Spanish baroque ephemeral architecture

The ephemeral architecture had a special relevance in the Spanish Baroque, in that it fulfilled diverse functions so much aesthetic as political, religious and social. On the one hand, it was an indispensable component of support for architectural realizations, carried out in a perishable and transitory manner, which allowed for a reduction in the cost of materials and a way of capturing new designs and bolder and original solutions of the new Baroque style., which could not be done in conventional constructions. On the other hand, its volubility made possible the expression of a wide range of productions designed according to its different functionality: triumphal arches for the reception of kings and aristocracy characters, catafalques for religious ceremonies, burial mounds and various scenarios for acts social or religious, such as the feast of Corpus or Holy Week.

These realizations used to be profusely decorated, and developed an iconographic program that emphasized the power of the ruling classes of the time, both political and religious: in the political sphere it exalted the omnipotent power of the absolutist monarchy, while in the religious praised the dominance spiritual of the Counter-Reformation Church. They used to have a high propaganda component, as vehicles of ostentation of these dominant classes, so they were directed mainly to the people, who were the recipient of these magnificent ceremonies and shows.

Although there have been no material traces of this type of work, they are known thanks to drawings and engravings, as well as to literary accounts of the time, which described them in great detail. Many writers and chroniclers devoted themselves to this kind of descriptions, giving rise to even a new literary genre, the ” relations “.

The Baroque: a culture of the image
The architecture is the art and technique of building buildings, designing spaces and volumes with a utilitarian purpose, mainly housing, but also various constructions of social sign, or civil or religious. The space, being modified by the human being, is transmuted, acquires a new sense, a new perception, with which it acquires a cultural dimension, while it acquires an aesthetic significance, because it is perceived in an intellectual and artistic way, as an expression of the sociocultural values inherent to each people and culture. This aesthetic character can give space an ephemeral component, to be used in public events and celebrations, rituals, parties, markets, shows, religious services, official events, political events, etc.

In the Baroque the arts came together to create a total work of art, with a theatrical, scenographic aesthetic, a mise en scène that highlighted the splendor of the dominant power (Church or State). The interaction of all the arts expressed the use of visual language as a means of mass communication, embodied in a dynamic conception of nature and the surrounding space, in a culture of the image.

One of the main characteristics of Baroque art is its illusory and artificial nature: “ingenuity and design are the magical art through which one gets to deceive the eye until one is amazed” (Gian Lorenzo Bernini). The visual and ephemeral were particularly valued, so the theater and the various genres of performing arts and shows gained popularity: dance, pantomime, musical drama (oratorio and melodrama), puppet shows, acrobatics, circuses, etc. There was a feeling that the world is a theater (theatrum mundi) and life a theatrical function: “the whole world is a stage, and all men and women are mere actors” (As you like it, William Shakespeare, 1599). 3 Likewise, the other arts, especially architecture, tended to be dramatized. It was an art that was based on the reversal of reality: in the “simulation”, in turning the false into true, and in the “dissimulation”, to pass the true for false. They do not show things as they are, but as they would like them to be, especially in the Catholic world, where the Counter-Reformation had a meager success, since half of Europe passed to Protestantism. In literatureit manifested itself giving free rein to the rhetorical artifice, as a means of propagandistic expression in which the sumptuousness of language sought to reflect reality in a sweetened way, resorting to rhetorical figures such as metaphor, paradox, hyperbole, antithesis, hyperbaton, ellipsis, etc. This transposition of reality, which is distorted and magnified, altered in its proportions and subject to the subjective criterion of fiction, also passed into the field of painting, where foreshortening and illusionist perspective is abused for the sake of greater, striking effects and amazing.

