The Industrial Arts in Spain Part 49

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Three violet coloured lions, similar in form to those which appear on the arms of Leon, may be seen on three of the sides of the square. In the large circle in the centre of this banner, appears eight times repeated the word "The Empire," [Ill.u.s.tration: Arabic]. This inscription is embroidered or woven in Cufic characters, in a similar style to those at the Alhambra; it is a strange circ.u.mstance that the letters appear on the wrong side, as if this was the back of the stuff; the word which seems to be required to complete this sentence, "G.o.d," is also wanting.

The large inscriptions in blue of the five bands reproduce Suras of the Koran, and pious sentences in one of the small ones on the upper part.

S^{r.} Fernandez, who has published an article on this banner in Mus.

Esp. [vol. vi., p. 469], thinks he finds a date which corresponds with the year A.D. 1140. I am not, however, satisfied with his interpretation of the inscription contained in the large centre circle, or the date he gives; for comparing the ornamentation of this specimen with other textiles, and the designs used in Moorish architecture, it appears to me that it must be considered as belonging to the 14th century. This may be easily accounted for by some historical mistake in the tradition respecting it at the convent of Las Huelgas. It is highly probable that King Alfonso XI. may have given this banner to the convent, and have been mistaken for King Alfonso VIII.; the conqueror of the battle of Las Navas.

The specimens of Spanish moresco stuffs in the Kensington Museum, will be found numbered 51, 121, 124, 125, 152, 160, 180, 241, 244. (V. Dr.

Rock's Catalogue.)

The artistic industry of silk manufactures which was initiated in Spain by the Arabs, continued to flourish during the Middle Ages and a great part of the Renaissance. Malaga and Almeria were important centres, but later on this industry was chiefly centred at Granada. The silk fabrics made at Seville, Toledo, Murcia and Valencia were much esteemed. The Moorish style of ornamentation in embroideries and stuffs must soon have fallen into disuse. Owing to the materials of similar kinds imported from Italy, France, Flanders, and other countries, these manufactures were imitated to a great extent, as may be gathered by the immense number of specimens which are still to be met with in Spanish churches.

The cathedral of Toledo is quite a museum of objects of this kind, but all the textiles there are woven in the European manner.

The Moorish style in stuffs was preserved at Granada longer than in any other town in Spain. In 1502, ten years after its conquest by the Christians, we find it stated in the "Voyage of Philip le Beau," the father of the Emperor Charles V.: "Grenade est fort marchande, princ.i.p.allement de soyes, car les marchans y achattent la pluspart des soyes que l'on maine en Italie, pour faires les draps de soyes. Le lieu ou on les vendt est nomme le Sacquatin. Aupres de ce lieu est une place appellee l'Alleca.s.serie, ou on vendt les draps de soyes ouvres a la Moresque, qui sont moult beaus pour la mult.i.tude des couleurs et la diversite des ouvrages, et en font une grande marchandise." ["Collect.

de Voyages, par M. Gachard, Bruxelles," 1870, i. 205.] Navagiero, who visited Spain twenty years after, tells us in his "Viaggio fatto in Spagna" [Vinegia 1563, p. 21]: "One enters a place called Alcaiceria which is enclosed within two doors, and full of alleys where the Moors sell silks and embroideries of every kind" [p. 29]: "All sorts of cloths of silks are made there; the silks made at Granada are much esteemed all over Spain; they are not so good as those which come from Italy. There are several looms, but they do not yet know how to work them well; they make good taffetas, sarcenet, and silk serges. The velvets are not bad, but those that are made at Valencia are better in quality."

Dr. Rock considers the following specimens in the Kensington Museum to have been made at Granada: Nos. 26, 27, 60, 65, 73, 128, 161, 166.

Larruga tells us in his "Memorias" [vol. vii. 205], that the silk manufactures established at Toledo consumed in 1480 about 450,000 pounds of silk: they decreased about forty years afterwards. In the ordinances issued from that town in 1494, which were confirmed by the Emperor Charles V. we find that the following stuffs were made at Toledo:

"Stuffs of gold and silver which are made in the same manner as satin.

