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

The works and the days in Navarrese art (17). The image of the donor: from the representation to the great portrait

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 16:03:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Pierre Francastel in his monograph on the portrait has written: "the offering of an object of sanctity seemed to give the donor the right to remember by means of his image the benefit that resulted for the cause of faith". In the development of this idea lies the presence of figures of popes, emperors, kings, bishops and nobles for having financed different works in the temples or their liturgical trousseau.


The first examples in the 11th century

Although it is true that the representations of Navarrese sovereigns begin with the portraits of Sancho II Abarca and Urraca in the Vigilano (976) and Emilianense (992) codices, the donor subject with great echo throughout Europe will begin in the Romanesque period with the kings García el de Nájera and Estefanía in the document of endowment of Santa María la Real de Nájera of 1064 and Sancho Garcés IV el de Peñalén and the queen Placencia, kneeling, together with those of all those who, in one way or another, contributed to the creation of the reliquary-chest of San Millán de la Cogolla (1053-1067). These pieces and the exceptional nature of the chest constitute an example A of collective promotion in the European Romanesque, as it also includes the craftsmen and artists who executed the piece and the merchant who provided the material.


Flowering in gothic period

The figure of the donor multiplied in the leave Age average, especially in 15th century paintings, almost always with the principle of representation that had been applied for centuries. As in other works of painting from the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, and as Professor Yarza recalls when studying medieval portraiture, the figures of the donors appear from profile, in small size, in a secondary place, with scarcely individual features, with the idea of subordination, kneeling and praying, for reasons of representation and desires for fame and prestige. The intention was not so much to individualize the figure, but to signify their role in the context of the work they sponsored. This panorama did not change in the Hispanic kingdoms until well into the 15th century. The interest lay in what they meant, not in what they were like.

In the middle of the 14th century, on the Gothic portal of Ujué, next to the Epiphany of the tympanum, we find a kneeling male personage, whom Rosa Alcoy has identified with Don Luis de Beaumont, lieutenant of the kingdom in the absences of Carlos II, based on the existing relations between the Epiphany of the tympanum and that of the Book of Hours of his mother Juana II of Navarre.

From 1394 dates the relief of the cathedral of Pamplona with the image of the Virgin and three canons kneeling, representing the chapter with the following registration: "Cabildo de la catedral de Pamplona. Year of MCCCXCIIII". It is a testimony of the laying of the first stone of the Gothic temple that would not be completed until 1501.

In the altarpiece of Santa Catalina in the cathedral of Tudela, a work belonging to the International Gothic period and datable to around 1400, there is a member of the clergy at the feet of the patron, which we have to identify with the donor, possibly Don Gutierre de Aguilar, who made his testament some years earlier, in 1382.

In the first decade of the 15th century we date two altarpieces from Estella, with which the international Gothic style began in Navarre, the one of Saints Nicasio and Sebastián (1402) and the one of the Holy Cross or Santa Elena (1406), commissioned by the master of the royal masonry works, Martín Périz de Estella or de Eulate for his chapel in the parish of San Miguel de Estella. In the first of these, today in the National Archaeological Museum, the couple Martín Pérez de Eulate and his wife Toda (Sánchez de Yarza) appear, one below each titular saint. In the one of Santa Elena, attributed by Carmen Lacarra to the circle of Juan de Leví and possibly to Pedro Rubert, the kneeling donors flank the patron saint in a prayerful attitude; to the right of the saint, the place of preference according to the protocol of the time, is Don Martín Périz de Eulate with his two sons, and to his left, Doña Toda Sánchez de Yarza with her daughter, all richly and elegantly dressed in the fashion of the time, as a sign and confirmation of their high social status.

Within the highest royal circle, the chancellor Don Francés de Villaespesa and his wife Doña Isabel de Ujué in their funerary chapel in the cathedral of Tudela appear not only in the tomb attending mass before the arma Christi accompanied by their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren in splendid vestments, but also as donors on the main panel of the chapel's altarpiece, dedicated to the Virgin of Hope and painted by Bonanat Zaortiga in 1412.

