Art and Culture
Art and Culture
- Pre-Muslim Art
- Hispano-Muslim Art (8C–15C)
- Renaissance and Baroque
- 19C–20C Art
While the popular architecture of Andalucía is as varied as its landscape, many towns and villages have a number of features in common, such as narrow streets, whitewashed façades, niches with statues of saints or the Virgin Mary, and windows with wrought-iron grilles, as well as balconies, sun porches and drying galleries. Beyond the main door, access to the house is often via a hallway through to the patio; these two parts of the entrance area create an air circulation system which helps to temper the extreme heat of high summer. The kitchen and lounge are normally found on the ground floor; the bedrooms on the first floor.
The attic or soberao is used as a storeroom and an area for drying hams and sausages at the very top. Those with both the means and space may have two types of sleeping quarters: bedrooms on the ground floor for the summer and others on the upper floors for the winter months. Roofing varies from one province to the next; flat roofs (used as terraces), particularly in Almería, are as common as those with slopes.
In the countryside of Córdoba and Sevilla, where large estates or latifundios are the norm, cortijos (homesteads), haciendas and lagares (wine and olive estates) dot the landscape, and are now wrongly perceived as the archetypal “casa andaluza”. These large rural units usually consist of a spacious patio surrounded by stables, storehouses and the accommodation provided for staff and some farm workers, and a smaller patio at the centre of the owner’s house.
Up until the 19C, towns and cities were comprised of individual houses. However, emigration from the countryside and smaller towns resulted in the construction of new types of housing. It was from this time that the so-called “neighbourhood corrals” (corrales de vecindad) evolved, occasionally created in abandoned convents and monasteries. Today, following substantial renovation, some of these corrals have been converted into expensive seigniorial residences popular with artists and high-earning professionals.
At the lower end of the economic scale, blocks of flats began to be built at the beginning of the 20C.
Andalucía also contains a number of unique types of housing such as caves in Granada, Almería and in particular Guadix; the humble homes of the Doñana National Park, built of wooden frames covered with rushes; the houses of the Alpujarras (Granada and Almería), the direct inheritors of Moorish architecture; the small houses tucked away down alleyways and under the arches of villages in the Axarquía region (Málaga); and the incomparable beauty of the pueblos blancos (white villages) of Cádiz and Málaga.
Although the Moors embellished Andalucía with its most emblematic monuments, the land they conquered was far from being virgin territory. From the Palaeolithic period onwards civilisations succeeded each other on Andalusian soil, each leaving its indelible mark.
Prehistory and Antiquity
Palaeolithic Era – Of prime importance from the Palaeolithic Era (30 000–9 000 BC) are the Pileta caves at Benaoján (Málaga), with their miles of galleries decorated with paintings of animals and symbolic drawings, and the caves at Nerja (Málaga). The Ambrosio cave in Vélez Blanco (Almería), holds an unusual decorative engraved frieze.
Neolithic Era – This era saw the development of more schematic human and animal figures alongside drawings of the sun, idols and various symbols. Drawings in the caves at Tajo de las Figuras (Cádiz), La Graja (Jaén) and Los Letreros (Vélez Blanco, Almería) all date from this period.
The third millennium BC – This time saw the influx of civilisations from the Mediterranean, heralding early Megalithic culture, which reached its zenith in the second millennium; the most striking example of this period is at Los Millares (Gádor, Almería). This large complex of walls and collective sepulchres shows that its builders not only knew how to work metals, but also had significant knowledge of ceramics, basket-making and weaving. The collective Menga, Viera and El Romeral dolmens at Antequera, those at Castilleja de Guzmán and the 4C–3C BC Dolmen del Soto at Trigueros are the finest Megalithic constructions found anywhere in Spain, in terms both of size and level of development.
The Phoenicians – Oriental art came to Andalucía via the Phoenicians who, having founded Gades (Cádiz), established outposts on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar in preparation for further advances along the Mediterranean coast. The oldest Phoenician remains discovered are from the settlement at Morro de Mezquitilla (Málaga), dating from the 9C BC. Other Phoenician vestiges have also been unearthed in the provinces of Cádiz, Málaga (the tombs at Trayamar) and Almería (Sexi necropolis).
The kingdom of Tartessus (9C–4C BC), aligned with the Phoenicians, produced a variety of objects made from bronze and ceramic (jugs, water pitchers, amphorae), as well as delicate pieces of goldware (diadems, belts, pendants) decorated with distinctive motifs, undoubtedly linked to the worship of various divinities.
The earliest Iberian sculpture dates from the 5C BC and shows clear influences from Greek and Phoenician art, with rigid figures represented frontally. These artefacts were generally used to protect the dead, whose remains were cremated and deposited in urns or sarcophagi placed in large stone mausoleums, as can be seen at La Toya (Jaén), Baza (Granada) and Villaricos (Almería). The apogee of local sculptural art was from the 5C–4C BC, during which works with clear Hellenic influences were created, such as the magnificent Dama de Baza. Iberian ceramics also copied the red glaze used by the Phoenicians and Greek vases. Their varied designs evolved from primitive bands and circumferences to complex drawings of leaves and flowers interspersed with geometric motifs.
Roman art in Spain
In accordance with their custom, the Romans who came to Hispania in the 2C BC immediately introduced the official art from their imperial capital. Although, with the passing of time, many of these works were created entirely on the Iberian peninsula, it is not possible to talk of truly Hispano-Roman art, but of Roman art created in Hispania.
