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Spanish Renaissance - Architectural Character

( Originally Published 1921 )

The Renaissance in Spain was based on the same general principles as in other European countries (p. 542), and its growth may be divided into three tolerably distinct phases, determined by the characteristics predominant in the different periods.

(a) The Early Period (A.D. 14921556), which began with the fall of Granada, is notable for the grafting of Renaissance details on to Gothic forms, and was influenced by the exuberant fancy of Moorish art. The resultant style was as rich and poetic as any in Europe, and is frequently known as Plateresque (platero = silversmith), from the minuteness of its detail and its similarity to silversmiths' work which itself had received a great impetus through the importation of precious metals from the New World.

(b) The Classical Period (A.D. 15561650) was marked by a closer adherence to ancient Roman art, and under the influence of Berruguete (d. A.D. 1560) and Juan de Herrera (d. A.D. 1597), a pupil of Michelangelo, much of the spontaneous picturesqueness of the previous period was lost.

(c) The Late Period (A.D. 16501800) was characterised by a reaction from the correct formalism insisted on by Herrera and his disciples. This resulted in the use of fantastic forms too often divorced from good taste, but there was also considerable originality and great daring in design. Baroque Architecture, sometimes known as " Churrigueresque," after the architect who introduced it into Spain, must not be regarded as merely fantastic and destitute of artistic value (p. 545). It is of its nature a style that would be peculiarly easy of adoption in a country which had always indulged in a free treatment of architecture, on account of the prevalence of Moorish craftsmen who introduced Moslem decoration, even into Christian churches. This same freedom of spirit is again seen in the unique Plateresque work of the early period which Spanish architects would seem to have borrowed from the silver-smiths, whose craft flourished greatly on the silver and precious stones from the New World. It is thus in no way surprising that Baroque should add yet another element to the complexity of the architecture of Spain. So spontaneous was the response, of Spanish architects to the Baroque revolt from ultra severity of style, that this architecture of the curved line found a footing in all parts of the Peninsula. The style is well seen in Granada Cathedral (west facade A.D. 1667), the Cathedral of Santiago da Compostela (west facade A.D. 1738), buildings at Seville, Cordova, Murcia, Valencia, Salamanca, Valladolid, Toledo, Loyala (near Vittoria), the gardens of the Palace of La Granja (A.D. 1727), and chapels, altars, and fountains all over the country, not forgetting the numerous buildings erected in the Spanish colonies in South America.

Modern architecture here, as elsewhere, proclaims itself by the revival of all previous styles, while recently there have been many attempts at the fantastic innovations known as "l art nouveau," and, as in other countries, is chiefly to be found in the commercial buildings of the larger towns.

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