The relief of the tomb of the notary Enequo Pinel is dated 1432, in San Pedro de Olite, a work from the workshop of Jehan de Lome and closely linked to models from Tournai, as Clara Fernández-Ladreda points out. Under the protection of a triandric Trinity we find Pinel and his wife accompanied by their sons and daughters, six in total, who are presented by Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine. It should be noted that the characters no longer appear with the conventions of small size as in the pictorial examples of the time.

The Barillas altarpiece, attributed by A. Aceldegui to the Aragonese painter Nicolás Zaortiga, dates from the end of the 15th century. In its main panel, under the figure of San Miguel and in a praying attitude and on a smaller scale, according to the prevailing conventions in the painting of the time, are the lord of Barillas and his wife. The text of the phylacteries that accompany their figures, alluding to God's mercy, places the work in a funerary context, as C. Lacarra points out.


The 16th century

Throughout the Renaissance century, the representations of the donors in the first decades of the century will follow the customs of the previous century, as evidenced by the portraits of the Caparroso family in the altarpiece of Santo Tomás in the cathedral of Pamplona, paid for in 1507 by Pedro Marcilla de Caparroso, belonging to a wealthy merchant family and royal advisor. The latter, together with his son Antón and his wife with their daughter, accompanied by phylacteries, appear praying in the lower part of the dust cover, all richly dressed as befits their social position, highlighting the women's headdresses, their jewels and rosaries.

With the same conventionalism of size, a Renaissance panel is preserved in the sacristy of the Holy Spirit in the cathedral of Tudela, presiding over the altarpiece of St. Joseph. At the feet of the saint, a pair of unidentified donors give the panel its interest. The male character seems to be a civil servant and carries a book bound in green, which by its size resembles a breviary.

In the same way, the donor was represented at the feet of the Virgin and Child, in the mural altarpiece of Endériz from the middle of the 16th century. In some Renaissance crucifixes, such as that of Aramendía (1559), the kneeling donor appears, an ecclesiastic with realistic features on his face. In the Wayside Cross of Saragüeta the figure kneeling at the foot of the cross has lost the head and it is possible that it was either the donor or the Magdalena. The Allo copy belongs to the end of the 16th century. Its donor, in ecclesiastical costume, is identified with Don Martín López Royo, archpriest of La Solana and beneficiary of Allo.

The definitive withdrawal of the donor in small size and subordinate would be confirmed as a trend with the advance of the century and can be seen in the portrait of an abbot of Fitero, possibly Alvarez de Solis, in the altarpiece of the Assumption of the monastery, where his figure is equated to that of the apostles and even enlarged a little to be more visible. These were the times of the reign of Philip II, in which the portrait as a genre, loaded with works and contents, had made its place in the panorama of Spanish painting. The portrait of Don Luis Enríquez Cervantes de Navarra, prior of Berlanga, of the altarpiece of the Assumption and the Victory of Cascante, work of a good painter follower of Rolan Mois, belongs to the final years of the XVI century.


The centuries of the Baroque: towards the portrait in the field, but outside of the work

The aversion to portraiture from the early days of Christianity continued to be present among some ecclesiastics, although others forgot that modesty. In general, the figures of the donors -at large size- left the altarpieces to occupy chapels and places in convents and buildings paid for by them or from board of trustees. To the XVII and XVIII centuries belong true portraits of half or full body, in which the baroque rhetoric can be seen in all its splendor.

