The piece of the month of January 2023


Ricardo Fernández Gracia
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art
University of Navarra

A couple of years ago we added an intaglio, specifically that of the Virgen de la Cerca de Andosilla, to the corpus of devotional prints from Navarre that we published five years ago (Madrid, Fundación Ramón Areces, 2017). Works such as the latter always swell with new copies that appear in some collections, in the trade and auctions. On this occasion, we are going to deal with an unpublished intaglio engraving of the patron saint of Tudela, Saint Anne, which is in the collection of the seminar of Vitoria. It is a very rare and unknown copy until now.

Engraving of Saint Anne of Tudela, made by Miguel Varela, in Santiago de Compostela, under the sponsorship of don Basilio Camargo, around 1735. Collection of the seminar of Vitoria.

Engraving and its chronology

It is a medium-sized engraving, measuring 180 x 230 mm (stamp) and 154 x 215 mm (stain). Its registration reads as follows: "Stª ANA / Patrona de dha Ciud / Verdº Retrº Retrº de la Milagrª Ymagn de mi Milagrª Ymagn de mi Sa Sta Sta ANA q se venera en la muy insigne Iglª Co / legial de Sª MARIA de la muy Noble y leal Ciud de Tudela, en el Reyno de Navarra / El Yllmº Sr D IOSEPH DE HYERMO I SANTIBAÑES, Arcpo and Lord of SANTIAGO granted / 80 days of indulgence all the times q rezaren a Father Nro and Ave Mª delte this Sta Imagn Hizo / it was to devon of D Basilio de Gante, colonel of the Regimiº of Infantry of Navarre / Michael Varela sculº.".

Iconographically, it differs little from the image as it is currently presented and venerated in its chapel in Tudela and from the reproductions we know of the icon, especially the oldest one we know of up to the present, the work of Mateo González (1784) made on the occasion of the erection of the collegiate church of Tudela into a cathedral. The image obeys the subject of Saint Anne triplex and wears a rich apron, mantle, headdresses and the unmistakable diadem with straight major rays topped with stars and other flamed minor ones. The Baroque pedestal that reproduces the engraving, today not preserved, with its large gadroons, must have existed in reality, since it is reproduced in a trompe l'oeil of the image preserved in the Carmelitas Descalzas de Araceli de Corella, which follows the model that concerns us in other aspects such as clothing and bejeweled, much richer in the painting.

The base and the details of the icon suggest that the promoter of the print presented the engraver with a drawing of the image that could be apply for to the capital of the Navarrese Ribera. The protagonism is for the icon, since its altarpiece or niche are only referenced in the half point with its curtain collected on both sides and some lateral baroque moldings topped by vases, in a very usual outline in the devotional print.

The chronology is given by the pontificate of the archbishop of Santiago de Compostela who granted the indulgences, Don José del Yermo Santibáñez (1728-1737). This prelate was a native of Madrid, studied theology in Alcalá and was a canon in his collegiate. In 1720 he was appointed bishop of Avila and in 1728, archbishop of Compostela, where he was the protagonist of heated confrontations with the cathedral chapter.

Trying to refine the chronology of the engraving of Saint Anne, it is more than likely that it was made on the occasion of the festivities and celebrations that the city of Tudela experienced in 1735, on the occasion of the royal order of October of that year, suspending the papal bull by which the deanery of Tudela was annexed to the mitre of Tarazona, which led to special celebrations held on November 1, 2, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. The allusion in the text to the "very distinguished collegiate church" could be a support, although it is a terminology very used in the centuries of the Ancient Regime. In addition, it is necessary to remember the context partner-devotional around Saint Anne in Tudela. Her chapel had been erected between 1712 and 1725 with great pride of the city, as some of her contemporaries show. Years later, in 1737 and 1751, its superintendents contracted the altarpiece-baldachino with Juan Bautista Eizmendi and José Ortiz respectively, giving as result one of the most interesting projects of that typology in Navarre both for its plan and elevations and for the combination of rich materials.

