Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/418

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


the Spaniards have never been a learned nation. The foreigners who came with Charles V were struck by the ignorance and contempt of letters prevalent in Spain, as well as by the semi-savagery of the bulk of its people. The Revival of Learning -could not at once produce fruit on soil so scorched and seamed by centuries of war. Moreover the richest fruits of Spanish genius are indigenous. Inspiration for the noblest poetry of Spain was found in the Bible and in her own history rather than in Latin and Italian writers; her novel and drama sprang from her own rough but teeming soil.

With the exception of painting, which was still in its infancy, the arts had already reached the fullest expression to which they have at any time attained in this country. In architecture, in sculpture, in pottery, in gold, silver and iron work, and in embroidery Spain never improved upon the skill of the Saracens and the masterpieces of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The influences which moulded her art are to be found partly in race, partly in climate, and partly in history. Possessing great power of adaptation, she set her mark upon all that she produced. In the northern and central regions design and initiative in architecture are mostly French; but the influence of the Saracens leavens this northern style and informs it with richer beauty, "the songs and shrines being equally tinged with the colouring of northern piety and oriental fancy." Introduced at first as a mere accessory in vestments and jewelry, and in Moorish caskets which guarded the relics of saints, little by little this more gorgeous ornamentation permeated the whole building. It was still a Christian cathedral; yet the lavishness with which the minor arts were used in decoration produced a result that is not to be found elsewhere, and is known as the plateresque or silversmith's style. Typical examples are the Puerta del Perddn of Seville Cathedral, the horseshoe arch of a mosque overlaid with Christian emblem and decoration (1519), and, in less mixed form, San Marcos of Leon (1514). To this period belong some of the choicest works of expiring Gothic and dawning renaissance building. The Church of San Juan de los Reyes at Toledo perpetuates the memory of the battle of Toro. Cathedrals were planned for Salamanca, Segovia, Plasencia, and Granada; but the most valuable work of the age was the completion and decoration of the splendid designs of an earlier time at Burgos, at Toledo, and at Seville. To it belong also the church set down in the midst of the great mosque of Cdrdova, and the splendid but incongruous palace of Charles V on the Alhambra Hill.

Sculpture in Spain is usually associated with religious architecture. It is often in bolder relief and of more intense expression than elsewhere, and attains its greatest perfection in altar-pieces and sepulchral monuments. Such are the marvels of marble and wood created by Philip de Vigarny or de Bolona (about 1500-43), Alonso de Berruguete, a Spanish pupil of Michael Angelo (about 1520), and Damien Forment