Among the portraits that are still in the altarpiece or painting but at the same size as the sacred personages, we will mention that of the abbot Corral y Guzmán of the monastery of Fitero, the lords of Ablitas in the main altarpiece of their parish church and that of an illustrious Tudelano who made degree program in New Spain. In the first case, Don Plácido del Corral y Guzmán, brother of the president of the Chancillería de Valladolid and last perpetual abbot of the monastery, kneels contemplating the descent of Christ into limbo, on the bench of the altarpiece of the Christ of the guide that he himself paid for in 1637 and that Jerónimo de Estaragán was in charge of. Wrapped in the ample Cistercian cogulla he is in a prayerful attitude, with a crosier between his arms and the mitre on a buffet that speak of his quasi-bishop's jurisdiction. In Ablitas, their lords Don Gaspar Enríquez de Lacarra and his wife, maintained a long lawsuit with the parishioners for the placement of the family heraldic coats of arms, first in the court of the deanery of Tudela and later, in Degree of appeal, in the court of the bishopric of Pamplona. In the attic, a painting sample shows the aforementioned Don Gaspar and his wife kneeling before the Ecce Homo with other family members. He wears a military costume and a coat with his weapons and she wears an ostentatious "guardainfantes" and a "golilla" collar, a piece that had been generalized for men since 1624, but that took a long time in the case of women, who continued using the "lechuguilla". It is a painting made by José de Fuentes, from the Tudela workshop, in 1657.

A final example of the donor's insertion in the painting is that of the Inmaculada signed by Juan Correa in 1701. It is the bust of Don Pedro Ramírez de Arellano López y Aperregui, appointed captain of horses and governor of Xicayán in New Spain in the aforementioned year. His attire, especially his coat, cuffs and ruff, with rich lace and embroidery, shows his high social position.

The rest of the portraits intimately related to their patronage or the works they had financed, or both, are more extensive, as we have pointed out. The first great example is that of the Marquises of Montejaso who preside over the interior of the convent of the Recoletas of Pamplona, in the hallway behind the main door, as its founders and patrons. These works are dated 1617 and were made by Juan Rizi. In the same capacity as founders, patrons and patrons of the convent of the Poor Clares of Arizcun, in plenary session of the Executive Council 18th century, Don Juan Bautista Iturralde and Doña Manuela Munárriz, painted by the Corellan and academic Ruiz, historically occupied a prominent place inside the convent, next to the staircase.

The portrait of the Bishop of Michoacán Martín de Castorena y Ursúa (1751) occupies one side of the presbytery of the church of Azpilcueta, after he paid for its works between 1752 and 1754 and later collaborated in the realization of the superb sculptures by Luis Salvador Carmona that preside over its altarpieces. In the sacristy of the beneficiaries of the cathedral of Pamplona (1744-47) hangs since it was built the portrait of his generous patron, the archdeacon from Roncal, Pascual Beltrán de Gayarre, who also paid for the cathedral organ (1740-42) and secured the relics of several bodies of saints that he brought from Rome to the cathedral of the capital of Navarre in 1729.

For the same reasons of having financed the chapel of the Virgen de las Nieves, the puentesino Don Miguel Francisco Gambarte, became position of the decoration of the chapel of the Nieves in the parish of San Pedro. Gambarte was a native of Puente la Reina and made degree program in New Spain as a successful merchant, although he died broke. His charitable and artistic gifts were numerous, the latter including three canvases of the anthropomorphic Trinity preserved in his native town and in the Poor Clares of Estella. The portrait is a Novo-Hispanic work made in the middle of the 18th century. It is the only one of a non-ecclesiastic person found in a sacred environment, not only of Indianos, but also of other members of the nobility. In final, a donor, outside the altarpiece or painting is a very striking fact to consider not only on the part of the man 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 that consented to it, without any problem. The fact that he appears praying gives the idea that the painting was made for this purpose and for its current location.

It is striking that, in those same moments of the 18th century, while the cases we have pointed out left their painted image as a speaking element of the one who had made possible a certain project, others opted to place their arms, and the least for anonymity, as did the archdeacon of the Chamber of the Cathedral of Pamplona Don Pedro Fermín de Jáuregui, who paid for the furniture and decoration of the rococo sacristy and had a registration placed that still reads: Sumptibus cuiusdam devoti (at the expense of an anonymous devotee).