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

Jobs and days in Navarrese art (7). Other images of trades and professions

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 11:16:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

The urban character of cities from the leave Age average was defined by the presence of merchants and craftsmen. The latter constituted a stable and active social group whose purpose was to create merchandise, demand raw materials and consume the products of provisioning. With the passage of time, those who worked in the same official document grouped into guilds to defend their interests, with the exclusivity of production and teaching of the profession.

Such an active and sedentary element, as the one constituted by craftsmen and other professions, left its mark in numerous artistic works of different character and with diverse purposes, from the altarpiece of a guild dedicated to its patron saint, where we can contemplate how they worked in a certain field, to a cover or a painting where craftsmen are represented with other didactic and indoctrination purposes.

In the 19th century, with the popularization of the nativity scene in Spain, the different trades of pre-industrial society found a collective setting in which to be present. Shoemakers, millers, carpenters, stockbreeders, hunters, blacksmiths, bakers, potters or butchers would be captured in Granada and Murcia, acquiring a special prominence in the atmosphere of authentic festive microcosm in which the birth of Christ takes place. At the same time, some photographers and painters would also leave their particular vision of some of those professions.


The interpretation of some sets

The façade of Santa María de Sangüesa and the one of the Judgment of the cathedral of Tudela, as well as a set of corbels of the church of the Magdalena in the latter city offer some good sets of representations of different trades in different contexts and with different readings. The presence of the devil in the corbels of the Magdalena together with a stonemason, a shoemaker, a seamstress and other trades suggests that the work was linked to the triumph of Satan, as a consequence of the original sin, obeying a negative interpretation of the works present there. On the other hand, the representations in the door of the Judgment of the cathedral of Tudela of certain sins in shopkeepers or money changers obeys more to the condemnation of the bad internship in those activities that to the same ones properly said.

Socially, many trades dragged in the people who practiced them a very negative social consideration. This explains, in part, the scarce representations in the figurative arts. It was necessary to wait for a Royal Decree of 1783 declaring tanners, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths and carpenters as "honorable trades", stating that their practice did not "debase the family or the persons of the person who practiced them, nor disqualify them from obtaining the municipal jobs of the republic in which the artisans or artisans who practiced them were engaged".


Shoemakers and espadrille makers

We have a good issue of images of shoemakers from the Romanesque to the Baroque period. To the master Esteban is attributed a high relief that is conserved in the Museum of Navarre and comes from the cathedral of Pamplona and is dated between 1101-1127. In the Romanesque doorway of Santa María de Sangüesa, from the second half of the 12th century, we find the figure of the shoemaker repeated in two images, in two moments of the making of a shoe.

The parish of Lumbier conserves the relief that must have presided over the altarpiece of the shoemakers, dedicated to San Crispín and San Crispiniano. Its date runs parallel to that of the establishment and approval of the guild in the town, in 1628 and 1629 respectively, something that fits perfectly with its late-Romanesque aesthetic, with incipient features of realism in its figures. Other altarpieces dedicated to the saints Crispín and Crispiniano do not focus on the scene of the making of shoes, but rather gloss their martyrdom, as occurs in the one in the parish of San Miguel de Estella (1602), although among the attributes they usually wear there is always a shoe or a boot.

In Pamplona, the brotherhood of shoemakers, known as maestros de obra prima, had several ordinances and was under the patronage of San Eloy, who was worshipped in San Nicolás and San Crispín and San Crispiniano, venerated in San Lorenzo. issue Although in 1757 the ordinances had to be reformed to restrict the entrance in the confraternity due to the excessive number of shoe stores in the city, the social consideration of its members was very pejorative.

There were localities where the manufacture of another more humble subject footwear, the espadrilles, was in the past fundamental in its Economics. In a 1799 report of Fitero, preserved in the Royal Academy of History, we read: "the guild of espadrilles is more thriving. It consumes more than 6 or 7000 arrobas of hemp per year in its manufacture, with which more than 210,000 pairs of espadrilles are made, of which, after supplying the town (which currently uses this footwear) they take the rest to Pamplona, Tudela, Estella and other towns and even to the border towns of France. This guild maintains this guild in the various operations of its official document as 260 or 280 people". A little less than a century ago Florentino Andueza collected in some drawings of the Fitero espadrille makers working on their wooden benches, showing a good capture of them, in their postures and actions with their hands when shaping and sewing the espadrilles.



The bakers and bakers venerated San Fermín in Pamplona, as patron and protector, as happened in France, in tune with a legendary story that the family of the saint owned the main bakery in the Pamplona of his time. In this regard, I have collected a song from Fitero, whose lyrics read: "San Fermín is in Pamplona with a loaf of bread under his arm and the school children eat it to pieces". I do not know if the image of the saint that the bakers venerated could have bread as a special attribute. In 1602 the bakers and bakers of Pamplona numbered 13 and 47, respectively. In 1619 they wrote their ordinances in which the cults dedicated by the mentioned official document to the saint are collected.

