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.

Andrés Cristobal was also an illuminator of note at Seville, where he worked from 1555 to 1559. Andrés de Leon worked at the Escorial from 1568, and is especially mentioned by Los Santos in his well-known description of the monastery of San Lorenzo: “Son de gran numero y excelencia las iluminaciones que tienen de mano nuestro Fray Andrés de Leon, que fue otro Don Julio en el Arte.”[63] The allusion is to the celebrated Don Giulio Clovio, then in the height of his fame in Italy. Fray Julian received similar praise for a capitolario for the principal festivals of the year, especially for the grand dimensions of the miniatures, the like of which the writer says had never been seen before, either in Spain or Italy. Andrés de Leon died at the Escorial in 1580. Salazar continued working on them till they were completed, and in 1590 went to Toledo, where he finished two Missals for the Cathedral, which had been begun by the famous Juan Martinez de los Corrales. He was still engaged on similar work until his death in 1604. Two other illuminators, Esteban and Julian de Salazar, were working at the Escorial in 1585. Bermudez[64] mentions Fray Martin de Palencia as having executed a volume in a fine handwriting and with beautiful miniatures for the monastery of Saso. Thus we see there were numerous miniaturists in Spain in the latest years of the existence of the art that had been imported chiefly from Italy.

[63] Fr. Francisco de los Santos, Description breve del Monasterio de S. Lorenzo el Real del Escorial, 24.

[64] Diccionario, iv. 24.

After most of these great choir-books had been finished there were still others in progress. In 1583 Giovanni Battista Scorza of Genoa, who is celebrated in the “Galleria” of the Cavaliero Marini, was invited by the King to take part in his great choir-book scheme. Scorza was then thirty-six years of age, and in the height of his reputation as a painter of small animals and insects. After a little time he returned to Genoa, where he lived to be ninety years old. He had a brother, Sinibaldo, who was equally skilful in miniature, and especially in scenes from history. The Scorzas were pupils of Luca Cambiaso. It may be noticed that all this work in miniature, although so late in its own history, is accomplished before the greatest names in Spanish painting are known. Josefo Ribera was born in 1588; Zurbaran in 1598; Velasquez in 1599; Alonzo Cano in 1601; Murillo in 1617. This, in a sense, is the natural course of things, as, generally, illumination has preceded the other kinds of painting.

With regard to Portugal, very little is recorded that does not in some way connect itself with Spain. So we find that Antonio and Francesco de Holanda, seemingly of Netherlandish origin, are mentioned in relation to the books illuminated for the Royal Monastery of Thomar; Francesco also worked for the monastery of Belem. Francesco de Holanda was a great admirer and imitator of Clovio, but he always insisted that his father Antonio was the inventor of the method of “stippling,” as the finishing with minute points of colour is technically called, which was brought to such perfection by Clovio and his scholars and imitators.

Taken altogether, the work of the Spanish illuminators at the Escorial and those of Toledo and Seville is really the same, with just the variations we might expect from pupils and imitators, as that of their masters in Genoa, Rome, Venice, or Bruges. Examples of it may be seen occasionally in diplomas, such as are found in the British Museum and other public libraries, as, e.g. Claud. B. x. Lansd. 189, Add. 12214, 18191, 27231, etc.

In 1572, the same year in which Luiz de Camoens published his Lusiades, an accomplished calligrapher, Miguel Barata, published an elaborate treatise on his own art, then in high repute.

In the fourteenth century the Cancioniero of Don Pedro Affonso Ct. de Barcellos affords an example of the calligraphy (for which Spain and Portugal have always been famous) and illumination which is precious for the student. It is still in existence in the Palace of Ajuda. Its date is 1320-40. And there are MSS. in the Torre do Tombo of Lisbon that are richly illuminated. Again, in Seville there is the “Juego de las Tablas,” executed under Alphonso the Wise in 1283, with its Gothic arcades and ornaments. M. Joaquin de Vasconcellas has made a study of this MS. The miniatures of the Torre do Tombo of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are mostly of the French school.

