Late period of Spanish illumination—Isidore of Seville—Archives at Madrid—Barcelona—Toledo—Madrid—Choir-books of the Escorial—Philip II.—Illuminators of the choir-books—The size and beauty of the volumes—Fray Andrés de Leon and other artists—Italian influence—Giovanni Battista Scorza of Genoa—Antonio de Holanda, well-known Portuguese miniaturist in sixteenth century—His son Francesco—The choir-books at Belem—French invasion—Missal of Gonçalvez—Sandoval Genealogies—Portuguese Genealogies in British Museum—The Stowe Missal of John III.

Since all the best and best-known work of Spanish or Portuguese illuminators was executed in the sixteenth century, and is manifestly a reflection with peculiar mannerisms of either Flemish or Italian illumination of the same period, it may seem almost superfluous to devote a separate chapter to the subject. Yet there is a goodly list of both Spanish and Portuguese artists who practised the art of illumination.

So early as the time of Isidore of Seville we find notices of libraries, copyists, and the like (see book iv. of his Encyclopædia), and an able writer of the last century, Don José Maria de Eguren, published a work on the MS. rarities of Spain.[62] The most important of the miniatures in the famous Codex Vigilano are also reproduced in “El Museo Español de antiguedades,” most interesting respecting the calligraphy and miniature art of the eleventh century.

[62] Memoria de los Codices notables conservados en los archivos ecleseasticos de Espana. Madrid, 1859, L. 8°.

One of the earliest instances of royal patronage bestowed on painting in Spain is a document in the Royal Library at Madrid, containing the expenses of King Sanchez IV. in 1291-2. Thus “to Rodrigo Esteban, painter of the king for many paintings done by the king's orders in the bishop's palace 100 golden maravedis.” Again, in the archives at Barcelona we find that Juan Cesilles, painter of history, was engaged 16th March, 1382, to paint the “History of the twelve apostles for the grand altar of the Church at Reps for 330 florins.” In 1339 one Gonzalez Ferran had some reputation both as a wood engraver and a painter. He was probably a miniaturist. In 1340-81, Garcia Martinez, a Spanish illuminator, worked at Avignon. A copy of the Decretals, dated 1381, in the Cathedral Library of Seville is by his hand.

In the fifteenth century we have many notices of painters, especially in Toledo, whither the taste was in all likelihood brought from Naples after the conquest of that kingdom by Alphonso V. of Aragon in 1441.

It has been observed by those familiar with native Spanish art that its chief characteristic is that it is gloomy. This may be so, but it is not fairly chargeable to the artists but to the tyranny of the Spanish Inquisidor, who laid the embargo on the illuminator that he should not follow the wicked gaiety of the Italians, nor the sometimes too realistic veracity of the Flemings. This accounts usually for backgrounds of black where the Fleming would have had rich colour or gold for the prevalence of black in the draperies and for the sombre tone in general of Spanish painting. It is not always in evidence, as may be seen in many of the miniatures of the famous choir-books in the Escorial. The sombre period began under Ferdinand the Catholic, and it has left its mark on the schools of the fifteenth century. The sixteenth began a new era, and under Philip II. several, both Netherlandish and Italian, miniaturists were invited to assist in the production of the enormous choir-books ordered by the King for San Lorenzo of the Escorial, between 1572 and 1589. The volumes are bound in wooden boards covered with leather, stamped and bossed with ornaments of gilded bronze. It is said that 5,500 lbs. of bronze and 40 lbs. of pure gold were used in the bindings. The actual dimensions of the volumes are 115 by 84 centimetres. Every volume has at least seventy folios, and every folio is splendidly illuminated, thus affording more than 30,000 pages covered with richly ornamented initials, miniatures, and borders. The illuminators and copyists of these choir-books were Cristobal Ramirez, who planned the work, fixed the size and other details of the volumes and the character of the handwriting, Fray Andrés de Leon, Fray Julian de Fuente del Saz, Ambrosio Salazar, Fray Martin de Palencia, Francisco Hernandez, Pedro Salavarte, and Pedro Gomez. Ramirez was engaged at the Escorial from 1566 to 1572. In the latter year he presented a Breviary with musical notation to the King, and was then engaged for the great undertaking mentioned above.