Publicador de contenidos

Back to 2017-06-16-opinion-FYL-carpinteros-y-herreros

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

Works and days in Navarrese art (6). Carpenters and blacksmiths

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 16:41:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

These two professions were widely present in towns and cities, due to the need to make tools and furniture, repair them and to shoe farm animals. In this regard, we must consider that both trades were of importance in constructions of all kinds subject, not only in large churches and palaces, but also in domestic architecture itself, and the making and repairing of agricultural tools required both trades on a daily basis.


A gothic example: in Pamplona Cathedral 

A carpentry workshop is included in one of the capitals of the Gothic cloister of the cathedral of Pamplona, specifically in the one that narrates the construction of Noah's ark (Gen. 6, 22), in the eastern bay, belonging to the first construction phase that coincides with the activity of master Miguel, mentioned in a document of 1286. Professor Fernández-Ladreda has pointed out its naturalistic and meticulous character, with diverse tools that copy real models and that, in the end, is a sample of the familiarity of the artisans with all those and at the same time a reproduction of a carpentry workshop of the time, similar to the one that intervened in the construction of the cathedral cloister itself.

As is well known, different groups of craftsmen worked on site in medieval constructions. Among the latter were the carpenters, who were in charge of making all the tools that were made from wood, the construction of ladders, pulleys and cranes, wheelbarrows, scaffolding and falsework. Together with stonemasons, and to a lesser extent, blacksmiths and rope makers made up the large groups of work in the construction of buildings and monumental sculptures.


At the San José workshop

Nothing better to reconstruct a carpentry of the centuries of the Ancient Regime than to look at some seiscentistas canvases of the Navarrese patrimony. In them is reflected in images what writers and theologians affirmed about the profession of the saint, singularly Father Jerónimo Gracián de la Madre de Dios, confessor of Santa Teresa and author of the Sumario y Excelencias del Glorioso San José (1597), reedited in numerous occasions, with the degree scroll of La Josephina, that happens to be one of the most important instruments in the devotional impulse towards the Holy Patriarch. The princely edition was dedicated to the carpenters of the Eternal City. In one of its chapters he deals with the saint's official document , concluding that there were more reasons in favor of his profession as a carpenter than as a blacksmith, arguing that the blacksmith's official document was dirty and noisy and did not fit in with the cleanliness of the Nazareth home, and that when he had to move to work from one place to another, it was easy to carry his tools, the saw on his shoulder, the adze on the belt and a plane, compass and chisel in his foulard.

The same Father Gracián says that Saint Joseph practiced other mechanical arts, although he was dedicated to the arts of wood, having carried out different works of many other specialties, such as living works (waterwheels, plows and carts) and dead (tables, benches ... etc.), of raw work or carving, and even the traces or models, tasks typical of the old carpenters. In dealing with this last aspect, he makes a parallelism with the work of the Redemption and the role of the Holy Patriarch in it, explaining the function of the outstanding carpenter and his intervention in the plans of the buildings, at a time when in Spain the word architect is used, in reference letter to the one who designs polychrome wooden altarpieces. Thus writes Father Gracián: "A great master who wants to build a sumptuous palace usually chooses officers to help him, laborers to serve, and look for the materials suitable for the factory; but first he puts his hand to the work, neither orders nor commands the officers who are to work, he looks for an old and experienced carpenter and discusses with him the building he intends to make. And the two alone draw the plan, make the design, make the model and , after all foreseen, pointed and agreed, they put their hands to the work".

An important group of carpenters' guilds is documented throughout the region from medieval times to the 18th century: Pamplona, Tudela, Estella, Sangüesa, Corella, Cascante and Corella, among others. Saint Joseph was their patron saint in almost all cases. Eduardo Morales Solchaga has studied them in various works. Along with these professional associations, other confraternities of a markedly devotional nature were also founded, among which those of Pamplona and Tudela stand out, all of them in the 18th century. In that context we are going to place some paintings located along the foral geography, in which the carpentry workshop is reproduced in detail or the activity of the saint as a virtuous and hard-working carpenter.


All the carpenter's tools in a Puente la Reina altarpiece

The netting of the altarpiece of San José de las Comendadoras de Sancti Spiritus de Puente la Reina presents the most complete example of all the tools of a carpenter's shop, with the finesse of a master who carved very well in the Rococo period. The piece was contracted along with three other altarpieces for the same church, in 1768, by Nicolás Pejón "a sculptor, carver and architect by profession". The gilding of all of them was the work of Juan José del Rey. On the bench of the altarpiece are the following motifs, perfectly carved in their net: files, axe, hammer, saw, chisel, gouge, compass, mallet, tongs, square, ruler, sergeant and bench of the official document. This is something exceptional in a Navarrese altarpiece.


