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

Heritage and identity (5) The royal hall of the palace of Navarre: mirror of the report

Fri, 23 Nov 2018 09:56:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The Palacio de Diputación (1840-1856) was erected after the change of Navarre from a kingdom to a province when, by virtue of the Ley Paccionada, numerous singularities rooted in its historical past were preserved. The decoration and furnishing of the royal or throne room (1860-1865) recalled all this on the occasion of Queen Isabella II's trip to Pamplona, which, by the way, did not take place. Its complex program was explained by the manager of the project, Maximiano Hijón, to Julio Nombela in 1866 and was popularized through small guides published at least in 1887 and 1899.

We are not going to dwell on the artists, nor on the details of project, studied by J. del Burgo and J. J. Martinena, nor on evaluation in the Spain of the time, as highlighted by S. Muniain, but on the message of the whole, which always goes beyond certain identifications or a specific aesthetic.

"So magnificent does this hall appear ... that everything else in the palace appears poor."

With this appreciation related to dignity and grandeur, Mariano Arigita culminates the description of the palace in his guide del Viajero en Pamplona (1904). The Aristotelian concept of magnificence indicated that the work should be worthy of the expense and the expense of the work "and even exceed it", which was justifiable if it was destined for the gods, the public interest or the image of the nobleman. It is logical that evaluation, since the room was dressed with pieces from different origins (Madrid, Barcelona, Paris ... etc), with mirrors, furniture, sculptures and paintings, forming, like other European spaces, an interior dominated by wealth and ostentation. The same had been done in such ensembles as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, directed by Jules-Hardouin Mansart, or the Salon de Reinos del Buen Retiro in Madrid, whose program involved, in the opinion of Professor R. L. Kagan, Juan de Palafox and Francisco de Rioja, librarian and confidant of Olivares.

The hall is of great opulence and, as in works of its type, the different arts were particularly sacrificed in order to create something unitary. Nombela in his Crónica de la Provincia de Navarra (1868) judged the ensemble as "charming" and Madrazo (1886), highlighted Hijón's skill for having "found intelligent craftsmen who faithfully interpreted his idea in the execution of the delicate ornamentation of all its parts".

Professor Reyero, in his monograph on the Historical Image of Spain, believes that the writings of José Yanguas y Miranda, historian and secretary of the Diputación in the middle years of the 19th century, inspired the iconographic program of the salon. Although Yanguas was already very old and died without seeing the salon completed, in 1863, his publications served as textual source for some artists, as well as some passages from the Annals of Moret. The documentation also indicates the participation as advisor of Pablo Ilarregui, secretary of the Pamplona City Council and member of the Monuments Commission. It is possible that Segundo Lapuerta, deputy secretary of the Diputación who, together with Ilarregui, prepared the edition of the regional law General in 1869, was also involved. In addition, some painters traveled to Navarre to get to know the places to be represented. As for the artists, the manager of the project, Maximiano Hijón, was able to find and count on an outstanding cast of artists. For the paintings he counted on Constancio López Corona, director of the Academy of Fine Arts of Orense; Joaquín Espalter, honorary chamber painter to the king; Francisco Aznar, a ten-year pensioner in Rome; Alejandro Ferrant, of the Royal Academy of San Fernando; and Francisco Mendoza, professor of the latter and chamber painter to the king.

The 1861 plans of the complex are signed by Hijón and the brothers Aniceto and Casildo Lagarde, well known for the works of I. Urricelqui and E. Morales. It should be noted that the history paintings and portraits of the kings appear in these designs, but they must have been added after their execution and will never date from 1861, since this would imply that the creators of the compositions would be Hijón and the Lagarde brothers and not the painters.

A reading in several registers

As in the great sets of institutional and monarchical exaltation, the speech is multiple. In all of them were present the virtus, the historical narrative as justification, the portraits of monarchs and great men and, naturally, the heraldic emblems of the territories. Two centuries earlier, the Salón de Reinos del Buen Retiro had been decorated with a program based on allegory, analogy with the works of Hercules, dynastic continuity with royal portraits, emblems with the heraldry of the kingdoms and narration with the victories of the armies.

In our case it is necessary to distinguish the ground plane with a solemn space, Pass for ceremonies and protocol, presided by the podium-trono-dosel with the chains of the Navas de Tolosa, destined to the exaltation of the reigning monarch that, from 1954, counts on the copy of the Navas banner. An upper or transcendent plane is centered on the cover of the room with the allegory of Navarre, accompanied by virtues, which is intended to show the perennial ideals of openness, knowledge, work, tradition, virtue and privileges above specific historical contexts. In an intermediate register we find the coats of arms of towns and cities, the painted portraits of the kings and their great deeds, as well as the busts of great men who contributed decisively to the identity, conservation and glorification of the Kingdom.

The transcendent at the top: Navarre and virtues

As might be expected, the image of Navarre, which has been a reality since the average Age and with its essences preserved in different historical contexts, is the protagonist of the upper level of the hall, having been chosen for its personification in the form of a careful allegory, surrounded by the four cardinal virtues, which always offer models of conduct for the common good, both to citizens and to rulers. The painter who became position of the allegories was Martín Miguel Azparren (1860).

