A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Sevillian tile style: Catalogo de Azulejos de Estilo Sevillano

 The Sevillian tile style: Catalogo de Azulejos de Estilo Sevillano

I recently purchased an undated 20th century, Spanish tile catalog: Catalogo de Azulejos de Estilo Sevillano, and I wanted to share the wonderful tile photos with everyone via this blog. The catalog, however, posed a mystery. Most of the 18 color plates had the name and address of Jose Ma[ria] Fernandez (Reyes Catolicos, 25, Sevilla) pasted over another name and address. That other name and address was Casa González, Gran Via 14, Madrid, and I wanted to know what Casa Gonzalez was, as well as who or what Jose Ma. Fernandez was, along with the history of the “Estilo Sevillano” tiles pictured in the catalog. I received help from Mario Baeck, doctor of art science at Ghent University, Belgium,(1) and Johan Kamermans, curator of the Dutch Tile Museum in Otterlo. Professor Baeck pointed me to a Spanish website that specialized in the history of Spain’s ceramic industry that focused on tiled altar pieces, Retablo Ceramico, and Dr. Kamermans sent me contact information for ceramic tile experts in Spain.

The Jose Ma. Fernandez catalog is the one I purchased and the Casa González cover is courtesy of Retablo Ceramico. Both have a “G” under a crown--probably for Casa González. The Fernandez label is pasted over a Casa González printed title.

The history of the Sevillano style of decorative ceramics begins with Francesco Niculoso, an Italian painter of majolica who, in 1498, settled in Seville. At this time--at the end of the Middle Ages--Seville was a major center of ceramic production and was rooted in the Hispano-Muslim tradition.(2)  

At the beginning of the 16th century, it was “emigre potters from northern Italy [...who] introduced the MAIOLICA technique to Spain, France and Flanders, whence it spread to Portugal, Holland (where it was known as Delft) and finally England. ...By the end of the [15th] century Italian potters had established a long tradition of painted images of great variety, executed in bright polychromatic schemes on single tiles, having absorbed many technical influences from Spain[,...such as the lustre technique].”(3)

Francesco Niculoso was called Niculoso Pisano because he was from Pisa. “He introduced [into] Spain the Pisan majolica technique and brilliantly applied it to azulejos. Until then, mono-chromatic tiles were cut and assembled, the colours were bright and applied with a uniform intensity. With the new Italian majolica style, tiles [were] painted like a wood panel or a canvas.

A 32 tile panel, the Sepulcral Lauda of Iñigo de López in the Parish church of Santa Ana, Sevilla (1503), painted by Niculoso Pisano. This is Pisano’s first recorded ceramic installation. (http://www.artesacro.org/conocersevilla/templos/ parroquias/santaana/lauda/index.html; photo credit: Francisco Santiago)

“And a variety of colours [were] used: blue, light yellow, dark yellow, green, brown, white, black, purple[… .] What [was] particularly revolutionary [was] the use of chiaroscuro, a use of contrasts of colours to achieve a sense of volume. From an almost industrial repetition of patterns, we [moved] onto an artistic creation…,”(4) which culminated in a neo-renaissance, Sevillano style in the late 19th century.

Hans van Lemmen, the author of the book, 5000 Years of Tiles published by the British Museum Press, read this blog post and kindly sent a photo of the head of the tile panel, above, where it was signed by Niculoso Pisano. The photo had to be taken with the camera poking through the iron bars. The entire panel could not be photographed in this way at one time.

Niculoso lived in Seville for about thirty years and died in 1529. In that time he not only introduced the flat surface tile, but the decorative repertoire of grutescos.(5)  Niculoso is also “attributed with introducing the ‘paleta de gran fuego’--[...pottery painted with a large fire palette, the technical definition of Renaissance Italian majolica]--technique of polychrome ceramic manufacture to Spain, which allowed for a fine, artistic and detailed painted [tile] to be produced. [...He introduced] the concept of a ceramic painting which reproduced entire pictures by means of a composition of ceramic tiles[,...such as the tiled...Sepulcral Lauda of Iñigo de López in the Parish church of Santa Ana, Sevilla (1503)].(6) Niculoso “was ahead of his times, however, and on his death in 1529 the fashion reverted to the traditional moulded (arista) tiles[,…]”(7) thus creating a lull in the production of painted tile panels. Then, “[in] the middle of the sixteenth century new Italian and Flemish influences arrived [...in Seville with] the Pesaro family from Genoa and Frans Andries, later known as Francisco Andrea, from Antwerp, who reinstituted brush painting techniques in bright colors on ceramic panels and dishes, with clear Renaissance connotations [as] opposed to the Mudejar [style].”(8)

"These [tiled panel] sockets have been considered of the most important of this sort existing in Spain, they reflect flowers; birds; fantastic animals; Warriors;...and a thousand precursors of the [decorative ceramics] art... ." They were made for the Seville Alcazar by the famous ceramist, Cristóbal de Augusta, who was the son of another famous ceramist of the same name, and the son-in-law of Roque Hernández, mentioned below. (http://www.retabloceramico.net/bio_augustacritobalde.htm) 

It has been speculated that the families of Frans Andries (Francisco Andrea) and Francesco Niculoso Pisano were related. After Andries settled in the Triana district of Seville, he signed a contract with the ceramist Roque Hernández in which he would paint tiles in the “Pisa” style, rather than in the Mudejar styles, such as "edge" or "dry rope" (i.e., cuenca[9] and cuerda seca[10]). In addition, he would teach the Pisa style to Roque Hernández, and to others in his workshop. Other authors have recognized that Francisco Andrea brought to Seville for the second time the technique of majolica, implying a previous disappearance of this specialty in ceramics in Seville for several years.(11) 