Baetica, the most advanced region on the Iberian peninsula during the Roman period, began to experience significant growth with the development of new settlements along the River Guadalquivir (Betis), planned according to the Roman grid system. Córdoba, the capital, could not match the splendour of Itálica, which attained maximum development under emperors Trajan and Hadrian, both of Andalusian extraction. The cities of Hispalis (Sevilla), Carmona and Acinipo (Ronda la Vieja) also contained opulent patrician mansions and large public buildings that used marble from Macael (Almería).
In Roman sculpture, representations of emperors (Trajan, Hadrian and Vespasian) and their families were common, as were sculptures of goddesses (Venus in Itálica, for example). The decoration of patrician mansions also imitated that of Rome. Mosaics and small bronze figures reproduced the work of slaves brought from Africa (standard-holders, candelabra). Tiny statues of household gods (lares) governed daily activities .
Lastly, the layout and design of rural villas would later provide inspiration for popular Andalusian architecture.
Hispano-Visigothic art (6C–8C)
The Visigoths who invaded Spain in the 5C were nomads without an architectural tradition. Consequently, palaeo-Christian forms, which had already absorbed Byzantine and Oriental influence, persisted throughout Roman Baetica until the end of the 6C.
The third Council of State in Toledo (589), which proclaimed the unity of the kingdom, marked the start of new architectural forms which consolidated to acquire undisputed uniformity.
In religious buildings, the classical basilican plan, slightly modified, as in Alcalá de los Gazules, developed into a cruciform shape. Aisles were separated by columns supporting horseshoe arches. Vaults were generally semicircular, while aisles often had a wooden framework. Decoration on walls, imposts and capitals showed a marked Oriental influence with mostly geometric motifs as opposed to vegetal and a few human figures. The exteriors were devoid of buttresses of any kind.
Given that almost every Visigothic temple was later modified, the original plan can now be recognised in just a few buildings, such as in San Pedro de Alcántara (Málaga), El Germo (Córdoba) and Gerena (Sevilla).
The most recognisable feature of Visigothic art is its gold and silverwork, which reached a level of perfection in the 7C. Craftsmen produced two types of work, namely liturgical items (processional crosses and votive objects such as their famous crowns) and articles of a personal nature (clasps, bracelets, necklaces and pendants). Some pieces now exhibited in museums, such as those from Torredonjimeno (Jaén), belong to treasure buried by the Visigoths in the face of the advancing Moors.
Hispano-Muslim Art (8C–15C)
The Moorish invasion, which may initially have appeared a tragedy, was in reality the beginning of a magnificent era of creativity and vitality as the inhabitants of Andalucía came into contact with the aesthetics of Islam.
However, through eight centuries of Moorish occupation, Andalusian art always retained basic artistic characteristics which clearly distinguished it from all other artistic trends of the period.
During the early days of Moorish rule, the horseshoe arch, with its Visigothic and Oriental influence and alternating red (brick) and white (plaster with lime) voussoirs, was the main feature of Moorish buildings. The arches had a dual purpose: as an element of support and as decoration, for example as a border for a blind arch. The development of intersecting arches gave rise to the pointed horseshoe-shaped arch, used extensively from the 12C onwards.
As time passed, the foliated arch, already in evidence in the Mezquita in Córdoba, evolved into the highly complex multifoil arch.
The alfiz, the rectangular moulding surrounding the arch, was another recurrent theme of Moorish art, and was to have a major influence on Mudéjar art in subsequent centuries.
Vaults, armatures and artesonado work
Hispano-Moorish vaults took their influence from Oriental Islamic art. Unlike those in Christian art (arris and fan vaults), their ribs do not cross at the centre. Perhaps one of the best examples is the enclosure of the mihrab in Córdoba’s Mezquita.
Despite the uniqueness of Andalusian vaults, it is undoubtedly the widely used wooden armature which can be considered the architectural feature which best displays the Moor’s technical and aesthetic expertise.
Wooden coverings evolved from simple paired and knuckle armatures to the most sophisticated of artesonado work decorated with stars to form attractive lacería ornamentation.
Decoration: materials and motifs
Behind austere outer walls, the interiors of Andalusian palaces were often of extraordinary splendour. Sometimes resplendent facing completely masked humble construction materials.
The refined aesthetic sense of the Hispano-Moors managed to successfully combine techniques as disparate as azulejos and alicatados (decorative sections of tiling), panels of stone or sculpted plasterwork, mosaics with Oriental influence, wood worked to form latticework, and exquisite artesonado, to create surprisingly sumptuous effects.
The decorative motifs used can be classified into three main groups:
geometric designs, mainly used in the decoration of glazed ceramic friezes and in the ornamentation of wood (doors, latticework and artesonados), in which the lines are broken up by polygons and stars;
plant motifs, known as atauriques, used to decorate sculpted stone or plaster wall panels. Over time, these motifs (palm leaves, grapevines) were styled to create extremely complex designs. A common technique was the stylisation of the tree of life – vegetal decoration arranged around a vertical axis. Mocárabes, decorative motifs resembling stalactites, were used to decorate arches and cupolas;
epigraphs fulfilled the same informative function as images used by other architectural styles, with Kufic script, characterised by its large, angled lettering, and Nesjí script, with its more free-flowing characters, the most widely used.