The most important representation of the baker's official document appears in the door of the Judgment of the cathedral of Tudela. In the part of the condemned we find a demon holding a baker who manipulates the bread dough, among flames. At a time when bread was a staple food, its price and handling was monitored and controlled by the authorities to prevent deception in weight, quality and price. Precisely, the representation of the voussoir alludes to the speculative and fraudulent practices of some unscrupulous bakers, which made them deserving of the infernal fire.

In Navarre there are delicate polychrome clay figures from the 19th and 20th centuries, representing bread ovens, bakers and bakers' ladies, as well as women with their board on their heads containing freshly baked bread.


Butchers and drapers

The doorway of Santa María de Sangüesa, a work from the last third of the 12th century, shows three people preparing to slaughter a pig, a goat and a rabbit. In the one of the Judgment of Tudela the bad praxis of the butcher, deceiving in the weight and perhaps in the own kind of meat, is protagonist of one of its voussoirs where as in the case of the money changers he realizes the sin of the avarice, trying to obtain illicit gains. The butcher puts his hand on the scales, tilting it in his favor, and the meat he sells could be that of the dog next to him. In this way, merchants who manipulate quality and weight, as well as lying and perjury, in order to obtain higher profits than they should, are censured. This is justified by the nearby representation of the punishment of the butchers, in which two characters with large knives introduce their hands into the mouth of an infernal being, which, as B. Mariño has identified, serves as the Bocca della Verità that, like the one in Rome, closes over the hand of the perjurers.

In one of the keys of the mensario of the cathedral cloister of Pamplona, corresponding to the month of November, we find again the slaughter of the pig, at position of a man who is about to hit the animal with the back of an axe, in the same way as in Sangüesa.

In the cover of the Judgment of the cathedral of Tudela and with the same motif as in the butchers, to represent the greedy, we recognize some drapers falsifying the measure, and little further their punishment, since they are forced to carry a heavy bundle while a devil measures them on their backs with a rod.

Of the evolution of the guild of cutters or butchers in Pamplona, whose patron saint was the Virgin of the Rosary in the 16th century and later San Fermín, the books preserved in San Saturnino de Pamplona from 1582 to 1847 give a good account. The cults were held in the different parishes of the city.



Money changers and bankers could not be missing in several voussoirs of the same Tudela door to express the capital sin of greed and the severe penalties for its internship. In one of them two men with bags of coins hanging around their necks burn in a cauldron. If we have previously seen butchers, drapers and bakers condemned, no better fate would await those who traded with money, such as moneylenders, money changers and bankers. In another voussoir, a seated banker, identified by the coins and the scales on his table, burns and is tortured by two demons. In other representations of the same set, the tabula numularia or exchange table identifies the money changers who are led by the devil or even suffer torment in their language because of fraud, usury and deceit in their transactions.


Maids and laundresses

The representations of maids in the figurative arts are usually linked to scenes of the birth of the Baptist or the Virgin. Midwives, domestics and other maids are found in beautiful examples of our painting and sculpture, which have left us very eloquent testimonies, among which the examples of the 16th century stand out for their details: Pedro de Aponte in Santa María de Olite, altarpiece of the Baptist in the Victoria de Cascante or the reliefs of Torralba del Río, Mendavia, Pamplona Cathedral, Esquíroz, Dicastillo or Santa María de Tafalla.

The washerwomen deserve a special chapter, whose polychrome clay representations had their great representation in the traditional nativity scenes that were a faithful mirror of the pre-industrial society. In Navarre, some paintings from the end of the 19th century, as well as delicate snapshots of outstanding photographers, show us a very hard profession of which there are written testimonies, such as the written request that the washerwomen addressed to the Pamplona City Council in 1881 for the construction of a covered washhouse "the construction of a washhouse, even if it was made of board, where the exponents could do their work with some comfort".

The painting by Inocencio García Asarta, dated 1895 and studied in his monograph of the painter by I. Urricelqui, is a colorful and sympathetic testimony of a group of those hard-working women who are represented cheerful, as if oblivious to their hard work, in a delicate landscape next to the Arga River, in which they show all their instruments. The formal grammar of the painting is adapted to his second formative stage that took place between 1891 and 1897, where an enrichment of his palette can be appreciated, clarifying it, and a looser technique.

In 1895 J. M. Muruzábal dates the painting of Puente de la Rochapea, a work by Natalio Hualde, which depicts the aforementioned bridge in Pamplona with the washerwomen on its banks, while the walls of the current Portal Nuevo and the Taconera are located in the background.

Among the photographs are those collected in his blog by P. Mendiburu, as well as one by Nicolás Salinas featuring women from Tudela by the Ebro in 1905, a view that was popularized a little later in postcards, even colored. A long line of washerwomen with the bridge in the background and some carters in the middle ground make up the ordered composition of the famous photographer from Tudela. Other snapshots of washerwomen were spread among collections of postcards with patrimonial and costumbrista themes almost a century ago, in Estella (Roisin) or Altadill (Pamplona, 1903).