Publicador de contenidos

Back to 2017-03-31-opinion-FYL-vida-cotidiana-casa

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

Work and days in Navarrese art (1). Daily life in the house

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 16:30:00 +0000 Published in Navarra Newspaper

Genre scenes, as such, did not exist until the 17th century in European art. That century, linked to naturalism, would propitiate new narrative genres, considered, for a long time, as minor. It was then when a trend emerged that would gradually replace the transcendent with the anecdotal and the mundane, at final with immediate reality. In Navarre, with great delay, it would be the arrival of photography in the 19th century, which would be linked to everything related to daily life, although we have notable exceptions in works by Ciga, Zubiri, García Asarta, Pérez Torres, or Natalio Hualde.

In order to recreate daily life in past centuries, we use religious art, which offers parallels for the recreation of different passages of daily life, if we know how to read them correctly. The fact of resorting to religious representations, makes us look at details, sometimes of secondary character, where facts of daily life emerge with certain freedom. In other cases, the interest lies in the verisimilitude of the sacred passage, which demanded to be represented as if it were a story of mortals. Some scenes, such as the Annunciations, because they take place in domestic environments, are rich in fragments of genre and aspects of daily life.

In any case, it should be noted that, when using these examples as historical source , it is absolutely necessary to start from their true function and their formal and iconographic reading. In this way, after pointing out the limits of the images, we will be able to use them as source for knowledge of the past.

We will begin, on this occasion, with some aspects of daily life in the house, to continue with unique examples of agricultural scenes, livestock, hunting, fishing, trades and professions, as well as those related to school, leisure, entertainment and social exclusion.


Around the birth

Undoubtedly, the passage of the birth of the Virgin is one of those that provides the greatest data and details when it comes to recreating the scene of childbirth and all that it brought with it. Painting and sculpture have left us very eloquent testimonies, among which the examples of the 16th century stand out for their details. The panel by Pedro de Aponte in Santa María de Olite or the reliefs of Torralba del Río, Esquíroz, Dicastillo or Tafalla are excellent examples. Maids, midwives assisting the mother with delicate food and attention, the newborn baby in a girdle and women heating the diapers in braziers of the time, hot water containers for cleaning and bathing, are details that take us back to a not so distant past. No less detailed is the passage of the birth of St. John the Baptist in the relief of the altarpiece of Mendavia or in the painted panel of the mayor of Cintruénigo, both works of the first Renaissance of the second quarter of the 16th century. In the relief, a maid holds some cloths over a brazier to pick up the newborn child, while in the painting the child, bound so that he could not move his limbs, the cupboard under the canopy with metal dishes -silver or tin- that a maid orders and cleans, as well as the large issue of women are striking. These women, of different ages, wear a variety of headdresses of the time and typical in Spain for older women or those who dressed with singular modesty. The headdresses consisted of two pieces, one to cover the head and neck and another upper one that fell over the shoulders, one or the other could be removed. The painting of the birth of the Baptist of his altarpiece of the Victory of Cascante, work of Juan de Lumbier (1615), also recreates an interior with great detail, highlighting the large fireplace to which the maid approaches to dry the diapers.


Domestic and daily life

Eve spinning with Adam digging the earth with the hoe is a passage from Genesis that appears from medieval times. In the door of the Judgment of Tudela we find both of them in a very descriptive capital from the time of Sancho el Fuerte and the scene is repeated in other examples. In a corbel of the Magdalena of the same city, a seamstress appears next to representations of other trades and the devil, suggesting that the work was linked to the triumph of Satan, as a consequence of the original sin, obeying a negative interpretation of the trades present there, as Esperanza Aragonés pointed out in her study on the image of evil in the Navarrese Romanesque.

Adam and Eve at work will be repeated in the following centuries. An example of this is the painting from the palace of Oriz, now in the Museum of Navarre, where we find them subject to work and death, in the form of a threatening skeleton, pointing to a coffin. The set of Oriz, made after 1550, was commissioned, in all probability, by Don Bernal de Cruzat, first lord of Oriz, and must be related to two artists, for whom a couple of names have been considered: Juan de Goñi y Arrue, soldier of the emperor for seven years on various European fronts, and Miguel de Tarragona, king of arms and friend of Don Martin Cruzat. Oriz's Christian program, centered on the Old Testament, focuses on original sin, its consequences and man's relapse through well-known episodes from Genesis.

In the Baroque period, those scenes of the life of the Holy Family with St. Joseph at his carpenter's bench, show the Virgin as a working woman, sewing or embroidering, next to her basket of labors, as in most of the Annunciations, in which she is presented to us as praying (a devotional book), working (basket of labor) and pure (lilies). Usually the Child financial aid to St. Joseph, but also exceptionally to the Virgin. Among the most delicate examples of the Virgin with her world and embroidery, we highlight the image of the Virgin of the Slavery, a Romanesque work by Bernal de Gabadi (c. 1590) in San Jorge de Tudela, and the canvases of a collateral of Cárcar (c. 1640) and of the conference room capitular of the cathedral of Tudela (Vicente Berdusán (1671).

