Tag Archives: Coll & Cortes

Artes Coll & Cortes Scholarship Report, Encarna Montero

Here follows a report by Dr Encarna Montero Tortajada, a post-doctoral researcher from Valencia, who in 2015 was  awarded a £3000 scholarship to conduct research in the UK.

Saint George Altarpiece

St George Altarpiece, Victoria & Albert Museum

From the 7th of January 2016, I spent forty days in London conducting research on Spanish art in the United Kingdom, thanks to an ARTES scholarship granted last year. The first week was almost entirely consecrated to preparing the talk “Architectural Practice in Spain, 1370-1450: Documents, Drawings and Historiography”, delivered on the 18th of January at the Courtauld Institute. After that, I conducted my research in the Warburg Library and in the Courtauld Library, where I found new and very useful papers about several historiographical problems within my field of academic interests. Moreover, the stay was a superb opportunity to attend lectures and seminars related to medieval art, for example Mary Carruthers’ seminar on the Art of Invention in Cambridge (“Vividness, Evidence, Proof: the Role of Visions”), and Lina Bolzoni’s talk about Memory Palaces in the Renaissance at the Courtauld Institute. Besides, I was kindly invited by Nicola Jennings and Tom Nickson to join their lessons in the V&A about Spanish Medieval Art and Gothic architectural drawings, respectively. I could visit, too, the medieval collections of the British Museum and the National Gallery, and prominent architectural monuments such as Ely Cathedral and Saint Alban’s Abbey. Furthermore, in addition to the aforementioned scholars, I met researchers as Susie Nash, Barry Taylor, Rose Walker and Kirstin Kennedy, who all gave me sound advice about my work.

 

NPG 2543; Sir John Robinson by John James Napier

Sir John Charles Robinson, by John James Napier, National Portrait Gallery

The main focus of my research in London was the altarpiece of Saint George (Victoria and Albert Museum, 1217-1864), an exceptional work of art and very well preserved. The piece was bought in Paris art market in 1864, and was said to have been removed from a church of Valencia. Little more is known about its original context. In order to discover more about the circumstances of its purchase, I reviewed the files referring to Saint George’s Altarpiece in the Prints and Drawings Study Room of the V&A, as well as other documents lent by the Conservation Department of the Museum. Key information was provided by Blythe House Archives, particularly the files of Sir John Charles Robinson, John Webb and Juan Facundo Riaño. Robinson’s words on the altarpiece put its acquisition into context: Spanish medieval art had begun to be greatly appreciated in France and Britain ca. 1864, partly because of the influence of the French Empress, and partly because of the 19th century’s love affair with the exoticism of Southern Europe. Robinson’s voyages to Spain testify to this allure (exemplified by the V&A’s cast of El Pórtico de la Gloria ). Webb was summoned

Robinson Files, Blythe House

Robinson files, Blythe House, V&A

by Robinson to examine the Altarpiece of Saint George, and his diagnosis was key: the piece was deemed worthy of its asking price. The reports of Juan Facundo Riaño, who wasn’t directly involved in the issue, reveal also a whole world of antique dealers, painters, diplomats and connoisseurs operating in Spain. The reading of bibliography related to the art market in mid 19th-century Europe completed this survey of the vicissitudes of the Saint George Altarpiece. I hope that the outcome of this research will be published soon in a forthcoming paper.

 

Essay prize and Scholarships: Call for Submissions, deadline 15th February 2016

ARTES offers a number of prizes and scholarships, which all have the same deadline of 15th February 2016. Click the links below to find further details:

Juan Facundo Riaño Essay Prize: sponsored by the Embassy of Spain in London, this prize is awarded to the best essay on any aspect of Hispanic visual culture.