Baroque art sought the creation of an alternative reality through fiction and illusion. This tendency had its maximum expression in the party and the playful celebration: buildings like churches or palaces, or a neighborhood or a whole city, became theaters of life, in scenarios where reality and illusion were mixed, where The senses were subjected to deception and artifice. In this aspect the Counter-Reformation Church had a special role, which sought through pomp and pageantry to show its superiority over the Protestant churches, with acts such as solemn masses, canonizations, jubilees, processions.or papal investiture. But just as lavish were the celebrations of the monarchy and the aristocracy, with events such as coronations, weddings and royal births, funerals, military victories, visits of ambassadors or any event that would allow the monarch to deploy his power to admire the people. Baroque parties meant a conjugation of all the arts, from architecture and plastic arts to poetry, music, dance, theater, pyrotechnics, flower arrangements, water games, etc. Architects like Bernini or Pietro da Cortona, or Alonso Cano and Sebastián Herrera Barnuevoin Spain, they contributed their talent to such events, designing structures, choreographies, illuminations and other elements, which often served as a testing ground for more serious future accomplishments.

During the Baroque, the ornamental, ornate and ornate character of the art of this time showed a transient vital sense, related to the memento mori, the ephemeral value of riches in the face of the inevitability of death, in parallel to the pictorial genre of the vanitas.. This sentiment led us to value in a vitalist way the transience of the moment, to enjoy the light moments of recreation that life gives, or celebrations and solemn acts. Thus, births, weddings, deaths, religious acts, or royal coronations and other playful or ceremonial acts, were covered with a pomp and an artifice of a theatrical nature, where large assemblies were elaborated that agglutinated architecture and decorations to provide an eloquent magnificence to any celebration, which became a show of almost cathartic character, where the illusory element, the attenuation of the border between reality and fantasy, took on special relevance.

Spanish Baroque architecture
In Spain, the architecture of the first half of the seventeenth century accused the herrerian heritage, with an austerity and geometric simplicity of scurialense influence. The baroque was gradually introduced above all in the ornate interior decoration of churches and palaces, where the altarpieces were evolving towards increasingly high levels of magnificence. In this period Juan Gómez de Mora was the most outstanding figure, with achievements such as the Clergy of Salamanca (1617), the Town Hall (1644-1702) and the Plaza Mayorof Madrid (1617-1619). Other architects of the time were Alonso Carbonel, author of the Buen Retiro Palace (1630-1640), or Pedro Sánchez and Francisco Bautista, authors of the San Isidro Collegiate Church of Madrid (1620-1664).

By the middle of the century, the richest forms and the freest and most dynamic volumes were gaining ground, with naturalistic decorations (wreaths, vegetal brackets) or abstract forms (moldings and cut-out baquetones, generally in a mixtilinear form). At this time it is worth remembering the names of Pedro de la Torre, José de Villarreal, José del Olmo, Sebastián Herrera Barnuevo and, especially, Alonso Cano, author of the facade of the Cathedral of Granada (1667).

Between the end of the century and the beginning of the 18th the churrigueresque style (by the Churriguera brothers), characterized by its exuberant decorativism and the use of Solomonic columns, was given: José Benito Churriguera was the author of the Main Altarpiece of San Esteban de Salamanca (1692) and the facade of the palace-church of Nuevo Baztán in Madrid (1709-1722); Alberto Churriguera projected the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca (1728-1735); and Joaquín Churriguera was the author of the Colegio de Calatrava (1717) and the cloister of San Bartolomé (1715) in Salamanca, of plateresque influence. Other figures of the time were: Teodoro Ardemans, author of the facade of the Madrid City Council and the first project for the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso (1718-1726); Pedro de Ribera, author of the Toledo Bridge (1718-1732), the Cuartel del Conde-Duque (1717) and the façade of the Church of Nuestra Señora de Montserrat in Madrid (1720); Narciso Tomé, author of the Transparent of the Cathedral of Toledo (1721-1734); the German Konrad Rudolf, author of the facade of the Cathedral of Valencia (1703); Jaime Bort, architect of the facade of theCathedral of Murcia (1736-1753); Vicente Acero, who designed the Cathedral of Cádiz (1722-1762); and Fernando de Casas Novoa, author of the facade of the Obradoiro of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (1739-1750).