Images of the workshop: preponderance of paintings

In the cathedral of Pamplona, a delicate landscape format canvas with the topic of the Nazareth Workshop sample shows us the carpenter's workshop where St. Joseph works busily, together with the Virgin busy with her sewing work and the Child who collects the shavings with an angel. What is most striking about the painting is the large issue of tools represented, as well as their arrangement by size within their typologies, highlighting the saws, claws, adzes, files and chisels. The basilica of the Christ of the Waters of Allo keeps another canvas with the same topic of the financial aid of the Child in the workshop, well recreated with the carpenter's bench and diverse tools. St. Joseph with an adze roughs out a piece of wood and the tools once again play a leading role. In this case, the Child is financial aid of a broom and a bucket to pick up. With the same topic paintings are kept in the Poor Clares of Olite in the first half of the seventeenth century and the parish of San Cernin in Pamplona, the latter dating from 1687 and with a very homely atmosphere that incorporates a fireplace, glass doormats and various dishes. In the castle of Javier another painting of higher quality, from the second half of the seventeenth century also recreates the workshop of the saint, as in Tudela in the painting of Vicente Berdusán of 1671. In most of these canvases the attitude of the Virgin, occupied in her labors, responds to the Gospel text of St. Luke, which states that Mary was attentively observing what was happening to her son, from agreement with the prophecy of the old man Simeon.

Finally, we must highlight a painting from the middle of the 17th century, preserved in the monastery of Leire, in this case without the presence of the Virgin and with an iconographic interest B because it must be read in the light of some texts of the time that present the Child picking up splinters and joining two of them in the form of a cross. In this there is a parallelism with some texts of pious visions. Specifically in the work of the Valencian comedian Guillén de Castro The Best Husband, composed between 1618 and 1625, there is a moment in the third workshop in which St. Joseph dismisses his officers and is left alone in the carpenter's workshop with the young Jesus. While sawing and planing one of the felling to make a door, two small splinters happen to cross and form a cross, and seeing the timbers thus, Jesus quickly takes them up reciting some allusive verses, which read thus: "How well they look like this / how much I rejoice in hair / For by my divine being / so important they will be / that in this form in which they are / gates of heaven they are to be / through my pious blood / for me on them shed / Blessed cross, my spouse, / for on that blissful day / you will be my royal throne / and the immortal Chair / where I suffer, / of my love I will read / the heavenly doctrine." In another seventeenth-century canvas of the Carmelites of St. Joseph of Pamplona with the topic of the house of Nazareth in which the Virgin is busy in her sewing work and St. Joseph at the carpenter's bench, the Child Jesus has taken a couple of splinters composing a cross that sample to San Juanito.

The workshop scene is less frequent in sculpture, highlighting the relief of one of the collaterals of the parish of Ezcároz, from the mid-seventeenth century.


A pair of blacksmiths from the Sangüesa gateway: the legend and the official document

Blacksmiths, like carpenters, played a prominent role in the buildings. They were in charge of manufacturing, tempering and repairing tools made of iron, horseshoes for pack animals, staples and wedges, as well as other pieces of the same metal used in more complex machines.

The doorway of Santa María de Sangüesa sample shows a pair of blacksmiths. The two work on the anvil, and the best known is the one traditionally identified with the blacksmith Regin from the Norse legend of the Ring of the Nibelungs, although other authors point out that it is merely a representation of the artisan official document , according to Clara Fernández-Ladreda in her study.


Blacksmiths in Sangüesa and Corella under the sponsorship of San Eloy.

Saint Eloy, patron of blacksmiths, silversmiths, locksmiths and other trades related to metals in Europe had several guild associations under his patronage in Navarra, even part of his relics were preserved in the town of Mendívil in Navarra and some shoemakers also invoked him as their patron in the brotherhood that was based in the parish of San Nicolas in the capital of Navarra.

In Sangüesa, the brotherhood of San Eloy, apparently originally only of silversmiths, incorporated, according to Juan Cruz Labeaga, blacksmiths and locksmiths from the end of the 16th century. In the report of confraternities of 1771 some data are detailed. According to these, the first ordinances of 1535 were reformed in 1628 to include blacksmiths, coppersmiths and journeymen who work with fire and hammer. The reliquary bust of the saint holding a hammer and another hammering instrument in his hands, like a chisel, should be dated immediately to the date of the constitution of 1535.

The parish of San Miguel de Corella keeps a canvas of San Eloy, made around 1670 and attributed to Francisco Crespo, a disciple of Vicente Berdusán, with whom he learned his official document between 1657 and 1662. It comes from the convent of La Merced, where his brotherhood was located, which grouped blacksmiths and coppersmiths in Corella since the seventeenth century and celebrated its feast day on June 25 of each year. Next to the episcopal image of the saint, in a landscape with trees and architecture, there is a forge, an anvil, a horse prepared for shoeing and other objects that allude to the saint's profession as a blacksmith, which, according to legend, he would have practiced before dedicating himself to silversmithing. Next to all these tools and the forge is a facade of a typically conventual church that possibly alludes to the famous chapels of San Eloy, to which the faithful went with their horses on the day of the saint, precisely on a feast in which those animals were exempted from their ordinary work .