Furniture in Spain.
We have seen that Spain as well as Germany
and the Low Countries were under the rule of the Emperor Charles V., and
therefore it is unnecessary to look further for the sources of influence
which brought the wave of Renaissance to the Spanish carvers and cabinet
Sedan Chair Of Charles V. Probably made in the
Netherlands. Arranged with moveable back and uprights to form a canopy
when desired. (In the Royal Armoury, Madrid.)
After Van Eyck was sent for to paint the
portrait of King John's daughter, the Low Countries continued to export to
the Peninsula painters, sculptors, tapestry weavers, and books on Art.
French artists also found employment in Spain, and the older Gothic became
superseded as in other countries. Berruguete, a Spaniard, who had studied in
the atelier of Michael Angelo, returned to his own country with the new
influence strong upon him, and the vast wealth and resources of Spain at
this period of her history enabled her nobles to indulge their taste in
cabinets richly ornamented with repoussé plaques of silver, and later of
tortoiseshell, of ebony, and of scarce woods from her Indian possessions;
though in a more general way chesnut was still a favorite medium.
Contemporary with decorative woodwork of
Moorish design there was also a great deal of carving, and of furniture
made, after designs brought from Italy and the North of Europe; and Mr. J.H.
Pollen, quoting a trustworthy Spanish writer, Senor J.F. Riario, says:—"The
brilliant epoch of sculpture (in wood) belongs to the sixteenth century, and
was due to the great impulse it received from the works of Berruguete and
Felipe de Borgoña. He was the chief promoter of the Italian style, and the
choir of the Cathedral of Toledo, where he worked so much, is the finest
specimen of the kind in Spain. Toledo, Seville, and Valladolid were at the
time great productive and artistic centres."
Silver Table, Late 16th or Early 17th Century.
(In the Queen's Collection, Windsor Castle.)
The same writer, after discussing the
characteristic Spanish cabinets, decorated outside with fine ironwork and
inside with columns of bone painted and gilt, which were called "Varguenos,"
says:—"The other cabinets or escritoires belonging to that period (sixteenth
century) were to a large extent imported from Germany and Italy, while
others were made in Spain in imitation of these, and as the copies were very
similar it is difficult to classify them." * * *
Chair of Walnut or Chesnut Wood, Covered in
Leather with embossed pattern. Spanish, (Collection of Baron de Vallière.)
Period: Early XVII. Century.
Wooden Coffer. With wrought iron mounts and
falling flap, on carved stand. Spanish. (Collection of M. Monbrison.)
Period: XVII. Century.
"Besides these inlaid cabinets, others must
have been made in the sixteenth century inlaid with silver. An Edict was
issued in 1594, prohibiting, with the utmost rigour, the making and selling
of this kind of merchandise, in order not to increase the scarcity of
silver." The Edict says that "no cabinets, desks, coffers, braziers, shoes,
tables, or other articles decorated with stamped, raised, carved, or plain
silver should be manufactured."
The beautiful silver table in Her Majesty's
collection at Windsor Castle, illustrated on page 68, is probably one of
Spanish make of late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.
Although not strictly within the period
treated of in this chapter, it is convenient to observe that much later, in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one finds the Spanish cabinet
maker ornamenting his productions with an inlay of ivory let into
tortoiseshell, representing episodes in the history of Don Quichotte,
and the National pastime of bull-fighting. These cabinets generally have
simple rectangular outlines with numerous drawers, the fronts of which are
decorated in the manner described, and where the stands are original they
are formed of turned legs of ebony or stained wood. In many Spanish cabinets
the influence of Saracenic art is very dominant; these have generally a
plain exterior, the front is hinged as a fall-down flap, and discloses a
decorative effect which reminds one of some of the Alhambra work—quaint
arches inlaid with ivory, of a somewhat bizarre coloring of blue and
vermilion—altogether a rather barbarous but rich and effective treatment.
To the seventeenth century also belong the
high-backed Spanish and Portuguese chairs, of dark brown leather, stamped
with numerous figures, birds and floral scrolls, studded with brass nails
and ornaments, while the legs and arms are alone visible as woodwork; they
are made of chesnut, with some leafwork or scroll carving. There is a good
representative woodcut of one of these chairs.
Until Baron Davillier wrote his work on
Spanish art, very little was known of the different peculiarities by which
we can now distinguish examples of woodwork and furniture of that country
from many Italian or Flemish contemporary productions. Some of the Museum
specimens will assist the reader to mark some characteristics, and it may be
observed generally that in the treatment of figure subjects in the carved
work, the attitudes are somewhat strained, and, as has been stated, the
outlines of the cabinets are without any special feature. Besides the
Spanish chesnut (noyer), which is singularly lustrous and was much used, one
also finds cedar, cypress wood and pine.
In the Chapel of Saint Bruno, attached to the
Carthusian Convent at Granada, the doors and interior fittings are excellent
examples of inlaid Spanish work of the seventeenth century; the monks of
this order at a somewhat earlier date are said to have produced the "tarsia,"
or inlaid work, to which some allusion has already been made.