1 Together with the statuette of Ujue in Navarre, the Virgen de la Vega of Salamanca may be classed as one of the earliest " local Virgins" of this country. Sometimes these images are of wood alone, sometimes of wood beneath a silver covering, sometimes, as that of the Claustro de Leon, of stone. But whatever may be the substance, the characteristics are the same: - Byzantine rigidness and disproportion, the crude and primitive anatomy of artists only just emerging from the dark. The Virgin and Child of Santa Maria la Real of Hirache in Navarra may be instanced as another of the series. This image dates from late in the twelfth or early in the thirteenth century, although a crown and nimbus have been added subsequently. It measures rather more than a yard in height, and consists of wood covered with silver plates, except the hands and face, which are painted. The Virgin, seated, holds the Infant with her left arm; in her right hand is an apple. A kind of stole bearing the following inscription in Gothic letter falls upon the Infant's breast; "Puer natus est nodis, venite adoremus. Ego sum alpha et omega, primus et novissimus Dominus." Before this statuette the King Don Sancho is stated to have offered his devotion. 1 I quote this legend in Appendix A.
Altar-Front In Enamelled Bronze (11th Century. Museum of Burgos)
I have said that the history of Spanish enamel work is both confused and scanty. The subject in its general aspects has been studied by M. Roulin, whose judgments will be found in the Revue de I'Art Ancien et Moderne, and in his article, "Mobilier liturgique d'Espagne," published in the Revue de l'Art Chretien for 1903. M. Roulin believes the altar-front of San Miguel in Excelsis to be a Limoges product, not earlier than the first half of the thirteenth century.
Ramirez de Arellano declares that no enamelling at all was done in Spain before the invasion of the Almohades. Lopez Ferreiro, who as a priest had access to the jealously secreted archives of Santiago cathedral, gives us the names of Arias Perez, Pedro Martinez, Fernan Perez, and Pedro Pelaez, Galician enamellers who worked at Santiago in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Martin Minguez says that enamelling was done at Gerona in the fourteenth century, and Moorish enamels were certainly produced at Cordova and Cuenca from comparatively early in the Middle Ages. A few obscure workers in enamel are mentioned by Gestoso, in his Diccionario de Artistas Sevil-lanos, as living at Seville in the fifteenth century, though, in the entries which refer to them, little is told us of their lives and nothing of their labours.
"The Crucifix Of The CID" (Salamanca Cathedral)
In the sixteenth century we obtain a glimpse of two enamellers of Toledo - Lorenzo Marques and Andres Ordonez, and dating from the same period the Chapter of the Military Orders of Ciudad Real possesses a silver-gilt porta-paz with enamelling done at Cuenca. However, our notices of this branch of Spanish art have yet to be completed.
A long array of royal gifts caused, in the olden time, the treasure of Santiago cathedral to be the richest and most varied in the whole Peninsula, although at first this see was merely suffragan to Merida. But early in the twelfth century a scheming bishop, by name Diego Gelmirez, intrigued at Rome to raise his diocese to the dignity of an archbishopric. The means by which he proved successful in the end were far from irreproachable. "Gelmirez," says Ford (vol. ii. p. 666) "was a cunning prelate, and well knew how to carry his point; he put Santiago's images and plate into the crucible, and sent the ingots to the Pope."
The original altar-front or parament (aurea tabula) was made of solid gold. This altar-front Gelmirez melted down to steal from it some hundred ounces of the precious metal for the Pope, donating in its stead another front of gold and silver mixed, wrought from the remaining treasure of the sanctuary. Aymerich tells us that the primitive frontal bore the figure of the Saviour seated on a throne supported by the four evangelists, blessing with his right hand, and holding in his left the Book of Life. The four-and-twenty elders (called by quaint Morales "gentlemen ") of the apocalypse were also gathered round the throne, with musical instruments in their hands, and golden goblets filled with fragrant essences. At either end of the frontal were six of the apostles, three above and three beneath, separated by "beautiful columns" and surrounded by floral decoration. The upper part was thus inscribed: -
Hanc Tabulam Didacus Praesul Jacobita
Tempore Quinquenni Fecit Episcopi
Marcas Argenti De Thesauro Jacobensi
Hic Octoginta Quinque Minus Numera.
And the lower part: -
Rex Erat Anfonsus Gener Ejus Dux Raimundus Praesul Praefatus Quando Peregit Opus.
This early altar-front has disappeared like its predecessor; it is not known precisely at what time; but both Morales and Medina saw and wrote about it in the sixteenth century.
The "Virgen De La Vega" (Salamanca)
Another ornament which Aymerich describes, namely, the baldaquino or cimborius, has likewise faded from the eyes of the profane, together with three bronze caskets covered with enamel, and stated by Morales to have contained the bones of Saints Silvestre, Cucufate, and Fructuoso. One of these caskets was existing in the seventeenth century.
The silver lamps were greatly celebrated. Ambrosio de Morales counted "twenty or more"; but Zepedano made their total mount to fifty-one. The French invasion brought their number down to three. Three of the oldest of these lamps had been of huge dimensions, particularly one, a present from Alfonso of Aragon, which occupied the centre. The shape of it, says Aymerich, was "like a mighty mortar." Seven was the number of its beaks, symbolic of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost; and each beak contained a lamplet fed with oil of myrtles, acorns, or olives.