ARTES Coll & Cortés Scholarships, in association with the British-Spanish Society. These scholarships are sponsored by art dealers Coll & Cortés, and are aimed at students and researchers working on Hispanic art before 1800

 

Spanish embassy logocollcortes_logoArtes logo

 

ARTES Coll & Cortes 2015 Travel Scholarship report

Maeve O’Donnell, PhD candidate, Courtauld Institute of Art, reports on her travels sponsored by this scholarship

11738044_10104134174208549_4216571105197211521_nThe ARTES Coll y Cortes Travel Scholarship allowed me to complete archival research central to my doctoral thesis. Textual sources have been indispensable to my investigation into thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Castilian altars because many of these altars and their furnishings have been lost or disassembled. By carefully combing through primary sources — many of which have not been published in full and are hidden away in cathedral archives — I have been able to reconstruct a detailed picture of the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century altar from this kingdom. Inventories, wills, receipts, statutes, and letters both describe the objects that made up the altar at this time and point to its various usages. More than a liturgical focal point, altars were sites for the expression of the surrounding communities’ identities. This identity was reflected, for instance, by personal items bequeathed to the altar or through furnishings ornamented with political or royal symbols.

In early 2015, I spent several weeks in the archives of Burgos and Toledo cathedrals. Although I P1030659was able to find useful primary documents at these sites, my thesis would not have properly represented Castilian medieval art without close investigation into Seville cathedral’s thirteenth- and fourteenth-century altars. The ARTES Coll y Cortes Travel Scholarship allowed me to spend three weeks researching in the archive of Seville cathedral. It was especially useful to spend time looking through early modern collections of cathedral statutes in which medieval regulations are cited. The Estatutos y Constituciones de la Santa Iglesia de Sevilla, for instance, contained notes in its margins that identified the medieval sources of some of its entries. Viewing this source firsthand has allowed me to engage more critically with its usage in current scholarship. It was similarly of value to my project to read through a late fourteenth-century set of regulations for the cathedral’s original royal chapel, which described the ceremonies performed around the altar of this important royal tomb. It was also very instructive to conduct this archival research while regularly visiting the cathedral’s works of art. For instance, a striking reliquary cross in the cathedral’s collection has often been connected to documents in the archive that seem to allude to it. Reading through such documents and then visiting the work in person allowed me to appreciate the problems set forth by these textual sources.

A 090Without the help of this travel scholarship, my dissertation would have been limited to northern and central Castile and would have fallen short of capturing the full range of cultural and artistic transformations taking place in this kingdom during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. By comparing extant objects with contemporary descriptions found in documents from the archive of Seville cathedral, my PhD project will provide a comprehensive picture of the medieval Castilian altar and its furnishings so far missing in scholarship on medieval Iberian art.

ARTES Coll & Cortes Scholarships Awards, 6.45pm, Wednesday 28th October 2015. Courtauld Institute of Art

collcortes_logoThe 2015 ARTES Coll & Cortes scholars will be announced at a special drinks reception at the Courtauld Institute of Art on Wednesday 28th October, starting at approximately 6.45pm. The scholarships, generously supported by the art dealers Coll & Cortes, were set up in 2014 in order to encourage and reward young scholars studying visual culture in Spain, Portugal and Latin America.2014-06-Courtauld-Somerset House All are welcome, no need to book.

The deadline for submissions for the 2016 scholarships is 31st January 2016: see further details here.

The ceremony follows the first in a series of lectures on Spanish medieval architecture, also sponsored by Coll & Cortes. Further details here.

Lecture: Eduardo Carrero Santamaria (University of Barcelona), ‘Gothic architecture in 13th- and 14th-century Spain and its historiography’. Courtauld Institute, 5.30pm, 28th October 2015

The first in a series of lectures on Spanish medieval architecture, hosted by the Courtauld Institute, and sponsored by Coll & Cortes

Lamperez, Palencia pierSince the late 19th century, scholarship on 13th– and 14th-century Spanish architecture has largely depended on formal analysis and systems of cataloguing. From this have emerged fundamental studies of cathedrals, including those of Burgos, León and Toledo, of monasteries such as Las Huelgas in Burgos, or of parish churches such as Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona. But what are the premises of such approaches? As interest in gothic architecture wanes amongst early 21st-century art historians, some of Spain’s most significant buildings still lack basic analysis. And yet perhaps the biggest problem is not the absence of studies but their methods, mediated by contemporary contexts.

The lecture is open to all and free to attend, though it is recommended that you arrive by 5.20 in order to secure a seat.