Andalusian decorative art produced a variety of elaborate objects which can be classified as household or luxury items. The latter were created to satisfy the demand of a more refined ruling class who afforded importance to interior decoration and who took great pleasure in bestowing unique and sumptuous gifts on foreign visitors.
In terms of ceramics, the following stand out: the earthenware known as green and manganese, the so-called cuerda seca ceramics (azulejos) used as wall decoration, and the gilded work known as reflejo metálico (lustre work). The latter, production of which began in Córdoba in the 9C, attained its full glory during the Nasrid period in the production centres in and around Málaga.
In addition to Córdoba, where Abd ar-Rahman II founded the Casa del Tiraz or Royal Silk Factory, Almería specialised in the production of exquisite fabrics; during the 14C and 15C, the workshops of Granada also produced impressive silk fabrics entwined with gold thread. Intense colours predominated in these fabrics, which were decorated with inscriptions and architectural motifs.
Nasrid gold and silversmiths showed a special predilection for ceremonial swords, the hilts and guards of which were decorated with extraordinary combinations of marble, filigree and polychrome enamel.
To complete the full picture of Hispano-Moorish artistry, mention should also be made of the highly delicate marble carvings, which were popular decorative features used by the Caliphate, taraceas (wood inlaid with marble and woods of varying colours) used to decorate Nasrid furniture, and leatherwork (cordovans made from goatskin and embossed sheepskin guadamecies).
Many of these items were to remain in use by the Christians, who praised their quality and value. In fact, the sculpted marble boxes and chests in which Muslim women kept their jewels and perfume were subsequently used to preserve the relics of saints.
Córdoban Caliphate (8C–10C)
The Mezquita in Córdoba and the Medina Azahara palace, the two great monuments from this period, contain all the features associated with early Hispano-Moorish art, which developed during the three centuries in which Córdoba was the capital of al-Andalus.
In accordance with their custom of assimilating the culture of those they conquered, the Moors used techniques and features from both Visigothic and Roman art, skilfully combined with the traditions of the Arabian Peninsula.
The major imports from Caliphal art were the foliated arch and the alfiz, the rectangular surround of a horseshoe arch. In decoration, early geometric motifs containing squares and diamonds gradually evolved into designs encompassing floral motifs (vine leaves, bunches of grapes, acanthus leaves, palm trees and rosettes) inspired by the Umayyads; these were later replaced by heart-shaped floral drawings which took their inspiration from the Abbasids.
The Caliphate’s economic prosperity was reflected in the materials used (ashlar stone and worked marble) and the opulence of the metallic lustre of Byzantine mosaics created by foreign craftsmen.
Taifa period (11C)
Despite the political dispersion which was a feature of the taifa (faction) kingdoms, Andalusian art of the period showed great unity, given that Andalucía had become isolated from the rest of Islam. Artists from the erstwhile Caliphate of Córdoba emigrated to the courts of various taifas where they continued the Córdoban tradition.
Economic decline resulted in the abandoning of noble materials such as ashlar stone on walls, and columns and pillars made from marble in favour of brick, plaster and mortar. To compensate for this, decorative motifs attained unexpected heights (epigraphic, geometric and plant designs) and combinations of arches (foliated, mixtilinear, semicircular, pointed, intercrossing, etc.) came into use to form arabesque features.
During this period, religious architecture was less important than both civil (numerous public baths such as the so-called Bañuelo de Granada) and military architecture (the alcazabas in Málaga, Granada and Almería).
Almoravid period (12C)
Following the arrival of the Almoravids, Andalusian art spread throughout the Maghreb. Marrakech and Sevilla developed into the capitals of a new kingdom on either side of the Straits of Gibraltar, gradually introducing new trends resulting from mutual influence between the peoples of the two continents.
Arches began to develop ever more complicated styles, as did cupolas, some of which contained openwork; others which were decorated with mocárabe motifs. This era heralded the appearance of geometric decoration in the form of networks of sebka or diamond-shaped designs; combinations of epigraphic and lacería motifs also increased in complexity.
Almost all buildings dating from this period have either disappeared or been swallowed up beneath additions introduced by the Almohads, although experts recognise features of the Almoravid style in the mihrab in one of the mezquitas in Almería (the present-day Iglesia de San Juan).
Almohad period (13C)
The basic religious principles of the Almohads, which were based on purity and austerity, were reflected in the simplicity and monumental nature of their buildings, the majority of which were defensive in character, such as the Alcázar and the Torre del Oro in Sevilla. This type of fortified construction, with its delimiting gateways and defensive towers (albarranas) separated from the fortified buildings, would later be adopted by the Christians as a model for their own castles.
The new arrivals used the same construction materials as their predecessors, namely brick, mortar, plaster and wood, but opted for more sober decoration, with large empty spaces and geometric adornments replacing plant motifs. The traditional horseshoe arch was practically abandoned, except in exceptional circumstances, and replaced by pointed horseshoe and foiled arches.
Without doubt, the most representative monument from this period is the Giralda in Sevilla which, in its day, was the minaret for the main mezquita in the capital of the Almohad kingdom.
Nasrid period (13C–15C)
In the eyes of many specialists, this represents the greatest period in Andalusian art. For many years, these experts highlighted the poverty of the materials used in Nasrid art, and their contrast with their abundance of decoration.