"Satins woven with gold.

"Satins brocaded with silk and gold or silver flowers.

"Silver serges with double filigree.

"Silver and gold materials, which are made like _gorgoran_ or serge.

"Silver and gold stuffs which are made like taffetas, spring silver with silk flowers.

"Embroidered stuffs.

"Embroidered stuffs called silver serge, or _berguilla_.

"_Lama_, cloth of silver, shaded with silver watering.

"Plain silk stuffs woven with silver or gold called _restano_.

"Silk stuffs woven with gold or silver called _relampagos_.

"Serges woven with gold and silver for church vestments.

"Plain filigree serges.

"_Velillo_ of silver.

"Satin woven with gold and silver.

"Brocades of different kinds.

"Church vestments.

"Silver _primaveras_.

"Serges for church vestments."

("Ord. Ant. de Toledo," Tol. 1858, p. 223).

Until the middle of the 17th century, Larruga tells us in vol. vii. p.

208 of his "Memorias," the silk manufacture of Toledo was one of those most highly esteemed in Spain; from this time it was superseded by the manufactures of Seville, Granada, Valencia, and others. These cheapened their productions; but Toledo insisted on keeping to the old Spanish yard and weight in every kind of stuffs. In 1651 fifty looms belonged to this manufacture, although most of them were established in the suburbs.

In this year there was a great decrease in the price of the coin, and the Genoese introduced a large quant.i.ty of silk stuffs, so much so that only twenty looms could be kept working at Toledo. After this, in 1663, 2061 looms existed there.

The silk manufacture of Toledo continued to lose its importance in consequence of the vast importations of foreign silks, but the traditions of this industry have never disappeared from the city.

Larruga, who enters into this subject at great length in the seventh and eighth volumes of his "Memorias," mentions the silk manufacture of D^{n}.

Miguel Gregorio Molero, "who made from the year 1714, under his direction and that of Christoval de Morales, his father-in-law, a large quant.i.ty of silk fabrics of wide and narrow materials of every kind, and stuffs woven with silver and gold." It is an interesting fact that the manufactory of Molero continues to work in the present day, and gold and silver stuffs are made there for ecclesiastical purposes similar in design and manufacture to the early established one of 1714; specimens exist at the South Kensington Museum of the silks made at Toledo by Molero.

Towards the middle of the 18th century the most important centre of artistic silks existed at Talavera, where it was established on a very large scale by King Fernando VI. and supported by the state. It was founded in 1748 under the superintendence of a Frenchman called Jean Rouliere, who was educated at Lyon, a great mechanician, who entered the manufactory with a yearly salary of 450, and 4 per cent. of the sale.

Fine church vestments were made there, and the richest stuffs woven with silver and gold for decorating apartments and furniture, of which a vast quant.i.ty remain in the palaces of Madrid, Aranjuez, the Escorial and La Granja. In 1762 the Spanish government handed over this manufactory to the firm of Uztariz and Company; it remained in their hands until 1780, and at this period it continued to be worked for five years by the state; in 1785 it pa.s.sed to the superintendence of the Tribunal of Commerce ent.i.tled Cinco Gremios Mayores de Madrid. The French invasion of 1808 and general decay of the country contributed towards the extinction of this industry.

In a similar manner to the silk manufactures established at Toledo, silks of all kinds were made at Seville, Granada, Murcia, and other provinces, to a very great extent during the 16th and 17th centuries.

This industry continues in the present day, and specimens exist at the South Kensington Museum, made in 1874, which recall the ancient style of these stuffs.


It is probable that the history of embroidery in Spain followed the same steps as that of gold and silver stuffs, owing to the great similarity which exists between these industries, as may be seen by the banner called de las Navas, which is composed of both these materials.

