6 October 2010

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


An altarpiece workshop in Cascante: the Serrano family

D. Ricardo Fernández Gracia.
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art

degree scroll As in other towns in Navarre that were granted the status of town in the 17th century, masters of different artistic specialities carried out a wide range of activities in Cascante, and even had workshops in the town itself.

Among the city's masters of some renown were the Urzainqui dynasty of painters, established in Saragossa and originally from Cascante. One of them, Andrés, bequeathed three canvases to the parish church of La Asunción in his will of 1672. Also from Cascante was the architect of the royal palaces in Granada, Francisco Aguado, whose plans were used to build the Chapel of Cristo a la Columna from 1779 onwards, after having been student at the Royal Academy of San Fernando from 1767 onwards. accredited specialization Worthy of mention in the 18th century, when there were no easel painters in Navarre, are the Díaz del Valle family (Ignacio and Diego), especially Diego, who settled in Cascante, from where he took commissions for different places in the Kingdom such as Lodosa, Pamplona, Olite, Sangüesa and Fitero, as well as other towns in Aragon and Castile. Díaz del Valle was born around 1740 in Cascante and died in Viana in 1817. Among those who came to work or received commissions were the outstanding foreign masters: the Carmelite architect Friar José Alberto Pina, the Aragonese engraver Carlos Casanova, the retablist Domingo Larripa and the painter Mateo Cerezo.

The Serrano family workshop, which straddled Cascante and Tudela, was made up of José Serrano y Jiménez, who died in 1699, and his son José Serrano y Argáiz, who worked throughout the first half of the 18th century, with his workshop open in Cascante and the capital of La Ribera. The great work of the former is the main altarpiece of the basilica of El Romero in his native town of Cascante, which he was about to finish when he died, after having worked in Tudela, Zaragoza, Mallén and other towns in Navarre. José Serrano y Jiménez had trained with his father, a carpenter by profession, and later at the house of the master of Lerín, Francisco San Juan, who had settled in Tudela and in the Aragonese capital, before taking his compulsory examination in 1673. In his works he used large-scale Solomonic columns decorated with grapes and vines, as well as a rich decorative repertoire inspired by plant forms. As with his son, this master made the round sculptures for his altarpieces in his workshop, a fact that is not found in other Navarrese workshops of the time, as these pieces were made by masters who were not always from the workshops that received the commissions.

Main altarpiece of Romero de Cascante

Main altarpiece of the Romero de Cascante, work of the Serrano family, end of the 17th century.

His son José Serrano y Argáiz, born of his second marriage to María Argáiz in 1682, had a greater influence. His works belong to a later generation and the preferred supports for his altarpieces were decorated plain shafted columns and stipes. He worked for noblemen such as the Aperregui family in Tudela, various parish patronages such as those of Ablitas and Cascante, confraternities and the monastery of Fitero. His works include not only altarpieces, but also plasterwork, pulpit loudspeakers, processional platforms and other pieces of liturgical furnishings. After having a workshop in Tudela, he spent the last years of his life in Cascante, where he played a leading role in the organisation and development of the brotherhood of San José de los Carpinteros de Cascante.

In addition to his relations with the Tudela masters of the time, especially Baltasar de Gambarte, we must add his stay in Tierra Estella, where he met Juan Ángel Nagusia, the true protagonist of the decorative stage in the altarpiece in that area, and other masters such as José de Lesaca and José Baldán, a native of Lerín and with an extensive career in Burgos, where he made the outstanding altarpiece in the church of the Jesuits' high school , from 1725 onwards.

In most of the contracts he signed for the execution of his works, he is mentioned as "architect and sculptor", unlike other masters of the time who were also engaged in the lucrative business of altarpieces, who appear as architects and carvers. This indicates that he was aware of the importance and identity of the sculptor himself, at plenary session of the Executive Council in the Age of Enlightenment, when sculpture was to be considered one of the liberal arts, just as painting had been in the previous century. 

Among his surviving works are the altarpiece of the Virgen del Rosario in Ablitas, commissioned in 1727, and the altarpiece of Santa Teresa in the monastery of Fitero, of which he made position in 1730, in both cases with an extensive and rich sculptural programme. An exceptional piece due to the scarcity of this type of work in Navarre, issue , are the processional platforms of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Cascante, commissioned in 1734 and currently conserved in the lower choir of the basilica of El Romero.

Altarpiece of Santa Teresa. Parish Church of Fitero

Altarpiece of Santa Teresa. Parish Church of Fitero. 1730.
Author: José Serrano y Argaiz

Platforms of the Virgen del Romero

Platforms of the Virgen del Romero. 1734. Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosemary.
Author: José Serrano y Argaiz