The ephemeral in Spanish baroque architecture
The splendor of the ephemeral architecture took place in the Modern Age, in the Renaissance and -especially- the Baroque, epochs of consolidation of the absolute monarchy, when the European monarchs sought to elevate their figure over that of their subjects, resorting to all kinds of propagandistic and exalting acts of its power, in political and religious ceremonies or celebrations of playful nature, that showed the magnificence of its government.

It should be noted that although this period was a certain political and economic decline, in the cultural field was a great splendor, the so-called Golden Age, with a magnificent flowering of literature and the arts. On the other hand, although in the political field the monarchy was resolutely authoritarian, the way of governing showed a strong populist component; while in the religious sphere strict faith was combined with a worldview of a realistic and critical nature. These elements contributed to the will of an art close to the people, which showed in an easy and direct way the moral and ideological aspects that the ruling classes wanted to transmit to their subjects. Thus, according to the historian José Antonio MaravallBaroque art and culture was “directed”, since its objective was communication; «Massive», since it was directed to the town; and “conservative”, since it sought to perpetuate traditional values.

These distractions helped the populace to cope with their hardships: according to Jerónimo de Barrionuevo, “these divertimentos are well needed to be able to bear so many adversities”. This evasion of reality leads Antonio Bonet Correa to describe this period as “utopian space and time”, since it does not cease to be a temporary relief to the harsh reality of the majority of the population, immersed in misery.

The ephemeral architecture was generally made with poor and perishable materials, such as wood, cardboard, fabric, stucco, cane, paper, tow, lime or plaster, which however were enhanced by the monumentality of the works and their original and fanciful designs, as well as for the sumptuousness of the ornamental decoration. They were works where both architecture and sculpture, painting and the decorative arts participated, and where the scenography was particularly important.. It could be done both inside buildings -generally religious temples- and in the streets of towns and cities, through numerous building typologies, such as triumphal arches, castles, porticos, temples, catafalque, pavilions, galleries, colonnades, lodges, aedicules, pyramids, obelisks, pedestals, baldaquinos, tramoyas, altars, canopies, etc. 16Also relevant were the sculptures, tapestries, fabrics and paintings; the latter often represented feigned architectures or landscapes, with the usual representation of ” parnassians “, mounts with vegetation, rivers and fountains in which gods, muses and historical figures figured. Other decorative elements were bowls, floral tapestries, garlands, cornucopias, mirrors, candlesticks, shields and flags. In addition to all this, we must take into account mobile elements such as carriages or steps of processions, entourages and comitivas, masquerades, mojigangas, games of canes and autos de fe, as well as other elements such as fireworks, bullfights,naumaquias, jousts and war simulations, music, dance, theater and other genres of the show.

Perhaps the most emblematic element of baroque ephemeral architecture was the funeral mound, since it meant more than any other the conception of the transient, the transience of life, which translates into the fleetingness of the party, of the ephemeral celebration. The funeral bubbles represent, as well as ephemeral architecture, chance, emptiness, the fleeting nature of existence, contrasting bodily temporality with the immortality of the soul. They are therefore frequent in the decoration of mounds and catafalque references to death, through skeletons, skulls, hourglasses, candles and other elements alluding to the end of human existence. The typological evolution of the burial mounds was derived from monument type catafalques inherited from the Mannerist Renaissanceto the pirate-type catafalque of the Baroque plenum, with a turriform plan and a cupola-shaped temple, drifting towards the end of the Baroque in canopy type catafalque; already at the end of the 18th century they would evolve to the obelisk catafalque, of neoclassical style. It should be noted that the burial mounds were reserved for the royal family, until in 1696 Charles II approved its opening to members of the aristocracy and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

Many architects used the ephemeral architecture as a test bed for original and bolder formulas and solutions than in conventional architecture, which they then tested on stable realizations, with which this modality helped powerfully the progress of Spanish architecture. Some of the most renowned architects carried out this type of work, such as Juan Gómez de Mora, Pedro de la Torre, José Benito Churriguera, Alonso Cano, José del Olmo and Sebastián Herrera Barnuevo. Even renowned artists intervened in this type of work, such as El Greco, in the design of the tumulus ofMargaret of Austria-Styria (1612); Rubens at the entrance of the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand of Austria in Antwerp in 1635; Velázquez, in the decoration of the wedding of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Austria, on the Isle of Pheasants (1660); or Murillo, in the celebration of the Immaculate Conception in Seville (1665).

