If we except the vast dimensions of the common keys of houses, this branch of Spanish craftsmanship has now no quality to point it from the rest of Europe, having become, in Riano's words, "simply practical and useful." Laborde observed in 1809 that "locks and various iron utensils are made in divers places. Locksmiths are numerous at Vega de Ribadeo in Galicia, at Helgoivar in Biscay, at Vergara in Guipuscoa, at Solsona and Cardona in Catalonia. Different kinds of iron goods are manufactured at Vergara, Solsona, and Cardona. The articles made of iron and steel at Solsona are in high estimation, notwithstanding they are destitute of taste and elegance, badly finished, and worse polished; and can by no means be put in competition with similar articles introduced from other countries."1
1 Ordenanzas de Granada, p. 191.
Iron nails with ornamented heads and decorative door-knockers are other objects which reveal the influence of Mohammedan Spain. A number of artistic Spanish nails are in the South Kensington Museum. "Some doors," says Riano, " still exist at the Alhambra, Granada, covered with enormous heads of nails of a half-spherical form with embossed pattern. These same nails are constantly to be found on old Spanish houses, to which are added in the angles pieces of iron of a most artistic order " (Pl. xix.A). In the same city, though not precisely in the Alhambra, I have seen upon the doors of private houses nails of a decorative kind which appear to consist of a single piece, but which are really formed of two - an ornamental boss perforated through its centre, and the nail proper, which fastens through it to the woodwork of the door behind. Thus, when the nail is hammered tight upon the boss, the effect is naturally that of a single piece of metal. Similar nails are on the door of Tavera's hospital at Toledo.
1 Those of my readers who have visited Spain will probably have seen the inlaid iron-work of Eibar and Toledo. The objects chiefly manufactured in this style are brooches, bracelets, scarf and hat pins, photograph frames, jewel and trinket boxes, watches, and cigarette cases. The workmanship is often elaborate and costly, nor can it be denied that the red or greenish gold has an effective look against the jet-black surface of the polished or unpolished iron. Upon the other hand, the taste displayed in the design is seldom good; while in a climate with the slightest tendency to damp, the iron is apt to rust and tarnish, and the fine inlay to loosen.
DecoratlVe Nail-Heads (Convent of San Antonio, Foledo)
The Ordenanzas of Granada tell us minutely of the nails which were produced there in the sixteenth century. They were denominated cabri-ales, costaneros, palmares, bolayques, Vizcainos, sabetinos, and moriscos; of all of which I can only find that the cabriales and costaneros were used for beams and rafters, and the moriscos for fixing horse-shoes. In Spain the custom of fastening down the decorative coverings of chairs or benches dates from comparatively late; and it was probably with this innovation that ironworkers began to exercise their ingenuity upon the heads of nails.
Towards the close of the Middle Ages the city of Segovia was celebrated for her locks and keys, her knockers, and her rejas. In 1892, collections of iron objects, chiefly manufactured in this town, were shown by the duke of Segovia, Don Nicolas Duque, and Don Adolfo Herrera at the Exposition Historico-Europea of Madrid. Segovia still preserves an old door covered with extraordinary iron spikes, that once belonged to the castle of Pedraza; many curious balconies, such as that in a first floor of the Calle del Carmen; and the grilles - proceeding from the old cathedral - of the chapel of the Cristo del Consuelo and the chapel of the Piedad.
Another interesting collection of early decorative Spanish iron, belonging to the well-known painter, Senor Rusinol, is kept at the town of Sitjes, in Cataluna. The late Marquis of Arcicollar possessed a number of specimens of Spanish manufactured iron of the later Middle Ages, such as boxes, candelabra, locks, nails, door-knockers, braseros, and a rare and curious iron desk (fourteenth century), with leather fittings.
The collection of the late Count of Valencia de Don Juan included four door-knockers of Spanish iron, dating from late in the fifteenth century or early in the sixteenth. I give a reproduction of these knockers (Pl. xx.). The two which occupy the centre are evidently from a sacred building; while the other pair are just as evidently senoriales, and belonged to a noble house. In the former pair, the clumsy carving of the saints, Peter and James, is attributed by Serrano Fatigati to the native coarseness of the iron.
Door-Knockers (15th Century)
Proceeding from the same collection are a pair of ceremonial maces and a ceremonial lantern, which I also reproduce (Pl. xxi.), since the Spanish writer from whom I have just quoted pronounces them to be "excellent specimens of the iron-work of our country at the close of the Middle Ages." He says that, as we notice in the pinnacles, they show a tendency to copy architectural detail, and are otherwise characteristic of the period. Towards the fourteenth century the file replaced the hammer, and the sheet of iron was substituted for the bar. These objects, dating from the fifteenth century, duly reveal this change. Also, as was usual at the time, they are composed of separate pieces stoutly riveted. In the knockers with the figures of the saints "we notice the partial use of the chisel, which became general in the sixteenth century, at the same time that iron objects were loaded with images, forms of animals, and other capricious figures. These may be said to belong to a period of transition, culminating in the rejas."1