Nowadays it is known that the function of the building determined the choice of materials. Consequently, in baths, as well as fortresses such as the Alcazaba in Granada, ashlar stone, bricks and mortar (of characteristic red colour) were used.
Palaces such as the Alhambra used marble on the floors and for its columns, glazed ceramics (azulejos) in areas exposed to friction, elaborate plaster and stucco decoration, wooden vaults and artesonados and mocárabe vaults.
Capitals were generally of two types: the first had a cylindrical base decorated with plain leaves which supported a parallelepiped adorned with additional foliage; the second type were mocárabe in style and derived from Asian art.
Although less spectacular nowadays due to weathering, colour was the other main feature of Nasrid buildings, the interiors of which, in their prime, must have looked like an Impressionist painting. In addition to the friezes of azulejos, the plaster and wood used to cover walls were painted in red, blue, green and gold tones, at a time when different-coloured marble was also used for capitals and columns. Given that the present-day appearance of the Alhambra continues to impress and amaze millions of visitors, we can only imagine how impressive it must have looked during its period of maximum splendour.
Medieval Andalusian art
Mudéjar art (13C–16C)
Following the conquest of Córdoba and Sevilla in the first half of the 13C, Christian models were imposed on those buildings under the yoke of the kingdom of Castilla, although their construction was entrusted to skilled Muslim craftsmen. This resulted in the development of the typically Spanish Mudéjar art, the fusion of Islamic and Western artistic concepts.
Mudéjar architecture evolved over the centuries, adapting to the dominant features of each area, in such a way that the Mudéjar style in Andalucía is different from that of other Spanish regions. Despite these differences, in general it can be said that it remains loyal to Muslim traditions in terms of the materials used (plaster, brick and wood), its construction techniques (walls, horseshoe arches and wood ceilings) and decoration (fine artesonado work, the use of alfiz, and complicated plasterwork).
In the main, the churches of Sevilla (San Marcos, San Pablo and Santa Marina) are built using brick, with artesonados and traditional features of Almohad decoration.
Major examples of civil architecture, in which roofs with two or four slopes predominate, include the Alcázar in Sevilla, which Pedro I rebuilt in 1366, the Torre de Don Fadrique (Sevilla), the Torre de El Carpio (Córdoba), the Castillo de San Romualdo (San Fernando, Cádiz) and the Casa de Pilatos (Sevilla).
Gothic art (13C–15C)
Early Andalusian Gothic art, which was inspired by the Cistercian model (large rose windows on the façades and a central nave with two side aisles of lower height with ogival vaults), produced works of great interest such as the so-called Fernandina churches of Córdoba (Santa Marina, San Miguel and San Lorenzo).
The construction of Sevilla Cathedral started in 1401. This is the largest Gothic building in Andalucía and one of the last Spanish Gothic churches to be built. The Flemish artists who worked on this ambitious project introduced a series of innovations, such as a rectangular floor plan, a flat apsidal end with a small apse, slender fasciated pillars, complex star-shaped vaults and abundant decoration.
During the reign of Isabel the Catholic, the Isabelline style developed, halfway between Gothic and Renaissance, exuberantly combining Flamboyant and Mudéjar features. The Capilla Real in Granada, a work by Enrique Egas, is the best example of the Isabelline style.
Foreign artists who came to Sevilla in the 15C brought Flemish influence, with its deep realism, to Andalusian sculpture. Lorenzo Mercadante, who was born in Brittany, is one of the best exponents of this Andalusian Gothic style. He worked mainly on the cathedral in Sevilla and introduced the technique of terra cotta, which was later used by numerous local artists. Spanish artists of the period worthy of mention include Pedro Millán, creator of the statue of the Virgin of the Pillar (Virgen del Pilar) in the same cathedral.
Renaissance and Baroque
The arrival on Spanish shores of seemingly limitless bounty from the Americas coincided with the introduction in the country of new artistic forms inspired by the Renaissance. This flowering of the arts, led by the appearance of leading artists of the time, saw Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada and many other towns and cities across the region establish themselves as centres of artistic creation.
This expansion reached its zenith during the two centuries that followed – a period that saw the full expression and glory of Andalusian Baroque.
The Renaissance (16C)
The arrival of the Renaissance in Spain coincided with a new period of splendour in Andalucía. The monopoly on trade with the New World held by Sevilla resulted in the amassing of huge fortunes in the region’s capital and other main towns and cities, which were soon embellished with myriad religious and secular monuments.
However, the magnificence of Late Gothic architecture and Mudéjar tradition initially prevented the total adoption of Renaissance ideas; in fact, the first three decades of the 16C saw the development of the Plateresque style, similar in style to Isabelline, and so called because of its lavish, refined decoration which was reminiscent of silverwork (plata: silver).
Although the masterpiece of this genre is undoubtedly the town hall (ayuntamiento) in Sevilla, a work by Diego de Riaño, a number of other fine examples of the style can be found across Andalucía: the gracious Lonja of the Chapel Royal and Diego de Siloé’s doorway of the church at the Monasterio de San Jerónimo, both of which are found in Granada; a number of palaces in Baeza and Úbeda, in the province of Jaén; and the façade of the Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción, by Alonso de Baena, in Arcos de la Frontera.
As the century evolved, greater importance was attributed to proportions than ornamentation, resulting in the total abandonment of Gothic ideas. Barrel, oval and oven vaulting became predominant features, along with the almost exclusive use of the semicircular arch; decorative motifs also increased in size at a time when the trend was for the concentration of decoration in specific areas to allow for the development of vast open areas.