Ornamentation in the Oriental style must have fallen sooner into disuse than in woven fabrics owing to the fashion of introducing figures in ecclesiastical vestments, which much before the Renaissance period became so general in Europe. The first mention which I find of the existence of this artistic industry appears in the Ordenanzas de Sevilla, 1433; it refers to regulating this industry, and preventing certain frauds, by which we may infer its existence from an earlier period. Similar dispositions appear in one of the Ordinances of Toledo, dated 1496, and as sumptuary laws were continually issued we have constant references to the existence of this industry: [consult "Sempere, Hist. del Lujo," vol. ii. 8vo]. These legal prohibitions did not, however, reach church vestments; after the aggrandizement of the monarchy by the conquest of the New World such enormous sums were spent on these objects, that notwithstanding the ravages of time, wars, disturbances of all kinds, and vandalisms and neglect, the cathedrals of Toledo and Seville, and many other churches, are museums of this style of art.

The art of embroidery was imported by Italians and Germans early in the 16th century, in the same manner as wood carving, metal work, and other industries. The comparative study of embroideries of different kinds which are preserved in churches and museums in other countries confirms this theory; some have been made in the north and others in the south, while their historical origin may be traced to Italy. In Spain itself this comparison may be made, and the Germanic influence is most apparent. At the cathedral of Burgos there is a fine series of ecclesiastical vestments which Bishop Alonso de Cartagena gave to the cathedral on his return from the council of Bale, 1431-43. Another series of most important specimens is at Toledo, a present to Cardinal Mendoza by the German emperor Frederic in 1489. In both these instances we find that the embroidery is identical with what was made in Spain at this period, until they changed the Gothic for the Italian Renaissance style.

I must mention two splendid altar frontals of foreign workmanship which exist in Spain, one of them is at the chapel of the Disputation of Barcelona; it represents St. George slaying the dragon. This embroidery is in high relief, and is so perfect in every detail that it appears to be chiselled. Another altar frontal of the same style is at the Colegiata of Manresa, Cataluna; on this one the Crucifixion is represented, with eighteen other subjects, taken from the Old and New Testaments. This frontal is signed--_Geri Lapi Rachamatore Me fecit in Florentia._

Almost all Spanish towns of importance are distinguished for their embroidery, Toledo, Seville and Valencia are especially so; Ciudad Rodrigo figures as an important centre of this industry during the 16th century. We find the sentence, "obra de Ciudad Rodrigo" applied to embroidery of gold thread, [Acad. de la Historia, MS. C. 122.] Father Siguenza tells us in his "Hist. de la orden de San Jeronimo" that this style of embroidery was exclusively Spanish, and probably the remains of the Moorish influence. The princ.i.p.al localities where embroideries and artistic work of every kind can be studied are the cathedrals of the towns we have mentioned, which were great centres of artistic industries in other times, and the monastery of the Escorial. The collection at the cathedral of Toledo alone is sufficient to ill.u.s.trate this subject.

About forty sets of splendid vestments exist at this cathedral which are embroidered with the most exquisite taste, belonging to the 15th and 16th centuries. Each set generally includes a chasuble, dalmatic, cope, altar frontal, covers for the gospel stands, and other smaller pieces.

The embroideries on the orphreys, which are formed of figures of saints, are as perfect as the miniatures on illuminated MS. The _manga_, or case which hangs round the processional cross given by Cardinal Ximenez, is one of the most splendid specimens of this collection. As a fine specimen of embroidery on a large scale must be mentioned the _dosel_ or canopy called the tent of Ferdinand and Isabel, also at the cathedral of Toledo, which is interesting as being the same which was used in the reception of the English envoys Thomas Salvaige and Richard Nanfan who were sent in 1488 to Spain to arrange the marriage of Prince Henry with the Infanta D^{na.} Catalina. The amba.s.sadors describe it in the following manner: "After the tilting was over, the kings returned to the palace, and took the amba.s.sadors with them, and entered a large room: and there they sat under a rich cloth of state of rich crimson velvet, richly embroidered with the arms of Castile and Aragon, and covered with the device of the king, which is a ... (blank in original), and his motto, written at length, which is 'Tanto Monta.'" ("Memorials of King Henry the Seventh," Gairdner, Lon. 1858, p. 348.)