Any event was suitable for the ephemeral celebration: the monarchs celebrated in a lavish manner every relevant event in their lives, such as births, baptisms, onomastics, weddings, enthronement ceremonies, visits to cities, military victories, diplomatic agreements, funerals, etc. Regarding religious celebrations, those of Corpus Christi and Holy Week, celebrated with processions, viacrucis, rogativas, mass and sacramental autos, where they used to mount large stages for the festivities, and along with the religious processions were added folkloric elements such as masks, mojigones, fanfares, giants and big heads. Other celebrations were motivated by punctual acts, usually canonizations, such as Luis Bertrán in 1608, Francisco Javier, Ignacio de Loyola, Isidro Labrador and Teresa de Jesus in 1622, Tomás de Villanueva in 1658, Francisco de Borja in 1671 or Pascual Baylón in 1690; or pontifical decrees, such as the brief of Alexander VII in which he recognized the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin (1662). A special significance had the canonization of Fernando IIIin 1671, since it agglutinated in a same interest to Church and monarchy, conjugating the values of the ruling classes of the Old Regime.

The commission of the monarchy and the Church brought a certain support to professionals in architecture, the plastic and decorative arts and handicrafts, who thus had job assignments in a time of economic crisis in which there was little work at the civil level. 28 On the other hand, the ephemeral architecture reached a level of popularity that granted great prestige to the professional who made it: thus the contest held for the award of the funeral of Maria Luisa de Orleans in 1689, won by a stranger until then José Benito de Churriguera, served this to launch with great success his professional career.

It should be noted that of these ephemeral realizations there have been no material remains, and they are known only by engravings and drawings, and by written accounts that described in detail all the details of these celebrations. These stories gave rise to a new literary genre, the ” relations “, which have as main reference point Juan Calvete de Estrella, author of The Imperial Tumulus, adorned with stories and signs and epitaphios in prose and Latin verse (1559). This literature abounded in detailed descriptions of the events celebrated by the monarchy and the Church, with special emphasis on the symbolic elements, often embodied in hieroglyphics and shields, whose mottos, usually inLatin, translated into Spanish in verse. On the other hand, these chronicles did not stop showing the political, social and moral values that the powerful characters who sponsored these splendours championed.

In the eighteenth century the same festive typologies followed, since the Bourbons maintained the same protocols and repertoires of celebrations and solemnities. The evolution in the ephemeral architectures was mainly stylistic, especially from the first third of the century, in which the promotion of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando promoted the classicist lines, in a movement that would be baptized as neoclassicism. On the other hand, the rise of the Enlightenmentit led to the reduction of the great religious pomp of counterreformist sign. The new events had a more didactic character, with a clearer distinction between the sacred and the profane, and music and opera became more relevant.

Main achievements
Entry of Philip III in Lisbon (1619): was honored with the construction of thirteen triumphal arches, financed by the guilds of the city, decorated with gods and mythological heroes, allegorical figures and literary references taken from classic authors such as Ovid or Virgil, or of Dante and biblical texts, in addition to shields and emblems of a symbolic nature. The arches showed an architectural style of Mannerist reminiscences, inspired by the work of Serlio and Vignola.

Entrance of Mariana of Austria in Madrid (1649): it was planned by Alonso Cano, who built four triumphal arches dedicated to the four main continents and the four elements, in this relationship: Europe-Air, Asia-Earth, Africa-Fire and America-Water. He also built a noble façade in Buen Retiro, on pedestals of Berroque stone, with six columns of Doric order and cornices decorated with castles and lions. Next to this cover, on the Olivo fountain of the Old Prado of San Jerónimo, a Parnassus Mountain with two summits rose, one presided over by Hercules -Sol and another one by Pegasus, with Apoloin the center and nine statues dedicated to the muses and Spanish poets.