Three names stand out in Renaissance architecture in the region. Diego de Siloé (1495–1563) completed the work on Granada Cathedral, having modified the Gothic plans conceived by Enrique de Egas. The edifice, one of the most significant from this period, served as a model for the cathedrals in both Málaga and Guadix. De Siloé was also active elsewhere in the region, in particular Guadix, Montefrío (Iglesia de la Villa) and across the province of Jaén, where he worked in close collaboration with his disciple, Andrés de Vandelvira, who left his audacious mark on Jaén Cathedral and other buildings in the same province, particularly in Úbeda (Iglesia del Salvador) and Baeza.
Lastly, the architect and painter Pedro Machuca (d. 1550) always remained faithful to his Italian training, which he received alongside Michelangelo. Carlos V’s palace in Granada’s Alhambra, his most impressive work, is a work of extreme simplicity (a circle built within a square) and total innovation which was completely misunderstood at the time.
The most important figures of the Renaissance in Sevilla were Martín Gaínza, the architect for the chapel royal in the city’s cathedral, and the Córdoban Hernán Ruiz, who was responsible for the modern-day appearance of the Giralda.
The last third of the 16C in Spain also saw the forceful imposition of the Herreran style created by Juan de Herrera, as seen at El Escorial. Sevilla is also home to a work by Felipe II’s favourite architect: the Archivo de Indias which, with its sober, rectilinear façade, encompasses all the characteristic features of Counter Reformation art.
Realism and expression are the dominant sculptural themes from the Renaissance period, which was already providing a foretaste of Baroque imagery. Given that most projects were commissioned by the Church, religious figures predominate. It should also be remembered that the Counter Reformation was initiated in the last third of the century, on behalf of which Felipe II was determined to mount a strong defence. More often than not, these sculptures were carved in polychrome wood; marble, alabaster and stone were only used for rare secular figures, funereal and monumental art. As was the case during the Gothic period, the Renaissance in Andalucía saw an abundance of altars decorated with large-dimensioned retables.
Of the numerous Italian artists who worked in the region, the following stand out: Domenico Fancelli (1469–1518), the sculptor of the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs in the Chapel Royal in Granada Cathedral; Jacobo Florentino (1476–1526), who created the Burial of Christ (Entierro de Cristo) exhibited in the Museo de Bellas Artes in the city; and Pietro Torrigiano, whose Penitent St Jerome (Museo de Bellas Artes, Sevilla) was to exert great influence on Sevilla’s Baroque sculptors. The Burgundian Felipe Vigarny (d. 1543) worked mainly in Castilla in collaboration with Berruguete; however, he created one of his best works in Granada, namely the altarpiece for the city’s Chapel Royal.
Although he died young, the most important Spanish sculptor of the period was Bartolomé Ordóñez (d. 1520), born in Burgos but trained in Italy, who died in Carrara after working on the tombs of Juana la Loca (Joan the Mad) and Felipe el Hermoso (Philip the Handsome) for the Capilla Real in Granada.
As with the sculpture of the period, religious rather than secular themes dominated Renaissance painting. It could be said that in the whole of Andalucía, the only city to stand apart was Sevilla, where several families with large fortunes decorated their mansions with secular, mythological and allegorical canvases (Casa de Pilatos). During the early decades of the century the Flemish influence, with its characteristic taste for concrete images, remained ever present. However, Tuscan mannerism and Raphael’s classicism gradually paved the way for the arrival of Venetian painting.
The best exponent of the early Sevillian Renaissance was Alejo Fernández (c. 1475–1545), an artist of German extraction who adopted the Spanish surname of his wife.
In line with the themes popular with Flemish painters, he was first attracted by the effects of perspective and by the arrangement of space. During this period, when his studio was in Córdoba, he painted his famous Flagellation (Museo del Prado, Madrid) and Christ Tied to the Column (Museo de Bellas Artes, Córdoba). When he moved to Sevilla, his interest evolved to the human form, with works such as the Virgin of the Rose (Iglesia de Santa Ana) and the Virgin of the Navigators, his most famous painting of the period, on display in the Alcázar in Sevilla.
The Sevillian artist Luis de Vargas (1506–68), who trained in Italy with a disciple of Raphael, took his inspiration from the mannerism of Vasari and the delicate touch of Correggio. His most renowned work is the Generación temporal de Cristo in the city’s cathedral, which was given the nickname of La Gamba due to the beauty of Adam’s leg (gamba in Italian). In the eyes of many, Luis de Morales (c. 1520–86), an artist from Extremadura who had close ties with Andalucía, is the most interesting painter of his era; his highly personal works manifest both Flemish and Italian influence. The gentleness of his feminine characters and the expressiveness of his ailing Christs (Ecce Homo in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid) made him the most admired artist of the time and subject to imitation by his peers.
During the 16C, Sevilla became popular with many Flemish artists who were attracted by the wealth and riches of the city and hope of commissions in America. These included Peter Kempeneer, known as Pedro de Campaña (1503–63), who painted the impressively large Descent from the Cross in the city’s cathedral, and Hernando Sturbio (d. 1577), the creator of the Retable of the Evangelists in the same edifice.