Some works have left us charming details such as the fire in the hearth, the fireplace or the brazier. Excellent examples are the core topic of the cloister of the 14th century cathedral of Pamplona that represents the month of February, with an old man warming himself; the Saint Joseph drying the swaddling clothes of the Child in a portable brazier of the altarpiece of the Esperanza of the cathedral of Tudela (Bonanat Zaortiga, 1412), or the large fireplace to which a servant approaches for the same purpose in the painting of the birth of the Baptist of the Victoria de la Victoria de Cascante (Juan de Lumbier, 1615).

Throughout the year, the pig slaughter was repeated in the domestic sphere for the month of November, which is represented in the doorway of Santa María de Sangüesa, a work from the second half of the 12th century, and in one of the keystones of the mensario of the cathedral's Gothic cloister, among other examples.

A daily scene linked to housework was the washing of clothes, although it was often done in public washing places or in the rivers themselves. A canvas by García Asarta signed in 1895 with the washerwomen in the Arga is an expression of the topic that together with the figures of the nativity scenes and some photographs testify that work.

Other domestic scenes painted by Ciga such as La calceta ( 1910) or El Pelado del maíz (1944) are examples of the taste and sensitivity of the author for this subject of activities of the people of his land, always present in his heart as an artist. Roldán's centenary photographs of Roncaleses also offer rich testimonies about many other tasks of daily and rural life.


Illness and death

The interior of a room in a house can be recreated in some votive offerings and, above all, in some scenes of the death of saints, especially in the cases of the Virgin and Saint Joseph. As for the votive offerings with the presence of the sick person, a very interesting one is conserved in the Yugo of Arguedas, exceptional for its iconographic content in Navarre. It is a curious painting dated in 1696, that represents the interior of a Madrid house, that of the arguedano Don Esteban de Cegama, accountant of the king, whose wife healed, after invoking the Virgin of the Yoke. The bed with delicate headboard and canopy, the altar on a dais, the bedroom, the paintings of the Soledad and the landscapes, one with the royal portrait of Charles II and the mirror, are an excellent testimony of what the interiors of the Court houses were like at that time.

The transit of the Virgin, protagonist in the door of the Amparo of the Pamplona church and of numerous medieval miniatures, will be developed from the XVI century in a room, with a bed with canopy and, sometimes, with some furniture and other accessories. About the death of St. Joseph, it should be noted that it was a topic that multiplied in the sixteenth century, in parallel with texts by Father Gracián and Mother Ágreda, whose works were widely disseminated. Designs of beds, plates with fruits, glass bottles, varied curtains and some furniture show the uses and customs in the decoration of those environments, as well as the care of the dying. The examples of Vicente Berdusán in the Goñi Zalduendo de Artajona collection (1663) and the Carmen de Tudela (1673) are eloquent. In a popular 17th century canvas of the Conceptionists of Estella, an angel brings to the saint a tray with a refreshment and some biscuits and in another painting of the same century of the Comendadoras de Puente la Reina, Christ embraces his adoptive father and shakes his hand, in an affectionate gesture.

An act of family intimacy and spiritual recollection and at the same time with a certain projection in the street was the viaticum, generally administered at dusk by candlelight. Javier Ciga's spectacular canvas of the Viaticum in the Baztan, signed in 1917, exactly a century ago, is a sample of the mastery of its author in the capture of lights and shadows and, above all, of customs set in that valley. It represents the arrival of the parish priest of Elizondo with the traditional hood and the Eucharist to the house of Askoa to administer the last communion to a sick person in danger of death, accompanied by an altar boy with a curly roquete, lantern and bell in his hands. A group of veiled women, closes the procession. In the vestibule we find kneeling a man with a Spanish cape of brown tones, typical of the farmers, and some women, all with lighted candles.

As Javier Zubiaur has written, this painting is a magnificent example of how the painter uses strong spatial projections that seem to be rehearsed with the wide angle, obtaining a great depth of visual field, as well as a photographic realism in all the details of the scene. The topic of viaticum was widely cultivated in the Counter-Reformation period to exalt the Eucharist and its special role in the life of the saints, from Rubens, Espinosa, Valdés Leal or Goya. Since the middle of the 19th century, it has been a source of inspiration for painters such as Leonardo Alenza or Pérez Villamil and numerous illustrators, such as topic . As is known, Ciga's painting was acquired by the Diputación Foral de Navarra in the same year it was made, for 1,625 pesetas from the bequest of Florencio Ansoleaga. The work has appeared in several exhibitions outside Navarre, in Barcelona (1986) and in the Ages of Man in Aranda de Duero (2014).

The relief of the chest of St. Veremundo with the death of the saint before the community (1583), and the representations of the same topic of St. Francis of Assisi in the Romanist relief of Villanueva de Arce, the canvas of the Franciscans of Olite (1778), as well as that of St. Clare of the Poor Clares of Olite, from the 17th century, introduce us to the conventual ceremonial, in this case through visual sources. In relation to these last cases, it is necessary to remember that the Franciscan habit was chosen by many people as a shroud, due to the graces and indulgences granted to it.

It is also worth remembering how in the passage of the holy burial of Christ, in some cases, his body appears wrapped in the shroud, which gives us an idea of how the deceased were shrouded at certain times. The outstanding and naturalistic example, par excellence, belongs to one of the Romanesque capitals of the old cloister of Pamplona, today in the Museum of Navarre, a work from the middle of the 12th century.