The studied allegory of Navarre, in the form of a crowned and seated matron, rests on the coat of arms of the chains, and carries some palms, a laurel wreath and a cartouche with the registration "FUEROS", as a justification of the pacifist regime. Some details offer us reading clues from the codification of allegories by Cesare Ripa (1593), in his Iconology, a work republished on numerous occasions and intended for writers and artists to characterize "virtues, vices, affections and human passions". The matron appears seated, being the proper position of magistrates and princes, "showing tranquility of mind and calm". The royal crown obviously alludes to territoriality and the Old Kingdom. The palm is a symbol of victory, vigor and strength, since it does not break under the weight or difficulties. The laurel wreath evokes the victors, the truth that always triumphs and perseverance, because of its evergreen leaves. Many of the elements that are represented were always present in programs of exaltation staff or institutional and are linked to abundance, agriculture, industry, war victories and progress, visible in the factories with their tall chimneys and the railroad that arrives between the arcades of the aqueduct of Noain. The cornucopia with fruits and the bundle of cereals were the secular attributes of abundance, contrary to the abominable scarcity. Allusions to the olive tree and the vine could not be missing, the latter signified with barrels, an amphora and a vine with grapes, which speak of its importance in the Navarrese Economics since centuries ago. Finally, the temple of wisdom, the same one that accompanied, among others, the allegories of Europe, also has its place in the symbolic composition.

Justice and prudence, typical of good government and also present on the façade of the Pamplona City Hall, together with temperance and fortitude, appear with their traditional attributes. Justice is accompanied by the scales (weighs the good and the bad) and the sword (executes) and wears a cloak with ermine laces, related to purity of intention. Prudence reminds us that we must act appropriately, proportionately and with caution, respecting feelings and liberties. It carries a mirror, referring to knowledge itself and the truth, and a snake, which recreates the text of St. Matthew in which he recommends to be prudent as serpents and humble as doves. The preservation of monarchies was attributed to prudence and justice.

Fortitude, considered as the crown of the other virtues, is accompanied by the column, the mace of Hercules and a lion that recalls courage, strength and Fortitudo in the sense of bravery. Finally, temperance carries a brake and an hourglass, the first as a symbol of moderation and balance is very frequent, while the second takes us back to the whole of the allegory of good government of Lorenzetti in the Palazzo di Siena (1337-1340).

Heraldic emblems

Heraldry, as a visual and preeminent element in the great ensembles, has been a constant for centuries. Let us remember the role it plays in the refectory of the cathedral of Pamplona (1335) with the family emblems of the great lineages and the good villas with seat in Cortes; or in the Hall of Kingdoms of the Buen Retiro (1634-1635) with the coats of arms of the kingdoms of the Hispanic monarchy. In the throne room of Navarre, the coats of arms were chosen, classified in three categories: the cities, all the towns with seats in the old Cortes of Navarre and those that in the context of the third quarter of the 19th century, were judged to be of singular importance for demographic, economic or historical reasons. In final, different territories and lands united by the bond of institutions and a king. Half a century ago, the three arms of the Cortes of Navarre, which no longer existed, would have occupied that place.

History painting, portraits of kings and busts of famous people

Another level of reading is made up of all those facts and men who made Navarre possible in its geographical, political and institutional conformation and for this nothing better than to turn to the support of some transcendental facts and the portraits of kings and the great men who shone in history, law or arms.

Since the 17th century, history painting was considered the pictorial genre par excellence, in line with the writings of the Frenchman Le Félibien (1617-1695), who argued that art should not only please the eye but also elevate the spirit with serious subjects that would instruct the viewer. The painter should try to make the characters look historically plausible and convincing and thus fulfill his pedagogical function. History painting was considered the most difficult, since it required from its manager not only portraitist or landscape painter skills, but also intellectual capacity, culture and historical sense. The 19th century was, par excellence, the high point of the genre in Spain, favored by commissions from numerous institutions.

The images of the historical narration of Navarre and portraits of the Navarrese monarchs, protagonists of the eighteenth-century editions of the Annals, once again took center stage in the royal hall. The passages represented were the invention of the relics of San Fermín, the rise on the pavés of the first monarch of Pamplona, the battles of Olast, Roncesvalles and Navas de Tolosa, the testament of Sancho el Mayor, the payment of tribute by the Muslim kings, the liberation of Carlos II el Malo from the prison of Ailleux, the privilege of the Union and a session of the ancient Cortes. Its reading final takes us beyond the concrete themes and thus we have to interpret with them the importance of faith (San Fermín), the origin and identity of the Pamplona monarchy and its crowning moment (the king on the pavés and the inheritance of Sancho el Mayor), the bravery and courage of men and women (battles), good government (Privilege of the Union), the loyalty of the vassals (liberation of the king) and their own institutions (Cortes of Navarre). A whole program of exaltation of the past through carefully chosen passages.

If the facts and deeds were important, no less reason for remembrance and vehemence deserved the kings of the medieval period, with their own dynasties that had embodied and given continuity to a kingdom with a marked and differentiated personality. The gallery of kings, either in ceremonial costume with mantles, scepters and crowns, or as warriors, fulfilled what had been understood for centuries as a guarantee of continuity.

Finally, the great men who had excelled in administration, sanctity, exemplarity, law or the arts, also have their place in the form of busts, in relation to the attributes of all these qualities that are also represented. In this case, the chronology covers the centuries of the Ancient Regime and combines old and new models of sanctity (Saint Fermín and Saint Francisco Javier), exemplarity (Bishop Joaquín Javier Úriz with his charity project ), the defense of the kingdom (Marshal Pedro de Navarra), artists (Martín Pérez de Estella and Miguel de Anchieta), historians (Príncipe de Viana and P. Moret), and jurisconsults (Cardinal Zalba and Doctor Navarro). Their presence was a reminder that Navarre had been a composite or corporate body, in which the king was the heart and the head, and the vassals who defended, preserved and maintained it.

At final, the royal hall of the foral palace contains a set of images that, with all their visual power, transmit to those who contemplate them messages and reflections on the reality, uniqueness and transcendence of a territory with its own history and law, forged over centuries thanks to institutions and prominent figures, in a context of adaptation to the evolution of the convulsive Spain of the second half of the nineteenth century.