Spanish Baroque shone forth in every aspect of art. During the first half of the 17C, the influence of the Herreran style remained: churches with a very simple rectangular plan, ornamental plaster motifs and occasionally façades decorated with panels of azulejos (Hospital de la Caridad, Sevilla). This austerity gradually softened, as buildings started to be covered with more ornate decoration, even though the structures themselves remained simple in design and many cupolas were deceptive in that they were often composed of a wooden arcature with a plaster facing instead of being made of stone.
It was during the course of this century that the architect, sculptor and painter Alonso Cano created the main façade of Granada Cathedral.
However, it was not until after the rise to power of the Bourbons that Andalusian Baroque entered its most sumptuous phase, with the development of trade with the Americas (due to the silting up of the River Guadalquivir, Cádiz replaced Sevilla as the main trading port with the Americas in 1717) resulting in a period of frenetic construction across the entire region. Numerous small towns were soon embellished with seigniorial mansions and Baroque churches, such as Osuna (bell tower of the Iglesia de la Merced and Palacio de los Marqueses de la Gomera), Écija (Palacio de Benamejí, Palacio de Peñaflor and the bell tower of the Iglesia de San Juan), Lucena (Capilla del Sagrario), Priego de Córdoba, Alcalá la Real, Guadix (bell tower and façade of the cathedral), Carmona (Convento de las Descalzas) and Estepa (doorway of the Iglesia del Carmen).
The overflowing imagination of artists knew no bounds. Concave and convex structures gave undulating movement to façades, while decorative motifs such as volutes, floral bands and Solomonic columns adorned every surface. Beneath the common denominator of exuberance, architects felt free to interpret Baroque according to their own personal preferences. Moorish influence and a fantasy of colour were the prime influences behind the ostentatious Sagrario in the Carthusian monastery (Cartuja) in Granada, designed by Francisco Hurtado (1669–1725); in the same city, the extraordinary decor of the Iglesia de San Juan de Dios stands out for the rich ornamentation of its façade. Meanwhile, Vicente Acero, the architect of the Real Fábrica de Tabacos (Royal Tobacco Factory), was inspired by Siloé’s Renaissance cathedral in Granada, when he embarked upon Spain’s last great cathedral, in Cádiz, built between 1722 and 1729.
The Sevillian Leonardo de Figueroa (1650–1730), creator of a number of important civic buildings in his native city such as the Palacio de San Telmo (originally built as a school for future navigators and today the seat of the Andalusian parliament) and the Hospital de los Venerables, was also responsible for several fine churches, including the Iglesia del Salvador and the Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses; the latter, with its central plan and Solomonic columns, demonstrates his great ability to combine brick, ceramics and coloured plaster.
Although marble and bronze statues inspired by allegorical and mythological themes were popular in both Italy and France, in Andalucía – as in the rest of Spain – sculpture was used as a tool of the Counter Reformation, with realism as its dominant theme.
At the beginning of the 20C, the region became a fundamental focal point for religious sculpture – times were difficult and people were looking towards religion as a solution to their problems. Communities of monks and nuns developed, multiplying the need for sculpted images and groups of statues, both to be venerated at the altar and held aloft in street processions such as those during Holy Week. These increasingly realistic and expressive works continued to be carved from polychrome wood, although the colours became increasingly natural. In many cases fabric covered the whole body, so that only the face and hands were carved; it was also known for glass eyes and tears, added as a final touch of authenticity.
Juan Martínez Montañés – Known to his contemporaries as the “god of wood”, Montañés was born in Alcalá la Real in 1568 and died in 1649. He was the true founder of Sevilla’s sculptural school and the finest representative of the zenith of the art in Andalucía. More influenced by Renaissance ideas than his contemporaries, this masterful sculptor only evolved towards the Baroque style towards the end his career. The creator of numerous polychrome works (whose colours were often adopted by the artist Francisco Pacheco), he was able to confer great serenity upon the expressions depicted in his faces.
As well as numerous Mannerist-inspired retablos (Santos Juanes in the Iglesia de San Leandro), he also created countless images of Christ and saints (his best work is without doubt his Christ of Clemency in Sevilla Cathedral), including tiny marble figurines. From his Baroque period, particular attention should be paid to the extraordinary retable of the Battle of Angels (Iglesia de San Miguel, Jérez de la Frontera) and the magnificent, reflective Immaculate Conceptions in Sevilla Cathedral.
Not to be forgotten among the disciples of Montañés is one of his own sons, Alonso Martínez (d. 1668), who collaborated on a number of masterpieces by his master, the Córdoban Juan de Mesa (1583–1627), whose style was considered more dramatic; the latter was the creator of the venerated Jesús del Gran Poder (Jesus of Great Power), nowadays exhibited in the modern Templo de Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder, built in 1965.
Alonso Cano and the Sevilla School
The school was headed by the multi-faceted Alonso Cano (1601–67), an architect, artist and sculptor born in Granada and who trained alongside Martínez Montañés. His simple, delicate figures would later be reinterpreted by his numerous pupils, such as Pedro de Mena (1628–93), the sculptor of the choir stalls in Málaga Cathedral, and José de Mora (1642–1724), whose psychological imbalance – he was to die insane – remain entrenched in his often striking works.
