Ricardo Fernández Gracia

Image and Mentality. The centuries of the Baroque and the devotional print in Navarre

Madrid, Fundación Ramón Areces, 2017, 339 p.

Digital version

Image and Mentality. The centuries of the Baroque and the devotional print in Navarre



María Concepción García Gainza

The paper engraving of past centuries, especially devotional engraving, seems to be far removed from the cultural interests of today's society. It must be admitted that, with the exception of group of the initiated, engraving is unattractive to most people because of its apparent lack of colour compared to painting, and above all because it is impenetrable to read. It seems evident that the development of contemporary art and the imposition in all fields of graphic techniques have helped to bring people's sensibility closer to the field of printmaking. The reading of this book: Image and Mentality. The centuries of the Baroque and devotional prints in Navarre. The reader who delves into it will find a fascinating world of great depth, interwoven with images and ideas that are reconstructed in an almost magical way.

The book is the fruit of a passion staff, that of its author, Professor Fernández Gracia, born almost as a child on that initiatory excursion to Veruela where, as he writes, he bought his first engraving in exchange for his afternoon snack, and followed later in the university courses on engraving with an outing to the workshop of the great engraver Antonio Eslava in the secluded place de San José. At visit he showed a printmaking session accompanied by enthusiastic and poetic words at internship . The definitive impetus for his incipient interest came from José Javier Uranga, a collector and connoisseur of devotional engraving in Navarre, and Jesús Arraiza, pioneers in the evaluation of these engravings, which at that time were burnt in the fire or were stored away in chests and corners.

And from there, over more than two decades, Ricardo Fernández Gracia has made a research in which, with a keen sense of search engine and always with passion, he has pursued "the old papers" in a total way, we would say today, visiting sanctuaries, large and small, convents, brotherhoods, even the last village brotherhood, and reviewed archives, general and local, account books, novenas, indulgences, until obtaining a huge documentation that he has put up in this book. The meeting of 130 engravings, some printed in Calcografía Nacional, and the rescue of many plates that have been largely restored, have also been the result of this search. But this book is not only about images, but also about ideas, which the author shows interwoven with each other.

Taking into account the diffusion achieved by these engravings, given their multiple character inherent to this technique and their low price, can give an idea of the spatial horizon of this book and its temporal extension to the modern centuries. The sections that structure the book develop the main themes raised by the author. Interesting is the one that deals with the promoters who sponsor the printing of the prints; from sanctuaries, confraternities, congregations, or town councils when it comes to images from board of trustees. Sometimes it is done "at the devotion of a devotee". official document The book provides information on technical-artistic matters, such as preparatory drawings, plates and supports, and on the printers, an important issue that was often handled by Pamplona silversmiths who mastered drawing and the use of the burin - the Beramendi, Iturralde, de la Cruz - but also by other centres such as Zaragoza, with excellent masters like Carlos Casanova, who did the engraving of San Gregorio Ostiense, or Madrid, with the engraving of the San Gregorio Ostiense, or Madrid, with the engraving of the Virgin of Roncesvalles by the engraver Juan Francisco Leonardo, made for the devotion of Juan de Goyeneche, or that of the Virgin of Musquilda de Ochagavía, Remedios de Sesma by Fray Matías de Irala, del Villar de Corella, or saints such as San Fermín de la Real Congregación de San Fermín de los Navarros de Madrid also by Fray Matías de Irala y Palomino, as well as San Raimundo de Fitero, founder of the Order of Calatrava. Important engravings were also commissioned in Rome, such as that of the Virgin of the Tabernacle in Pamplona cathedral, the work of Carlo Grandi. Engravings, successive prints, different engravers, different times and fashions. Everything is documented, interpreted and assessed.

In any case, these were engravings of private devotion whose images, reproducing the titular image, were acquired or given as gifts during pilgrimages or visits, and which were then placed in the domestic corner of the bedroom or kitchen, where they were asked to intercede as a true "talisman" against illnesses or collective misfortunes. They were stamped on an elevated issue, sometimes by the thousands like that of San Gregorio Ostiense, in order to spread them during the relic's travels around Andalusia against the locust plague. Other times they were given as gifts to benefactors and reached the Indians in Latin America.

A fundamental part of the catalogue is the catalogue, which brings together each of the engravings, images and programs of study, of all the Virgins of Navarre, from those of the great sanctuaries - Ujué, Roncesvalles, Puy de Estella - to the regional or local ones such as Luquin, Soto de Caparroso, Zuberoa, Virgen Blanca de Jaurrieta and others from Pamplona such as the Virgins of the Sagrario, Camino and Maravillas, etc., in an orderly manner by iconography. A whole repertoire which can be identified because the engraving, far from being hermetic, says it all: the title "true portrait", place, year, who commissioned it, and also distinguishes between the author of the drawing and the person who engraved it. This is also valid for the engravings of the great saints such as San Fermín, San Francisco Javier, San Miguel de Excelsis, Santa Ana de Tudela or San Sebastián de Tafalla, for example. The book also deals with the dissemination of engravings as illustrations for printed books.

This proves that the concept of heritage is constantly under construction and can be expanded with new incorporations of highly expressive sectors of everyday and popular art. The set of devotional prints studied, like all cultural assets, condense historical, technical, formal, iconographic and use and function values.

The social context and images, devotions and ways of life are brought together in this book, which is carefully edited and the quality of the reproduction of the engravings, always committed, is due to the Ramón Areces Foundation. It is at least surprising that a book like this, which was hardly missing from the already abundant bibliography on Navarre, can now become a piece core topic to access the world in which our ancestors lived, at first sight impenetrable to the gaze of our time, and bring us closer to the world of mentalities, ideas and devotions thanks to devotional engravings, a popular art if ever there was one, and to the world of mentalities, ideas and devotions.

Diario de Navarra, 13 December 2017, pp. 56-57



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