- Identify some works of art from the Spanish Siglo de Oro
- The Spanish Golden Age (Spanish: Siglo de Oro, “Golden Century”) was a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political rise and decline of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. El Siglo de Oro does not imply precise dates and is usually considered to have lasted longer than an actual century.
- Spanish art of the era contained a strong mark of mysticism and religion that was encouraged by the counter-reformation and the patronage of Spain’s strongly Catholic monarchs and aristocracy. Spanish rule of Naples was important for making connections between Italian and Spanish art.
- The most influential Spanish painters of the era include El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
- The same period produced some of the most important works of Spanish architecture. These include the Palace of Charles V, El Escorial, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Granada Cathedral, and the Cathedral of Valladolid.
- Spanish literature of the period flourished, producing the first European novel, Don Quixote, and revolutionizing Spanish drama and thus theater.
- Music of the era revolved largely around religious forms and themes.
The Spanish Golden Age
(Spanish: Siglo de Oro, “Golden Century”) A period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political rise and decline of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. It does not imply precise dates and is usually considered to have lasted longer than an actual century.
An architectural style developed in Spain during the last third of the 16th century, under the reign of Philip II (1556–1598), and continued in force in the 17th century, but transformed by the Baroque current of the time. It corresponds to the third and final stage of Spanish Renaissance architecture.
A style in European art that emerged in the later years of the Italian High Renaissance, around 1520, lasting until about 1580 in Italy, when the Baroque style began to replace it. Northern Mannerism continued into the early 17th century. Where High Renaissance art emphasized proportion, balance, and ideal beauty, it exaggerated such qualities, often resulting in compositions that are asymmetrical or unnaturally elegant.
Siglo de Oro
The Spanish Golden Age (Spanish: Siglo de Oro, “Golden Century”) was a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political rise and decline of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. El Siglo de Oro does not imply precise dates and is usually considered to have lasted longer than an actual century. It began no earlier than 1492, with the end of the Reconquista, the sea voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World, and the publication of Antonio de Nebrija’s Grammar of the Castilian Language. Politically, it ended no later than 1659, with the Treaty of the Pyrenees, ratified between France and Habsburg Spain. The last great writer of the period, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, died in 1681, and his death is usually considered the end of El Siglo de Oro in the arts and literature.
The Italian holdings and relationships made by Queen Isabella’s husband, and later Spain’s sole monarch, Ferdinand of Aragon, launched a steady traffic of intellectuals across the Mediterranean between Valencia, Seville, and Florence. Luis de Morales, one of the leading exponents of Spanish mannerist painting, retained a distinctly Spanish style in his work, reminiscent of medieval art. Spanish art, particularly that of Morales, contained a strong mark of mysticism and religion that was encouraged by the counter-reformation and the patronage of Spain’s strongly Catholic monarchs and aristocracy. Spanish rule of Naples was important for making connections between Italian and Spanish art, with many Spanish administrators bringing Italian works back to Spain.
Some of the greatest artists of the era:
- Known for his great impact in bringing the Italian Renaissance to Spain, El Greco (“The Greek”) was influential in creating a style based on impressions and emotion, featuring elongated fingers and vibrant color and brushwork. His paintings of the city of Toledo became models for a new European tradition in landscapes, and influenced the work of later Dutch masters.
- Diego Velázquez is widely regarded as one of Spain’s most important and influential artists. His portraits of the king and other prominent figures demonstrated a belief in artistic realism and a style comparable to many of the Dutch masters. Velázquez’s most famous painting is the celebrated Las Meninas, in which the artist included himself as one of the subjects.
- The religious element in Spanish art grew in importance with the counter-reformation. The austere, ascetic, and severe work of Francisco de Zurbarán exemplified this thread. The mysticism of Zurbarán’s work—influenced by Saint Theresa of Avila—became a hallmark of Spanish art in later generations.
- Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s works were influenced by realism. His more important works evolved towards the polished style that suited the bourgeois and aristocratic tastes of the time, demonstrated especially in his Roman Catholic religious works.
The same period produced some of the most important works of Spanish architecture. These include:
- The Palace of Charles V located on the top of the hill of the Assabica, inside the Nasrid fortification of the Alhambra. The project was given to Pedro Machuca, who built a palace corresponding stylistically to Mannerism, a mode still in its infancy in Italy.
