More than the shape of these old objects seems to have passed to modern Spain - if any phase at all of Spanish life can ever justly be accounted modern. The ancients had an almost superstitious reverence for a lighted lamp, and were accustomed to declare that "lucerna, cum ex-tinguitur, vocem emittit, quasi necata"; "a lamp, on being put out, utters a sound as though it were being murdered." Now, it may be a coincidence - although I cannot but regard it as distinctly more than a coincidence - that even at this day a large proportion of the Andalusian people are markedly averse to blowing out a kindled match; nor do they think it of good augury to be in a room where three lights - candles, matches, or whatever they may be - are simultaneously aflame. I have noticed, too, that, whether from utter carelessness or whether from ancestral superstition handed down from Rome, one rarely sees upon the staircase or the doorstep of a Spanish public building a vesta that has been (if I may be allowed the term) extinguished artificially) 1
A Velon (Modern)
In the Madrid Museum are several military bronze signa which were found in Spain and date from the Roman era, as well as a vexillum, or one of the T-shaped frames on which the warriors of that people used to hang their standards. One of these signa is in the form of a wild boar; another in that of a saddled and bridled horse. Beneath this latter is the word Viva and a cross, which shows that the object dates from a period not earlier than the reign of Constantine.
It is strange - or rather, would be strange in any country that had been less constantly afflicted both with civil and external warfare - that hardly anything remains of all the bronze artistic objects manufactured by the Spanish Moors. Poets of this race have sung of gold and silver fountains, door-knockers, and statues that adorned the buildings of Cordova. In many of these instances the hyperbolic gold and silver of the writers would undoubtedly be bronze. Al-Makkari quotes an Arab poet who extols in passionate terms Almanzor's dazzling mansion of Az-zahyra. "Lions of metal," sang this poet, "bite the knockers of thy doors, and as those doors resound appear to be exclaiming Allahu akbar" ("God is great"). Another bard describes the fountains of the same enchanted palace. "The lions who repose majestically in this home of princes, instead of roaring, allow the waters to fall in murmuring music from their mouths. Their bodies seem to be covered with gold, and in their mouths crystal is made liquid.
1 Perhaps it is not foreign to my theme to add that the current name in Spanish for an oil lamp is quinque, from Quinquet, the Parisian chemist who invented the tuyau-cheminee a hundred and odd years ago. The same word passes also into Spanish slang, "tener quinque" - i.e. to be quick-witted and perceptive.
"Though in reality these lions are at rest, they seem to move and, when provoked, to grow enraged. One would imagine that they remembered their carnage of past days, and bellowing turned once more to the attack.
Bronze Lion (Found in the Province of Palencia)
"When the sun is reflected from their bronze surface, they seem to be of fire, with tongues of flame that issue from their mouths.
"Nevertheless, when we observe them to be vomiting water, one would think this water to be swords which melt without the help of fire, and are confounded with the crystal of the fountain."
Figures in bronze, of eagles, peacocks, swans, stags, dragons, lions, and many other creatures were set about in garden and in hall, to decorate these splendid palaces of ancient Cordova.
A specimen of this class of objects is a bronze lion of small dimensions (Plate xxx.) found not many years ago in the province of Palencia, and believed to date from the reign of Al-Hakem the Second of Cordova. It belonged for some time to the painter Fortuny - a diligent and lucky hunter of antiquities, - and was subsequently purchased in 1875 by M. Piot. The modelling and decoration of this beast, especially the mannered and symmetrical curls which are supposed to form its mane, arc quite conventional and strongly re-miniscent of Assyrian art, such as pervades the various lions rudely wrought in stone and still existing at Granada; whether the celebrated dozen that support and guard the fountain in the courtyard of the Moorish palace,1 or else the greater pair of grinning brutes proceeding from the ruins of the palace of Azaque (miscalled the Moorish Mint), which may be noticed squatting with their rumps towards the road, beside the garden entrance to the Carmen de la Mezquita.
This little bronze lion measures about twelve inches high by fourteen inches long. The legs and part of the body are covered with a pattern representing flowers. The mane is described by comma-shaped marks. The tail, bent not ungracefully along the animal's back, is decorated with a kind of plait through nearly all its length. The eyes are now two cavities, but seem in other days to have contained two coloured stones or gems. Upon the back and flanks is a Cufic inscription which says, "Perfect blessing. Complete happiness."