Alfama, Portugal Lisbon’s oldest district made famous for it’s tight winding corridors and for having been one of the few neighborhoods to survive the devastating earthquake of 1755. Photo by Laura Pastores from Westminster College.
Spain and Portugal . . . according to history, the two countries intermarried, so when Isabella pawned her jewels to raise funds for discoveries of new lands, it brought them great wealth. Portuguese Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope to India and brought untold wealth to his nation.
Statue in Seville, Spain near the city’s main cathedral. Photo by Aylin Ozyigit from Pennsylvania State University. – See more at: http://www.semesteratsea.org/2013/10/14/student-photo-gallery-portugal-and-spain/#sthash.zhehSAUK.dpuf
In the latter years of the 15th century, the Portuguese, by an astounding expansion of their shipping, obtained their Indian, African, Chinese, and Brazilian colonies, and discovered the Azores. Portugal became one of the great empires of the world. Within the next century the Spanish conquistadors, Cortez and Pizarro, conquered Mexico and Peru, and for a century, Spanish galleons returned to Cadiz loaded with quantities of silver and gold. The ships that sailed under the Portuguese banner returned to Lisbon with the spices, silks, porcelains, and other products of both the East and the West of Europe. You see, Portugal was at intervals under the Crown of Spain but this arrangement was never acceptable to her people. She finally regained her independence and her former empire in 1665, but her people are of the same racial and cultural origins as those of Spain; her language is easily understood by the Spaniard and differs less than Catalan and Basque from the best Castilian.
Iberian Chair heavily carved in the stretchers and back splats.
I found the furnishings and the decorative arts of Spain and Portugal to be closely parallel. Although it does seem that the Spanish have somewhat more delicacy in their furnishings. Spain and Portugal were separated from the rest of Europe by the Pyrenees, so influence was predominantly North African, or Moorish. Both countries also had strong economic and political ties with the East, Oriental and Indian influences can be seen in Iberian furniture.
Spanish Vargueno closed
A fall-front desk of the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries, having the form of a chest upon a small table.
The Spanish nobility led a relatively nomadic existence, so furniture had to be portable. Most furniture
was made of local walnut. Cabinets, or varguenos, had handles on the sides so that they could be lifted on or off stands. During the 16th century varguenos had been luxury items, but they became more common during the 17th century.
My interior design career took me all over the world. This gave me the opportunity to see and touch furnishings and the decorative arts of the early centuries. The Metropolitan Museum is a close second to my travels, where I brought friends and clients to experience antiquity, where you can see, but don’t touch. The Hispanic Museum in New York is another learning place for antiquity. It’s where I first found a cabinet with secret compartments that I thought I originated. But, no, this clever cabinet idea was designed in the 12th century. Building storage into a wall, or between two lally columns, and hiding the doors in some tricky, clever way. You’ve seen concealed places in the movies, even a secret room behind the library shelves. Doesn’t Harry Potter stories have secret places like these?
My artist friends who are going to Toledo, Spain with the great artist and workshop instructor, David Dunlop, will be hosted by the local El Greco museum. They are in for a treat, surrounded by antiquity. Opened in 1911, the museum is located in Toledo’s Jewish Quarter. It consists of two buildings: a 16th-century house with a courtyard, and an extension dating from the early 20th century. The two share a garden. The museum houses numerous works by El Greco, especially from this brilliant painter’s last period, as well as canvases by other 17th century Spanish painters, furniture from the same era and pottery from Talavera de la Reina.
Any questions? Ask away . . .
Antonio Gaudi, Architect
Spain is being talked up in my art workshop. A trip is planned in September to visit Madrid and Toledo. It will include a visit to the El Greco Museum and exploration of the works of El Greco that adorn so many sites in Toledo. The old Town is also a treasure of churches, museums, synagogues and mosques set in a labyrinth of narrow streets and plazas in a lofty setting above the River Tajo. There will be opportunity to paint and go on photography walks, engage in lectures and excursions to Toledo venues within walking distance from the 4-star Hotel. Included is a mid-week coach to Madrid to tour the famous Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. The trip sounds magical. My memories were jostled of my travels to Barcelona a couple of years ago and the fascination I experienced with Gaudi’s work. From 1915 Gaudí devoted himself almost exclusively to his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família, a synthesis of his architectural evolution.
Sagrada Familia exterior
After completion of the crypt and the apse, still in Gothic style, the rest of the church is conceived in an organic style, imitating natural shapes with their abundance of ruled surfaces.
Sagrada Familia nave roof detail, notice the columns projecting forward
He intended the interior to resemble a forest, with inclined columns like branching trees, helicoidal in form, creating a simple but sturdy structure. Gaudí applied all of his previous experimental findings in this project, from works such as the Park Güell and the crypt of the Colònia Güell, creating a church that is at once structurally perfect, harmonious and aesthetically satisfying.
Reptil Parc Guell, Barcelona
The Sagrada Família has a cruciform plan, with a five-aisled nave, a transept of three aisles, and an apse with seven chapels. It has three facades dedicated to the birth, passion and glory of Jesus, and when completed it will have eighteen towers: four at each side making a total of twelve for the apostles, four on the transept invoking the evangelists and one on the apse dedicated to the Virgin, plus the central tower in honor of Jesus, which will reach 560 ft in height.
Details exterior Sagrada
The church will have two sacristies adjacent to the apse, and three large chapels: one for the Assumption in the apse, and the Baptism and Penitence chapels at the west end; also, it will be surrounded by a cloister designed for processions and to isolate the building from the exterior. Gaudí used highly symbolic content in the Sagrada Família, both in architecture and sculpture, dedicating each part of the church to a religious theme.
One of Gaudi’s drawings of Sagrada Familia
During Gaudí’s life only the crypt, apse and part of the Nativity facade were completed. Upon his death his assistant Domènec Sugrañes took over the construction; thereafter it was directed by various architects. Jordi Bonet i Armengol assumed responsibility in 1987 and continued as of 2011. Artists such as Llorenç and Joan Matamala, Carles Mani, Jaume Busquets, Joaquim Ros i Bofarull, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs (creator of the Passion facade) have worked on the sculptural decoration. Completion is not expected until at least 2027.
The idea of this historic blog writing began in 2010 with the encouragement of my writer colleagues in CTRWA. These writings and descriptions are meant to be an aid in the development of settings.