- El Escorial: a historical residence of the king of Spain. It is one of the Spanish royal sites and functions as a monastery, royal palace, museum, and school. Located in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, it comprises two architectural complexes of great historical and cultural significance: El Real Monasterio de El Escorial itself and La Granjilla de La Fresneda, a royal hunting lodge and monastic retreat. During the 16th and 17th centuries, they were places in which the temporal power of the Spanish monarchy and the ecclesiastical predominance of the Roman Catholic religion in Spain found a common architectural manifestation. Philip II engaged the Spanish architect Juan Bautista de Toledo to be his collaborator in the design of El Escorial.
- The Plaza Mayor in Madrid: A central plaza in Madrid, Spain. Juan de Herrera was the architect who designed the first project in 1581 to remodel the old Plaza del Arrabal, but construction didn’t start until 1617, during Philip III’s reign. Nevertheless, the Plaza Mayor as we know it today is the work of the architect Juan de Villanueva, who was entrusted with its reconstruction in 1790 after a spate of big fires.
- Granada Cathedral: Foundations for the church were laid by the architect Egas starting from 1518 to 1523 atop the site of the city’s main mosque. By 1529, Egas was replaced by Diego de Siloé, who labored for nearly four decades on the structure.
- The Cathedral of Valladolid: Like all the buildings of the late Spanish Renaissance built by Herrera and his followers, it is known for its purist and sober decoration, its style being the typical Spanish clasicismo, also called “Herrerian.”
The Spanish Golden Age was also a time of great flourishing in poetry, prose, and drama. Regarded by many as one of the finest literary works in any language, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes was the first novel published in Europe. It gave Cervantes a stature in the Spanish-speaking world comparable to his contemporary William Shakespeare in English. Don Quixote resembled both the medieval, chivalric romances of an earlier time and the novels of the early modern world. It has endured to the present day as a landmark in world literary history, and it was an immediate international hit in its own time.
A contemporary of Cervantes, Lope de Vega consolidated the essential genres and structures that would characterize the Spanish commercial drama, also known as the “Comedia,” throughout the 17th century. While Lope de Vega wrote prose and poetry as well, he is best remembered for his plays, particularly those grounded in Spanish history. In bringing morality, comedy, drama, and popular wit together, Lope de Vega is also often compared to his English contemporary Shakespeare. Some have argued that as a social critic, Lope de Vega, like Cervantes, attacked many of the ancient institutions of his country—aristocracy, chivalry, and rigid morality, among others. The other great dramatist of the 17th century was Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681). His most famous work is Life Is a Dream (1635). Born when the Spanish Golden Age theater was being defined by Lope de Vega, Pedro Calderón de la Barca developed it further, and his work is regarded as the culmination of the Spanish Baroque theater. As such, he remains one of Spain’s foremost dramatists and one of the finest playwrights of world literature. Other well-known playwrights of the period include Tirso de Molina, Agustín Moreto, Juan Pérez de Montalbán, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Guillén de Castro, and Antonio Mira de Amescua.
This period also produced some of the most important Spanish works of poetry. The introduction and influence of Italian Renaissance verse is apparent perhaps most vividly in the works of Garcilaso de la Vega, and illustrate a profound influence on later poets. Mystical literature in Spanish reached its summit with the works of San Juan de la Cruz and Teresa of Ávila. Baroque poetry was dominated by the contrasting styles of Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora; both had a lasting influence on subsequent writers, and even on the Spanish language itself.
Tomás Luis de Victoria, a Spanish composer of the 16th century, mainly of choral music, is widely regarded as one of the greatest Spanish classical composers. Like Zurbarán, Victoria mixed the technical qualities of Italian art with the religion and culture of his native Spain. Francisco Guerrero’s music was both sacred and secular, unlike that of de Victoria and Morales, the two other Spanish 16th-century composers of the first rank. He wrote numerous secular songs and instrumental pieces, in addition to masses, motets, and Passions. De Victoria’s work was also complemented by Alonso Lobo, whose work stressed the austere, minimalist nature of religious music.