About 1428 33 was executed a splendid MS. entitled “Leal Conselheiro,” which is attributed to a famous miniaturist in his time named Vasco. It is, however, simply a monument of penmanship, as it contains no miniatures. The MS. has been edited by L'Abbé Roquete in 1842. The Portuguese MSS. of the fifteenth century betray a decided Flemish influence, as well they may, for probably the producers of them were Flemings. Constant intercourse with the Court of Burgundy had something to do with this.

The “Chronica do descobrimento e conquista de Guiné,” now at Torre do Tombo, is clearly a Flemish work. It was begun about 1440, and finished in 1453. The portrait of the Enfante Don Henrique, called the Navigator, is set in a border evidently by a pupil or imitator of J. Van Eyck. The calligraphy of the MS. is most beautiful. This influence of the Netherlands on Portuguese art is, indeed, confirmed by the political diplomatic relations of the fifteenth century, and is of some importance in the history of art. We shall refer again to this matter when dealing with another MS.

Among all the calligraphic monuments of Portugal it is claimed that the most splendid is the “Bible of the Hieronymites.” (See Revista universal Lisbonense, 1848, pp. 24-8.) This work, it is said, was a present from the Court of Rome to Emanuel, successor of John II., in remembrance of the homage made to the Holy See, of the first gold brought from the Indies, but the story is very doubtful. The King, in bequeathing the seven volumes to the convent of Belem, says nothing about such an origin. They are manifestly in great part the work of foreign artists. One well-known miniaturist, Antonio de Holanda, the father of the better-known Francesco, took part in the work, and having a good conceit of his own abilities (we shall probably hear of him again), reserved an entire volume to himself in order to give proof of them. The seven volumes which then were covered with crimson velvet and silver bosses and enamels, are now simply bound in red morocco. In the middle of each cover are the arms of Emanuel King of Portugal. Vols. v. and vii. have those of Dona Isabel, his Spanish wife.

The initials and ornaments show that the art of Italy is freely mixed with that of Portugal. Indeed, from the signatures in the volumes it is seen that the work of the penman was Italian; vol. i. being written at Ferrara by Sigismundo de Sigismundis, the well-known Italian calligrapher, in 1495. The second volume, also finished in 1495, bears the name of Alessandro Verazzano, another famous copyist, who wrote several of the volumes illuminated by Attavante. Vol. iii. is dated 1496, and is unsigned. The next three volumes are also without signature. Vol. vii. is the work of Antonio de Holanda, who from his name appears to have been of Dutch descent. His work is certainly excellent, and renders this volume a very precious monument of the art of Portugal. He was the official herald of the King, and he and his son Francesco gave their whole time to the practice of illumination. His son's Memoirs give a most interesting account of his travels and intercourse with Giulio Clovio and the other Italian artists whom he met with in Rome.[65] For some years the Hieronymite Bible was in Paris, having been brought thither by Marshal Junot, where it remained unnoticed for several years. Being called for by the Portuguese Government, Louis XVIII. paid 50,000 francs to the family of Junot, and restored it to the monastery of Belem. A splendidly illuminated atlas by an illuminator and cartographer named Fernando Vas Dourado was published in the year of his death, 1571.

[65] See my Life of Clovio.

As an important example of what we may fairly call native art, we will now briefly refer to the celebrated Missal of Estevam Gonçalvez Neto, one of the productions of the busy second half of the sixteenth century. The clever amateur who achieved this beautiful series of paintings, for paintings they are, in addition to the writing and other ornamentation of the MS., was descended from a noble family of Sêrem, in the parish of Macinhata, forty-three leagues from Lisbon. He became Canon of Viseu, and during his leisure, after this appointment, executed the Pontifical Missal which bears his name. It is dedicated to Don Josè Manuel, of the House of Tancos, Bishop of Viseu, afterwards of Coimbra, and lastly Archbishop of Lisbon. This prelate gave the book to the Church of Viseu. The original MS. was afterwards in the library of the Convent of Jesus, and is now in the Academy of Sciences at Lisbon. Stephen Gonsalvez died July 29th, 1627. The Missal is signed: “Steph. Glz. Abbas Sereicencis fac. 1610.” It has been very well reproduced in colours by Macia, of Paris.