The most remarkable specimen of embroidery which exists in Spain, not so much on account of its artistic merit as for the enormous value of the materials employed, is the mantle of the Virgin del Sagrario at Toledo.

It is completely covered with pearls and jewels forming a most effective ornamentation. This embroidery was made in the beginning of the 17th century, during the lifetime of Cardinal Sandoval, who presented it to the church. S^{r.} Parro in his exhaustive volume of "Toledo en la Mano," [vol. i., p. 574,] describes it in the following manner: "It is made of twelve yards of silver lama, or cloth of silver, which is entirely covered with gold and precious stones. In the centre there is a jewel of amethysts and diamonds. Eight other jewels appear on each side of enamelled gold, emeralds and large rubies; a variety of other jewels are placed at intervals round the mantle, and at the lower part are the arms of Cardinal Sandoval enamelled on gold and studded with sapphires and rubies. The centre of this mantle is covered with flowers and pomegranates embroidered in seed-pearls of different sizes. Round the borders are rows of large pearls. Besides the gems which were employed in this superb work of art, no less than 257 ounces of pearls of different sizes, 300 ounces of gold thread, 160 ounces of small pieces of enamelled gold, and eight ounces of emeralds were used."

A fine altar frontal of a similar kind embroidered in corals may be seen in the same room where this mantle of the Virgin is kept at the cathedral of Toledo.

We find in Madame de Villars' letters, [p. 39, Paris, 1823,] the description of a similar embroidery. Writing in 1680 she says, "Ce que j'ai vu de plus riche, de plus dore, de plus magnifique, est l'appartement de la reine. Il y a entre autres meubles dans sa chambre, une tap.i.s.serie, dont ce qu'on y voit de fond, est de perles. Ce ne sont pas des personnages, on ne peut dire que l'or y soit ma.s.sif, mais il est employe d'une maniere et d'une abondance extraordinaires. Il y a quelques fleurs: ce sont des bandes de compartimens; mais il faudrait etre plus habile que je ne suis pour representer les choses, pour vous faire comprendre la beaute que compose le corail employe dans cet ouvrage. Ce n'est point une matiere a.s.sez precieuse pour en vanter la quant.i.te; mais la couleur et l'or qui paraissent dans cette broderie, sont a.s.surement ce qu'on aurait peine a decrire."

From the period when these embroideries were made until the middle of the 18th century, Spanish embroideries lost much of their artistic character, although the work itself continued equally excellent. During the whole of the 17th century, a style of embroidery became very general in Spain, which appears to have been copied from eastern importations by the Portuguese or the Spanish possessions in America. The specimens most generally met with in Spain are chiefly bed covers, the ground of which is either linen or satin, embroidered in chain st.i.tch, with figures and exotic birds and animals. Their effect is very rich, and the ornamentation is arranged generally in circles. Specimens exist in England of this kind of work; for example, a quilt, said to have been made for an Archbishop of Toledo, lent by Lady Cornelia Guest to the Special Exhibition of Embroidery held at South Kensington in 1873.

At the Mus. Arq., Madrid, is a fine quilt of this kind embroidered with maize-coloured silk on linen, with representations of figures and animals.

Embroideries were made in Spain to cover furniture. Sedan chairs, coffers, &c., were ornamented in this manner. At the Kensington Museum there is an interesting example of a trunk with silver lock, covered with embroidery, which was given towards 1680 by Count Olivares to the nuns at Loeches. Some fine embroidered tapestries belonging to the same collection are at the Museo Arqueleogico, Madrid. A varied collection of ecclesiastical vestments of the kinds described may also be studied at the museum. (V. Nos. 78, 79, 84, 673, 1194, 1195, 1250, &c., in Dr.

Rock's Catalogue.)

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The Industrial Arts in Spain Part 49 summary

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