The promoter

The promoter of the print was a Tudela native absent from his homeland, acting as did another famous regnícola, Don Norberto de Arizcun, with respect to San Fermín, years earlier in 1714, when he commissioned the plate for the famous Bernard Picart print. The tudelano in question was, as we have seen in the registration, Don Basilio de Gante, baptized in the parish of the Magdalena of Tudela on June 17, 1679, son - apparently natural - of Don Diego de Gante y Ovando and Doña María de Huarte, being sponsored by Don Lucas de Castejón. He entered the militia at the age of fifteen in the Tercio de los Verdes commanded by Don Diego de Ávila, becoming colonel of the Regiment of Navarre and field marshal. He participated in the campaigns of the Roussillon and in the siege of Barcelona in 1697. For his merits he obtained in the latter year a Royal Dispatch by which he was granted a shield of advantage. He went to Sicily in the rebellion of Messina and participated in several actions of the War of Succession, falling prisoner in Zaragoza. Under the orders of the Duke of Berwick he participated in the siege of Gaeta in Italy, later moving to Galicia and the garrison of Ceuta, where he participated in 1732 to quell a revolt. position Later, between 1742 and 1749, he served as governor of Cartagena de Indias, and under his command the fort of San Sebastián del Pastelillo (1743) was built. The file of Simancas preserves a petition of his from 1752 requesting a salary increase for the time he was governor in Cartagena de Indias (file General de Simancas, leg. 6799, 38). In that American period is documented the royal order to make position of the relic of the protector of that place, the Jesuit San Francisco de Regis, to be placed in the cathedral.

He married in Denia in August 1717 with María Ana Campaña del Real, born in Granada, daughter of Lieutenant General Manuel García de Campaña y Salcedo. In 1721 a son of the marriage was baptized in Pamplona. He made his will in Seville in 1754. His widow settled in Arganda del Rey, from where she requested in 1776-1777 that she be given the treatment that corresponded to her as the widow of a field marshal and daughter of a lieutenant general (file Histórico Nacional, Consejos, 31454, Exp. 11).

The author of the print was the painter Miguel Varela, established in Santiago de Compostela, who signature also made an engraving of the baldachin of the cathedral of that city, recently studied by Miguel Taín, during the pontificate of Archbishop Herrero Esgueva (1723-1727), most likely made for the preparations of the Holy Year of 1728 in order to distribute it among the pilgrims. This last work is the only one known by the aforementioned master Varela, to which we now add this one of St. Anne. In addition, the artist is documented as a painter years later, specifically in 1743, to paint, gild and stew the chest of the ornaments of the coronation of Carlos III, and in 1751 to compose with paint the Holy Door.

It remains to be established how Don Basilio de Gante came into contact with the Galician circle of the archbishop and the engraver. It would be necessary to think, in principle, in a destiny of the military in those Galician lands or some very direct relation, before having left for Cartagena de Indias. The indulgences of the bishop of Compostela and the Galician authorship of the print do not seem to leave any other option. If they were only the graces of the prelate, that was something very usual, to ask for them to different bishops, archbishops and cardinals on the part of institutions and individuals, but if to that circumstance we add the authorship, the matter is much more evident.

The multiple value of the stamp

The interest of this work is therefore multiple, because it is the first devotional print documented to date of the patron saint of Tudela and because it is the only one known in Navarre with Galician origin. To both considerations we have to join the importance of the figure of its promoter, the military of dilated and A degree program don Basilio de Gante that, like other sons of the capital of the Navarrese Ribera, felt the necessity to be noticed in the context of what Caro Baroja denominated like "Navarrese Hour of the XVIII". The presence of Don Basilio de Gante in Santiago de Compostela is documented by Martínez-Radio, in 1727, but obviously he must have been in those lands somewhat later, when in the pontificate the St. Anne's prayer card was opened.


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FERNÁNDEZ GRACIA, R., Imagen y mentalidad. Los siglos del Barroco y la estampa devocional en Navarra, Madrid, Fundación Ramón Areces, 2017.

MARTÍNEZ-RADIO GARRIDO, E., La organización de las milicias en Asturias bajo el reinado de Felipe V y el Regimiento Provincial de Oviedo, Madrid, Ministerio de Defensa, 2013.

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SERRANO GARCÍA, M., El gobierno espiritual de Cartagena de Indias, Bogotá, Academia de Historia Colombiana, 2021.

TAÍN GUZMÁN, M., "El altar mayor de la catedral de Santiago en tiempos del arzobispo Herrero Esgueva (1723-1727): el grabado del pintor Miguel Varela adquirido por un peregrino", Cuadernos de programs of study Gallegos, LXVIII, núm. 134 (2021), pp. 267-306.