During the course of the 17C, and particularly at the beginning of the 18C, Italian influence began to manifest itself, inspired by the style employed by Bernini. Agitation, movement and a sense of the dramatic in the scenes portrayed are the dominant features of this style subsequently copied by Andalusian artists. Alongside José de Arce (d. 1666), who introduced this new trend, other artists who stand out include Pedro Roldán (1624–1700), who worked mainly in Sevilla (creating the Entombment in the Hospital de la Caridad), and Pedro Duque Cornejo (1677–1757), the creator of many works for Carthusian monasteries in and around Sevilla and the fine choir stalls in Córdoba Cathedral.
The long list of Baroque sculptors from the Granada School should also include Torcuato Ruiz del Peral, who carved highly expressive heads of saints and the choir stalls in Guadix Cathedral.
The Golden Age of Andalusian painting
The 17C is without doubt the Golden Age of Andalusian painting, which started out loyal to the dominant Flemish tradition of the 16C before developing its own expression through opulence and light. From the middle of the century onwards, Sevilla and Madrid became the undisputed capitals of Spanish painting.
The renown of Sevillian artists in the early decades of the 17C, such as Francisco Pacheco, the father-in-law of Velázquez, has remained obscured by the brilliance of three undisputed masters: Velázquez, Zurbarán and Murillo.
spent the majority of his professional life in Madrid as a portrait painter to the Court. However, neither fame nor the influence of Italian artists whom he admired greatly, in particular Titian, could bring him to forget his training in Sevilla. It was during this period (1617–23), before he left the city of his birth, that he painted works with predominantly religious themes and or in the costumbrismo genre (Adoration of the Kings, Museo del Prado, Madrid).
Francisco de Zurbarán
Living from 1598 to 1664 and coming from Extremadura, Zurbarán interpreted themes of monastic life, but also painted more popular themes, representing reality as accurately as possible, with an economy of means and a deliberately limited range of colour which emphasises the play of light and, in his portraits in particular, sees his characters burst forth from the canvas. His academy rapidly developed into one of the largest in Sevilla, exporting more works to the Americas than any other in the city.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Murillo (1617–82), whose works of a religious nature (Virgin Mary, Infant Jesus) have been reproduced time and time again, was the most famous Spanish artist of the period. Through his academy, he also exported innumerable canvases destined for the churches of the New World. The delicate touch and warmth of these occasionally bland paintings cannot hide the qualities of an extraordinary painter who was a great master of both technique and colour, and highly skilled in the portrayal of genre scenes.
Juan Valdés Leal
In complete contrast to Murillo, Leal (1662–95) concentrated on expression and the macabre with a striking power and realism that at times touched on the morbid, as seen in the frescoes painted for Sevilla’s Hospital de la Caridad.
In Granada, the aforementioned Alonso Cano (1661–67), a great friend of Velázquez, was the most classical of all Baroque painters. His most famous work is a series of canvases representing the Life of the Virgin (Granada Cathedral), showing the major influence of the Venetian masters, whose work he became familiar with when he worked under the protection of the favourite of Felipe IV, the Count-Duke of Olivares.
After several centuries of artistic splendour, Andalusian creativity appeared to run out of steam as it entered the 19C. The severe economic crisis in the region was reflected in a dearth of commissions and the absence of prestigious projects. Despite this, a few Andalusian artists still managed to make their mark in Spain.
In Romantic painting, several Sevillian artists stand out. These include Antonio Martínez Esquivel, José Gutiérrez de la Vega and Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer; the latter, the brother of the poet Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, was inspired by costumbrismo, with its joyful scenes so alien to his personal experiences of sadness. Manuel Rodríguez de Guzmán is worthy of special interest as a result of the huge excitement generated by his excellent sketches of Andalusian life. His warm portrayals of life in southern Spain, which were greatly admired by foreigners, helped to perpetuate the romantic image of Andalucía.
In the last quarter of the century, the realist Julio Romero de Torres (1880–1930) was born in Córdoba. This artist specialised in painting Andalusian women of great beauty and restrained sensuality (Oranges and Lemons). Although his work was criticised in certain quarters, such was his popularity that shortly after his death a museum was created in the house in which he was born.
Very different from Romero de Torres, both in terms of his style and his life outside Spain, was the Málaga-born Picasso (1881–1973) who is undoubtedly the most famous figure of contemporary Spanish pictorial art. Although he lived in his native Andalucía for just eight years, he maintained close ties with his own region and kept alive his passion for bullfighting from afar.
Two artists who made their names in the early part of the 20C were Daniel Vázquez Díaz (1882–1969), who took his inspiration from Cubism to create works such as the frescoes in the Monasterio de la Rábida (Huelva), and Rafael Zabaleta (1907–60), an artist known for his stylised, rustic expressionism.
Other artists born towards the middle of the 20C include Luis Gordillo (1934) and Guillermo Pérez Villalta (1948), both involved in the renewed trend towards figurative representation, as well as Alfonso Fraile, Vicente Vela, Alfonso Albacete, Carmen Laffon, Chema Cobo and the Granada-born José Guerrero.
Mateo Inurria (1869–1924), the creator of the statue of El Gran Capitán in Córdoba, and Jacinto Higueras were the leading Andalusian sculptors from the first half of the 20C. Miguel Berrocal (1933), who in his early works manifested his keen interest in abstract forms, later moved on to more figurative subjects.
The widespread changes within the field of architecture were slow to take root in Andalucía. Modernismo merely produced a few strange examples of the genre within bourgeois society (the interiors of houses and small shops), particularly in the province of Cádiz.