Eduardo Carrero Santamaria is Professor of Art History at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Scholarship report from Costanza Beltrami, winner of a 2014 Artes Coll & Cortes Travel Scholarship

Thanks to the ARTES-Coll & Cortés Travel Scholarship, I travelled to Spain in June to visit buildings designed by the fifteenth-century French master mason Juan Guas.

San Juan de los Reyes

San Juan de los Reyes

During a previous trip, I visited the monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes in Toledo. Designed by Guas, this monastery is a royal foundation established to celebrate the Battle of Toro (1476). Although this battle was fought between the Catholic Monarchs and Alfonso V of Portugal, the exterior of the monastery’s church is festooned with the chains of Christian prisoners freed after the conquest of Grenada [right]. Celebration of a victory against a Christian king and anti-Moorish propaganda thus intersect in the church.

This intersection generates questions: was there always an intention to associate the church with the reconquista and the unification of Spain? Is this association consciously reflected in the style of the building, a flamboyant Gothic design that incorporates Moorish elements such as epigraphic inscriptions and artesonado ceilings?

Other questions regard Guas’ role in this stylistic fusion. The mid-twentieth century historians José Maria de Azcárate and Fernando Chueca Goitia considered Guas the creator of a national style that fused flamboyant Gothic with Spain’s unique Mudéjar heritage. Since Guas was the Catholic Monarchs’ royal architect, elements of royal propaganda in his designs are not surprising. But does this extend to the creation of a ‘national style’? With this question in mind, I designed the trip kindly sponsored by the ARTES-Coll and Cortés Travel Scholarship.

My travel started at the Prado Museum. Here I observed Flemish and ‘Hispano-Flemish’ works to consider how Flemish style and techniques were received in another medium.

Palacio del Infantado

Palacio del Infantado

I then started visiting Guas’ buildings, first the Castle of Manzanares el Real and then the Palacio del Infantado in Guadalajara. Together with San Juan de los Reyes, these are usually pinpointed as Guas’ ‘Hispano-islamic’ works. Indeed, I noticed features possibly inspired by Mudéjar sources, for example blind ‘horseshoe arches’ at the top of the Infantado’s gallery [left], and long epigraphic inscriptions.

 

Yet Mudéjar details are not the only decoration; moreover, Manzanares and the Infantado were built for the Mendoza family, not for the kings. Rather than celebrate the new national unity, Mudéjar designs may simply contribute to express noble magnificentia.

The desire to express magnificentia offers a specific motivation for Guas’ fusion of Gothic and Mudéjar in these palaces. Contrary to what some scholars have implied, Guas did not simply ‘absorb’ Toledo’s Mudéjar buildings and unconsciously reproduce their features.

My next destinations were Segovia and Avila. Segovia cathedral is attributed to Juan Gil de Hontañón, trained in Guas’ workshop. The detailing of the bases of the cathedral’s nave piers is almost identical to that of Manzanares’ courtyard, suggesting broader stylistic uniformity than it appears when focusing on a single architect.

Visiting the monastery of El Parral in Segovia and that of Santo Tomás in Avila evidenced similarities between buildings sponsored by royal patronage: for example, both monasteries’ churches have choirs elevated over slender segmental arches.

My next stop, El Paular monastery, contains an alabaster altarpiece where flamboyant Gothic elements are used in a typically Spanish floor-to-ceiling retablo. Unsurprisingly, it is attributed to sculptors close to Guas, who designed the monastery’s cloister. This has different vault designs on each side, possibly depending on its position relative to El Paular’s church.

San Gregorio

San Gregorio

I then visited Valladolid’s Colegio de San Gregorio [right]. Covered with figural decoration and branch tracery, San Gregorio’s façade contradicts the characterization of Guas’ decoration as geometric, aniconic and therefore ‘oriental.’

For all its display of heraldic devices, the building hardly fits the ideological framework built around Guas’ style by Azcárate and Goitia. Indeed, San Gregorio’s decorative complexity underscored my overall impression of Guas’ style as resistant to nationalistic labels.

 

 

I am very grateful to ARTES and Coll & Cortés for this invaluable opportunity to analyse the stylistic labels attached to Guas through first-hand encounter with his oeuvre.