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BAROQUE ARCHITECTURE IN SPAIN


As Italian Baroque influences penetrated across the Pyrenees, they gradually superseded in popularity the restrained classicizing approach of Juan de Herrera, which had been in vogue since the late sixteenth century. As early as 1667, the facades of Granada Cathedral (by Alonso Cano) and Jaen Cathedral (by Eufrasio López de Rojas) suggest the artists' fluency in interpreting traditional motifs of Spanish cathedral architecture in the Baroque aesthetic idiom.

Vernacular Baroque with its roots still in Herrera and in traditional brick construction was developed in Madrid throughout the 17th century. Examples include Plaza Mayor and the Major House.

In contrast to the art of Northern Europe, the Spanish art of the period appealed to the emotions rather than seeking to please the intellect. The Churriguera family, which specialized in designing altars and retables, revolted against the sobriety of the Herreresque classicism and promoted an intricate, exaggerated, almost capricious style of surface decoration known as the Churrigueresque. Within half a century, they transformed Salamanca into an exemplary Churrigueresque city.

The evolution of the style passed through three phases. Between 1680 and 1720, the Churriguera popularized Guarini's blend of Solomonic columns and composite order, known as the "supreme order". Between 1720 and 1760, the Churrigueresque column, or estipite, in the shape of an inverted cone or obelisk, was established as a central element of ornamental decoration. The years from 1760 to 1780 saw a gradual shift of interest away from twisted movement and excessive ornamentation toward a neoclassical balance and sobriety.

Two of the most eye-catching creations of Spanish Baroque are the energetic facades of the University of Valladolid (Diego Tome, 1719) and Hospicio de San Fernando in Madrid (Pedro de Ribera, 1722), whose curvilinear extravagance seems to herald Antonio Gaudi and Art Nouveau. In this case as in many others, the design involves a play of tectonic and decorative elements with little relation to structure and function. However, Churrigueresque baroque offered some of the most impressive combinations of space and light with buildings like Granada Charterhouse, considered to be the apotheosis of Churrigueresque styles applied to interior spaces, or the Transparente of the Cathedral of Toledo, by Narciso Tomé, where sculpture and architecture are integrated to achieve notable light dramatic effects.

The Royal Palace of Madrid and the interventions of Paseo del Prado (Salón del Prado and Alcalá Doorgate) in the same city, deserve special mention. They were constructed in a sober Baroque international style, often mistaken for neoclassical, by the Bourbon kings Philip V and Charles III. The Royal Palaces of La Granja de San Ildefonso, in Segovia, and Aranjuez, in Madrid, are good examples of baroque integration of architecture and gardening, with noticeable French influence (La Granja is known as the Spanish Versailles), but with local spatial conceptions which in some ways display the heritage of the Moorish occupation.

Rococo was first introduced to Spain in the (Cathedral of Murcia, west facade, 1733). The greatest practitioner of the Spanish Rococo style was a native master, Ventura Rodríguez, responsible for the dazzling interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Saragossa (1750).

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