Recognition of the Immaculate Conception in Valencia (1662): it was celebrated for half a year with masquerades and cavalcades, and temporary altars were built all over the city, some with handstands that threw cotton flakes simulating snow, alluding to the purity of the Virgin. One of the most elaborate was at the Faculty of Philosophy, covered with tapestries and silk and gold embroidery, crowned by an allegory of the Triumph of the Church, flanked by Pope Alexander VII and the archbishop of Valencia, Martín López de Ontiveros.

Celebration of the Immaculate Conception in Seville (1665): it was designed by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and celebrated in the church of Santa María la Blanca, on the exterior of which two triumphal arches were placed, one dedicated to the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception and another to the Triumph of the Eucharist, next to a limited perimeter covered with awnings and occupied by altars decorated with Marian themes. A large painting of the Virgin of Juan Valdés Leal was placed on the door of the church.

Canonization of Fernando III (1671): it was celebrated in Seville, city reconquered by the holy king, whose cathedral was adorned by various monuments and emblems made by Bernardo Simón de Pineda, in collaboration with the painter Juan Valdés Leal and the sculptor Pedro Roldán. The entire Seville Cathedral complex was decorated with painted canvases, including the Giraldaand the Patio de los Naranjos; all the chapels were ornamented, and in the trascoro an arc of triumph was erected with the effigy of the honored one in the crowning, surrounded by allegorical figures; In addition, in the altarpiece of the tabernacle was placed a stage with a painting by Murillo. This set of monuments exerted a notable influence on the architecture of the time, which lasted until the reign of Felipe V, as an expression of a distinctly Spanish Baroque, with dynamic and profusely decorative forms. It should be noted that the designs for this event were printed in a “relationship” written by Fernando de la Torre Farfán, considered the most beautiful book printed in the Spain of the Baroque.

Entry of Maria Luisa de Orleans in Madrid (1680): it was organized by Claudio Coello and José Jiménez Donoso with the help of Matías de Torres and Francisco Solís among other painters, José Ratés and José Acedo in the architectural and Pedro Alonso de los Ríos, Enrique of Cardona and Mateo Rodríguez, in charge of sculpture works, among many other artists. Five triumphal arches were erected, in the street of the Prado, Italian, Puerta del Sol, Puerta de Guadalajara and Santa María, along with porticos, fountains and decorative sculptures in the Retiro, San Felipe, Plaza de la Villa and Plaza de Palacio. 38All the elements were very ornate ornamentally, in an apotheosis of the most decorative Baroque, with plenty of plant and stone motifs.

Catafalque of Maria Luisa de Orleans in Madrid (1689): work of José Benito de Churriguera, its design served as a model for burial mounds until well into the eighteenth century. It was located in the church of the Real Monasterio de la Encarnación in Madrid, and it was formed by a high platform with four stairs, on which two bodies rose with a profuse decoration of moldings, foliage, tarja and stipes, as well as as diverse sculptures of allegorical figures and images of the deceased.

Catafalco of Carlos II in Barcelona (1700): work of Josep Vives, was a turriform mound with an ochavada base with shields supported by eagles and lions, on which rose a stepped pyramid ornamented with skulls and scrolls, and topped by a baldachin hexagonal with the real emblems. The iconographic program consisted of allegories of the Hispanic kingdoms (Castile, Aragon, Catalonia, India, Milan, Naples, Sicily, Flanders), the four continents (Europe, America, Africa, Asia), the four main rivers of the Iberian Peninsula (Ebro, Duero, Tajo, Guadalquivir), the theological virtues (Faith, Hope, Charity) and cardinals (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, Temperance), the Victoria and the Phoenix Bird.

Tumulus of Luis XIV in Barcelona (1715): work of Josep Vives, had square plant with pedestals in the angles, crowned with statues, scrolls and florets, representing the Virtues with angels that held a portrait of the deceased, all crowned by a baldachin with the royal crown.

Entry of Felipe V in Seville (1729): celebrated the arrival of the monarch, who converted the Andalusian city into the seat of the court for five years. The city was adorned with hangings, paintings and tapestries, and various buildings such as pyramids and triumphal arches, as well as statues of mythological heroes, columns of Hercules with a lion that threw water through his mouth and a Colossus of Rhodes under which he passed a boat.