At the same time, and inspired by the Costurero de la Reina lodge (Sevilla, 1893), the historicist and revivalist movement was born, and came to the fore at the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition, with its ornate pavilions. Other official buildings, such as the Palacio Provincial in Jaén and a number of cinemas and theatres, including the Teatro Falla in Cádiz and the Aliatar in Granada are further examples of this movement.
The architecture of recent decades, which has openly embraced these new trends, is a clear reflection of the positive development of the Andalusian economy. Since the sixties, during which the School of Architecture was created in Sevilla, a number of public buildings, tourist complexes and housing developments have been built, designed by the best architects from Andalucía and elsewhere in Spain (Saénz de Oiza, Moneo, de La-Hoz, García de Paredes, Cano Lasso, etc.).
The urban projects completed for the 1992 World Expo in Sevilla are further proof of the architectural renaissance which has taken place in the region.
Andalucía has produced many figures of renown in the world of culture. From the Roman philosopher Seneca to Nobel Prize-winning authors such as Juan Ramón Jiménez and Vicente Aleixandre, and writers of the stature of Luis de Góngora, the list of national celebrities is long. And there are those from afar who have had a deep attraction for the soul of this complex region. We can mention just a few of those who have found inspiration in this magnificent land.
Notable figures of Andalusian literature from the second half of the 20C include Félix Grande, José Caballero Bonald, Antonio Muñoz Molina and, above all, Antonio Gala, the Córdoban writer.
Tirso de Molina (1579–1684), the probable author of Don Juan, set the conquests of the legendary rake Don Juan Tenorio on the banks of the Guadalquivir. Alongside Don Quixote and Faust, this great lover was to become one of the signature figures of world literature thanks to the playwright José Zorrilla. The latter, a prolific Romantic author, was a contemporary of a group of foreign writers who found their sought-after exoticism and mystery in Andalucía.
Among the first foreign tourists to travel to the south of Spain were British writers such as Richard Ford; Théophile Gautier, Victor Hugo and Latour from France; the American Washington Irving; and Italy‘s Edmundo d’Amicis. Between them they embellished and exported the myth of Andalucía – land of brigands, bullfighters, gypsies and carefree people – which had little in common with reality but met with great success abroad.
Poetry – The poetry of Andalucía reached its zenith early in the 20C, through the writing of members of the Generation of ’27. Antonio Machado (1875–1939), author of Cantares, and forever nostalgic for his childhood in Sevilla, and his brother Manuel Machado, who wrote Cante Jondo, both reflected the true nature of the region. Federico García Lorca (1898–1936) lifted Andalusian lyricism to its peak with the Gypsy Ballads, Blood Wedding and The House of Bernarda Alba. The poems of painter and poet Rafael Alberti (1902–99) were highly personal, gracious and popular in style, as well as typically Andalusian (Marinero en tierra).
Three great Spanish classical composers who drew their inspiration from popular music reflected the Andalusian soul perfectly. Strangely, just one of them was a native of the south; the other two were Catalan.
Manuel de Falla (1876–1946), born in Cádiz, is surely the most illustrious Spanish composer of the 20C. He took a studied approach to musical ethnography, and avoided being merely a conveyor of picturesque folklore.
The passion of gypsy song and the brilliance of flamenco are both present in his two most famous works, El amor brujo (Love, the Magician) and The Three- Cornered Hat.
Gerona-born Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909), a major exponent of the Spanish nationalist movement, dedicated some of his best works to Andalucía, such as Caprichos andaluces and a major part of his Iberia. Lastly, Enrique Granados (1867–1916) dedicated one of his three Spanish Danzas to Andalucía.
Two great evergreen operas are set in Seville: Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
Carmen was born from the imagination of two Frenchmen: Prosper Mérimée, who wrote the novella; and composer and pianist Georges Bizet, who turned it into an opera. Carmen premiered in Paris in 1875. It was originally considered a failure, panned by critics as “immoral” and “superficial”.
The story is set in Seville, around 1830. Carmen is a beautiful gypsy with a fiery temper who works at the tobacco factory. A naïve young soldier, Don José, falls in love with her. He rejects his former love, mutinies against his military superior and turns to a life of crime. Carmen then turns from him to a bullfighter (Escamillo) and, in a fit of jealousy, Don José murders her.
Don Giovanni is the Italianised version of Don Juan, the legendary Spanish libertine whose story is thought to be based upon Don Juan Tenorio: Drama religioso-fantástico en dos partes (Don Juan Tenorio: Religious-Fantasy Drama in Two Parts), written in 1844 by José Zorrilla. The other contender for the originator of the legend is El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest), by Tirso de Molina, a play set in the 14C that was published in Spain around 1630. Both stories are set in Seville.
Spanish cinema has often found inspiration in Andalusian themes. However, this trend, caricatured by Berlanga in Bienvenido Mr Marshall (1952), was to wane until Carlos Saura put Andalusian folklore back on the screen with works such as Bodas de sangre/Blood Wedding (1981), Sevillanas (1991), and Flamenco (1995).
In recent times, following his success with Solas (1995), critics pronounced Benito Zambrano the standard bearer of new Andalusian cinema.
For the very best in Spanish cinema each year look to the Málaga Film Festival (www.festcinemalaga.com) a major event in the world of cinema which every April brings stars and directors to the red carpet at the Teatro Cervantes in Málaga.