The “Genealogies of the House of Sandoval,” written and painted in Lisbon in 1612, is now in Paris. It is called “Genealogia universal de la Nobilissima casa de Sandoval Ramo del Generoso tronco de los soberanos Reyes de Castilla y Leon. Por Don Melchior de Teves del Conseio Real de Castilla del Rey Dō Philippe III.”

At the foot of the page is written “Eduardus Caldiera Vlisspone scripsit, Anno Dni MDCXII.” This magnificent MS., which measures forty-six by thirty centimetres, is numbered in the Catalogue of the National Library as 10015. A grand frontispiece, formed of two columns of the Composite Order, occupies the first page, representing a king in royal robes and crown arresting the wheel of Fortune. Two lions accompany the scene, and the motto of the picture is “Virtute duce non comite Fortuna.” Page 2 contains the various escutcheons of the family of the Count of Lerma, for whom the book was written. It contains a great number of portraits. A final instance of the influence, or rather the inroad, of Flemish art in Portugal in the fifteenth century may be shown in the MS. called the Portuguese Genealogies in the British Museum.

The work consists of eleven large folio sheets separately mounted and measuring eighteen by ten inches. It commences with a prologue, with the arms of Portugal supported by two savages, having clubs and shields. Outside the inner frame are three scenes: (1) wild animals in combat; (2) a sea-nymph being rescued; (3) a fight among sylvan savages. Next comes a series of portraits painted in the most finished and life-like style, beginning with Dom Garcia F° del rey Abarca and Dona Constancia on a fruitful tree with foliage, fruits, and birds, a cat, and other things. The tree is an oak, beside it are apple and cherry trees. On the oak are green acorns. The birds are very beautiful, the cat simply perfect. These details recall the highly finished and lovely work of Georg Hoefnagel on the great Missal at Vienna. Gothic brown-gold architecture and three battle scenes complete the page.

Then follow the genealogical tables, and more portraits, the whole showing the most patient and careful work. Letters on the borders of the robes recall the same kind of ornament in the Grimani Breviary at Venice. No one has been able to explain these curious inscriptions. In the Grimani Breviary they were thought to be either Croatian or merely ornament. Here they cannot well mean anything but decoration. The portraits are fanciful but interesting mementoes of the period, and include several personages noted in history.

The last MS. to be mentioned in this hasty sketch is one in the British Museum (Stowe 597). It is a “Missale Romanum,” and is said to have been illuminated for John III. in 1557. It was once the property of the Abbé Gamier, chaplain for near thirty years, of the French factory at Lisbon. The binding is red morocco, and once had silver clasps.

It commences with a large mirror-like oval tablet, containing the title, set between two pillars of pink-veined marble with bronze-gold capitals and bases. The tablet is crimson with a violet-slate frame moulding of egg and dart pattern. At foot are two Roman legionaries, one seated as supporting the tablet, on each side. On folio 3 is the index in a rose-wood panel and pale green frame. The peculiar forms of the frames and the scroll-work on them are of the fantastic kind, differing from Italian, which is characteristic both of Spanish and Portuguese ornament. The chief colours are a bright emerald green and blue, with ochre, gold, and crimson. The initials are still more fantastic—partly human, partly plant or fish-form, sometimes sculptured ornament and plant-forms combined—but all so sweetly painted and so delicately finished as to be most attractive. The text is a fine and elegant Roman minuscule interspersed with italic.

Here and there are exquisite little drawings of ecclesiastical utensils, etc., but the everlasting variety among the quaint and fanciful initials provides an unwearying fund of interest. Tiny birds of the loveliest plumage sit among and beneath the limbs of the letters, or elegant scrolls of pencilled gold cover the little coloured panels on which the plain gold Roman initials are placed. Some of the larger initials are very finely executed and contain full-length figures of saints, bishops, or queens. One lovely initial B has a graceful girl simply clad in blue tunic and pale yellow skirt with a silken coil of pale rose forming the upper loop of the letter, the lower being formed of the curved body of a green dragon. Her left hand lifts the silk-work, her right, hanging by her side, holds a little golden pitcher. The whole is painted on a panel of bright gold. Another (L) shows a peasant rushing laughingly, with a hare slung over his shoulder, past the figure of a guardian terminus of bronze. But the Missal should be seen to be properly understood, for though in a general way it has a look of Italian influence, its originality is beyond question.