Archbishop’s appointment of cardinal-infant Luis de Borbón (1742): it was held in Seville, where a masquerade and a parade of ornate chariots were organized, as well as fireworks, the illumination of the Giralda and the sprouting of wine from the palace fountains episcopal for three days.

Catafalque of Felipe V in Madrid (1746): work of Juan Bautista Sacchetti, presented a basement with two staircases with balustrades representing the figures of Neptune and Cybele, on which stood a temple of air and diaphanous aspect, decorated with skeletons. Inspired by the work of the Italian family of set designers Galli Bibbiena, his style is framed in a more classic Baroque and international filiation, moving away from the Hispanic Baroque inherited from the previous century.

Tomb of Felipe V in Cervera (1746): work of Pere Costa, was erected in the chapel of the University of Cervera. It had an octagonal base, on the sides of which were some pyramids with allegories of Theology, Canon Law, Philosophy and Mathematics; on the cornice Civil Law, Medicine, Poetry and Rhetoric were represented; in the crowning there was a figure of Death treading crowns and scepters, and a shield with the inscription Philippi quod potui rapui, allusive to that Death snatched his mortality, but not his immortal feats.

Proclamation of Fernando VI in Seville (1747): it was celebrated with a procession of eight decorated carriages, made of wood and covered with stucco, decorated with bright colors. The first car was the Proclamation of the Mask, followed by that of the Common Joy, four dedicated to the four elements, that of Apollo and that of the Kings, who carried the portraits of the new monarchs.

Arrival of Carlos III to Barcelona (1759): for its arrival to the port a bridge, a staircase and a triumphal arch were constructed, decorated with figures of the marine mythology and astrological allegories. Then there were several arches with representations of the history of the city, alluding to its mythical foundation by Hercules. In the Lonja de Mar a large screen was placed representing the solar system, placing the king as the center of the universe. There was also a masquerade and a procession of five cars that toured the city for three nights, decorated with a Rococo aesthetic.

Arrival of Carlos III to Madrid (1759): various structures were built by the fashion architect at the time, Ventura Rodríguez, with the collaboration of the sculptor Felipe de Castro; the inscriptions of the ornamental fabrics were written by Pedro Rodríguez de Campomanes and Vicente Antonio García de la Huerta. The streets of Madrid were decorated with tapestries and hangings, with bright colors such as gold, pastel blue and lapis lazuli; in the Puerta del Sol a rotondo temple was built (tholos), with imitations of jasper for the columns, of bronze in bases and capitals and of marble in cornices and pedestals; On carretas street, an arch of triumph was erected, decorated with reliefs and trophies; another arch was placed in the main street, with representations allusive to the piety and liberality of the king, next to a double gallery of compound order thanking the new monarch for the suspension of the tax debts. All these ornaments were designed in a style more sober than usual, pointing now to the neoclassicism of the end of the century, although its conception was still basically Baroque.

Tomb of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony in Barcelona (1761): made in the Cathedral, it was the work of Manuel and Francesc Tramulles. On the façade a baroque portal with mortuary signs and symbols was placed, as well as an allegory of Catalonia in mourning. In the interior were placed shields of the kingdoms of the Hispanic Monarchy, Saxony and the four continents. In the trascoro a portal with an allegory of Barcelona in the shape of a weeping nymph was placed. Finally, between the choir and the presbytery a mausoleum was installed, which presented a low body with allegories of Tarragona, Tortosa, Lleida, Gerona, Vich, Manresa, Mataró and Cervera; in the intercolumniums there were sculptures of Pain, Love, Loyalty and Gratitude and, in the center, the royal coffin with scepter and crown; in the second body there were sitting sculptures of Generosity, Constancy, Intelligence and Obedience; in the upper body, Charity, Religion, Humility, Prayer and, in the center, Barcelona; finally, in the crowning, Eternal Happiness.

Source from Wikipedia