing with the chapel master and other young minstrels. Despite the crudeness with which it is executed, it is the only example of a painted music chapel.

The ensemble of infantes of the music chapel of the cathedral of Pamplona, the most important musical institution of the Ancient Regime in Navarre, was reflected in some engravings of which we gave an account in this same medium (Diario de Navarra, November 5, 2006).

As is well known, the infantes of the cathedral of Pamplona formed a collegiate body until the 19th century, similar to other Spanish cathedrals. The issue of four that existed in the 16th century was increased to twelve by Bishop Antonio Zapata, at the same time that he reorganized the chapel and provided it with new revenues. Leocadio Hernández Ascunce, chapel master of the cathedral of Pamplona from 1939 until his retirement in 1953, was choir infante between 1892 and 1900. With the knowledge of the institution within walls, he remembers that the choirboys lived together and in their little chapel they celebrated their own functions and novenarios, for which purpose they composed in their own way and with their own knowledge, gozos, songs and motets. Goñi Gaztambide has dealt with how they lived daily, studied, amused themselves and sang, their musical, academic and moral training in the XVII century in a documented study, while for the XVIII century, María Gembero provides us with abundant information data , in her magnificent work.

Some infants from Tudela appear in a drawing of the ceremony of the Descent of the Angel, made by Juan Antonio Fernández in 1787. The chapel master of his collegiate church - cathedral since 1783 - had among his duties to give "music lessons every day to the infants and take care of their conduct so that they would be Christian men and useful to the Church".


A canvas by Nicolás Esparza awarded in 1897

The exhibition de Bellas Artes of 1897 awarded Nicolás Esparza from Tudela with an honorary accredited specialization for his painting graduate "En la escuela" or "programs of study superiors". The distinction was shared by none other than Pablo Picasso's painting "Science and Charity". Nicolás Esparza (1873-1928) had moved to Madrid in 1888, after training in his hometown at the School of Arts and Crafts, where he obtained various medals and diplomas. In the Spanish capital and thanks to a pension from the Diputación Foral de Navarra he continued his programs of study at the Real Academia de San Fernando until 1891 and later took lessons from Moreno Carbonero. He participated in several editions of the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts, obtaining some distinction. In 1910 he won by civil service examination the Chair drawing of the School of Fine Arts in Sestao, where he died prematurely in 1928.

The award-winning painting depicts the interior of a classroom with the background of the large blackboard, other smaller ones, a map of Spain and Portugal and some carts with letters and syllables. On the right, the teacher, seated, teaches the alphabet pointing out the letters to the younger students in different outfits and arranged in a circle. One of them is on his knees, punished, and is the object of the gaze of the others. On the right some older girls who are not the subject of the teacher at that moment, adopt different postures on the benches and tables, one of them sews or embroiders and is observed by another, while another young girl with blond hair seems to direct her gaze to what is happening with the teacher and the kindergartners. A rich coloring and study of lights, as well as the characterization of the children and the teacher support the painting and make us understand the award of which it was the object at the end of the XIX century.


School and boarding school photography

As in most scenes of everyday life, photography marked a before and after in the representations of schoolchildren. Schools and colleges were at the forefront of the itinerant photographers' sights. In some schools, such as the Capuchins of Lecároz or the Jesuits of Tudela, there were photographic laboratories and an interest in the new technique and art.

Large groups of pupils around their professor, usually outside in a courtyard or place, are preserved in many collections and in private homes. The issue of pupils entrusted to masters and mistresses is surprising. The clothing of boys and girls sometimes shows the misery and poverty of the working classes, while at other times they are dressed in long robes, aprons and overalls. In renowned schools such as the Jesuit and Compañía de María of Tudela or the Capuchinos of Lecároz, their students were the goal of the photographer in classrooms, or in groups playing sports, practicing in the music band, in artistic evenings... etc. In the case of religious schools, the uniform would be imposed very soon, in order to avoid distinctions among them by the variety of clothes that expressed the different economic capacity of their families.

Reading, counting, sewing, reeling, embroidering, and bobbin lace making were still the objectives of the training of the girls at the end of the 19th century in many schools. A photograph from 1898 of the high school of the Sisters of Santa Ana de Fitero with all the schoolgirls, the older ones in the upper area with frames of different models and worlds, while in the lower rows they appear reeling, reading, counting and in an attitude of learning the rest of the formative tasks, is a good example of this.

Learning had its complement in the tasks and duties that were carried out at home, sometimes with financial aid of the parents. Nicolás Esparza, mentioned above, in his facet of acute portraitist signature a canvas in 1896 with the topic of a mother who financial aid her daughter in reading, treated with great naturalness and with the characteristics of a photographic snapshot.