24 June 2010

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


"Bulls and Bullfighters for San Fermín". Bullfighting sculpture, the protagonist of urban space

Mr. José Javier Azanza López.
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art

As with other singular manifestations of the culture and tradition of our country, public sculpture has also taken the national fiesta into account, giving expression to it in an endless number of works dedicated to bulls and bullfighters which not only contribute to the embellishment of streets, promenades and squares, but also give a good sample of the importance acquired by bullfighting as a sign of identity in practically all parts of the Spanish geography.

Our approach to public bullfighting sculpture focuses firstly on the location it occupies. There are basically three spaces in which we find this artistic manifestation. Firstly, in the streets, squares or gardens of those cities from which the bullfighters originate, or with which they have had a special relationship because they have lived or triumphed there; monuments to Manolete in Córdoba (1956) and to Enrique Ponce in Chiva (2010) serve as examples of this location. Secondly, the surroundings of bullrings, which sometimes become authentic open-air museums of bullfighting sculpture; the bullrings of Seville, Ronda, Madrid and Salamanca are good examples of this: sample . Finally, cemeteries also pay tribute to the world of bullfighting in the mausoleums of bullfighters; San Fernando in Seville, the Almudena in Madrid, or Torrero in Zaragoza, preserve the memory of some illustrious names in the national bullfighting scene.

Once the main sites are known, an analysis of the public bullfighting sculpture from an iconographic point of view reveals its great variety, so much so that practically all the suertes of the fiesta are depicted in stone or bronze, from the paseíllo to the triumph of the bullfighter who shoulders the bull through the main gate; in between, there are also sculptural representations of the exit from the pens, the bullfight with the cape, the suerte de banderillas, the brindis, the trasteo with the muleta and the execution of the suerte suprema (the supreme bullfight). There is also no lack of pain and death as a reflection of the tragic side of bullfighting. Bullfighting on horseback is also present in bullfighting sculpture. Along with the bullfighter, the other main protagonist of the bullfighting sculptural monument is the bull. On most occasions, these are magnificent individual bulls that reflect the bravery of the animal, although they can also appear in herds in the countryside, together with the bullfighters and bullfighters.

Focusing our interest on Pamplona, the vicinity of its bullring place becomes a small open-air museum of Sanferminero iconography. However, as could not be otherwise in a city whose bullfighting cycle is called the "Feria del Toro", the protagonist par excellence of its bullfighting sculpture is not the bullfighter, but the bull.

Curiously, the first sculpture to be installed was not dedicated to the bull, but to the man who became the universal herald of the Pamplona fiestas, the American writer Ernest Hemingway, although the work oozes a bullfighting flavour as it shows the award Nobel Prize winner for Literature in the attitude of watching a bullfight leaning against the barrier of the place, as appears in numerous photographs of the time. Inaugurated on 6 July 1968 in the Paseo that bears his name, the work was created by Luis Sanguino, one of the Spanish sculptors with the strongest links to bullfighting, who was able to model in bronze a face with realistic features that show Hemingway in his full maturity.

Next to the previous one is "Homenaje al toro" ("Homage to the bull"), a sculptural work conceived by the artist from Estella, Carlos Ciriza, for the exhibition "Formas" which was held between July and August 1996 in the open spaces of the Citadel and Paseo de Sarasate; after being acquired by Pamplona City Council, it was installed in one of the flowerbeds near the bullring in June 2000. Ciriza gives expression to his particular vision of the bullfighting festival, creating a work whose strength lies in its visual impact, in which artistic expression and his admiration for the animal have a place. With the bull as the main protagonist, the monumental ensemble sample alludes to the animal itself in the upper part, and to the fencing of the bull runs in the lower part, thus linking it to the city of Pamplona and its San Fermín fiestas. The same rational and emphatic approach was also used in his pictorial series "Tauromaquias", produced between 1996 and 1997, so that the interrelation between painting and sculpture, which is becoming increasingly common in his creations, can be clearly appreciated.

"The world of bullfighting". Carlos Ciriza. 1996

The small open-air sculptural exhibition is completed by the Monument to the Running of the Bulls, located at the junction of the avenues of Roncesvalles and Carlos III. The idea of having a monument in Pamplona to pay homage to the Bull Run dates back to the 1970s, when different possibilities were considered, from acquiring the monument to the Bull Run that adorned the gardens of the Hostal El Toro in Berrioplano, to composing a series of motifs in bas-relief distributed along its entire route. Finally, in 1991, the Biscayan sculptor Rafael Huerta - who has a long artistic career in Pamplona and other towns in Navarre - was commissioned by the City Council to create a monumental ensemble that would capture the image of the Sanfermines par excellence. Due to the high financial cost, the artist produced an abridged version of the original set, which was reduced to two runners trying to lead a straggling bull by means of a newspaper. The inauguration took place on the 6th of July 1994. 

It was in 2004 when Rafael Huerta developed the entire group, made up of nineteen figures - six bulls from the Victorino Martín bull-ranch, three steers and ten runners - which immortalise in patinated bronze a snapshot of the speedy degree program of the herd and the runners as they pass along the stretch of Estafeta Street, whose overall composition responds to the plastic need to express action and offer the spectator multiple points of view, trying to compensate the sensation of movement with the harmony between the figures and the bulls. To all this is added his technical ability in the balance of volumes. It was inaugurated on 21 April 2007, coinciding with the opening of the new pedestrian section of Avenida de Carlos III, between place de Merindades and Calle Cortes de Navarra.

"Encierro". Rafael Huerta. 2007