Other sources of the Renaissance style came from Genoa, Italy with the arrival in Seville of potters such as Tomaso Pesaro. By 1574 Pesaro employed other Italians and Sevillian potters in his workshop. “The wares they made echoed the styles of 16th-century Italian Maiolica. Native Spaniards were quick to imitate the style, as seen in the rich tiled decoration in the Alcazar (1577-9) and other schemes… .”(12)

Beginning in the 16th century, Seville’s position as a major port and trading center for the Spanish Americas helped expand Seville’s pottery industry. In the 17th century Seville prospered with the increased demand for wares. Craftsmen began to specialize and “...the chief production was of azulejos, which could be combined to create tile-pictures depicting hunting scenes, scenes from the lives of the saints influenced by Delft tiles or tile panels with blue-and-white...ornament resembling wrought iron work. ...In the 18th century the most interesting earthenware produced in the Triana district of Seville was influenced by Chinese export wares, decorated with flowers and leaves, pagodas and cranes[,…and in the] 19th century English-style transfer printing was introduced[... into Seville].”(13)

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a revival of Renaissance-style, decorated tiles and tile panels. Numerous family-owned ceramic factories operated in Seville--especially in the Triana district--some had been there for hundreds of years. Many artists took part in the decoration and making of architectural tile works, and some, especially in the 20th century, acquired academic training in the Fine Arts curriculum of universities.(14)

Some of Casa González’ contemporaries (factories/workshops) in Seville during the first half of the 20th century were:(15)

Corbato García, Manuel. Factory (1908) 
Laffitte Romero, José. Fca. Nta. Mrs. del Rocío (1930)
Mensaque Rodríguez y Cía. (1919)
Mensaque and Vera, Jose (1910)
Montalván, Factory (1940), García-Montalván García-Montalván, Manuel
Montero Asquith, Manuel (1920s)
Our Lady of the Old (1928), (Martinez and Rodriguez)
Ramos Rejano, Manuel (ppos decade 1920)
Los Remedios, Factory (1924)
Rodríguez Díaz y Hermano (1930s)
Rodríguez Pérez de Tudela, Manuel (1920) 
Santa Ana, Factory (circa 1930)
Tova Villalva, Widow (1930s)
Widow of Gómez, Factory (1896)

While there was no information to be found about Jose Ma. Fernandez, there was some information about Casa González, which initially published the tile catalog illustrated below. “Casa González, Casa González Álvarez-Ossorio or González Hermanos is the family name of a family business that began with the production and sale of building materials around 1902 in Seville, on the initiative of José González y Álvarez Ossorio, the oldest of the six children of the marriage formed by D. José González Espejo and Ms. Catalina Álvarez-Ossorio y Pizarro. This was the sister of Dona Dolores Álvarez-Ossorio, mother of Don Torcuato Luca de Tena, founder of the ABC Newspaper. The family residence was always in the center of the city of Seville… . It was a family well-placed and well connected with the social, cultural and artistic environment of the time.

Cement and building materials factory of Casa González in Seville in 1908. (http://retabloceramico.net/bio2_gonzalezcasa.htm)

“[...Another son of this marriage was] Aníbal González y Álvarez-Ossorio[,…]an outstanding Sevillian architect who bequeathed to the city of Seville emblematic monuments and buildings built around the Ibero-American Exhibition held in [Seville] in 1929, within the period known as regionalism, characterized mainly...by the use of carved brick and artistic and decorative ceramics.”(16)

A commercial facade made by Casa González in 1926, located at Plaza La Plazuela, 20, Seville. The tiles were painted by the artist Antonio Martín Bermudo (Campitos). (Photo credit: Jesús Marín García (2012),  http://retabloceramico.net/5857.htm) 

Two detailed views of the tiled facade located at Plaza La Plazuela, 20, Seville. (Photos: Jesús Marín García, (2012); http://retabloceramico.net/5857.htm

Facade of the ABC newspaper building. Paseo de la Castellana. Madrid. Ceramics were made by Ángel Villarroel and other potters of the Casa González y Álvarez Osorio workshop in Seville in 1928. (Photo credit: Jesús Luna Delgado and José Manuel Azcona; http://retabloceramico.net/6217.htm

Four views of the ceramics made by Casa González for the facade of the ABC Building in Madrid (1928). (Photo credit: Jesús Luna Delgado and José Manuel Azcona; http://retabloceramico.net/6217.htm)

Sometime around 1915 Casa González opened branches in Madrid (Gran Vía, 14), Huelva, Malaga and Cordoba.

A Casa González (González Hermanos) catalog from 1915. (Courtesy of D. Cayetano Aníbal González Romero as found in http://retabloceramico.net/bio2_gonzalezcasa.htm)

In 1929 Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition. “The...Exposition was held...to increase the ties between host Spain, Portugal and their former colonies. ...The centerpiece and administrative office of the world fair was the Plaza de España, designed by the Spanish architect Anibal González, who was [...the brother of the owner of Casa González]. Today the structure is occupied by government offices and by the general office of the regional army. The Plaza de España is a harmonious complex in a typical regional revival style, which was very popular at the time.(17) The red brick structure is decorated with colorful painted ceramic tiles. ...The showpiece[...of the Plaza,] however[,] is the series of fifty-eight benches that line the facade of the main structure. The benches, completely covered with panels of azulejos, depict allegorical paintings representing the provinces of Spain.”(18)

One of a series of ceramic-covered benches in the Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa celebrating the provinces of Spain. (Photo credit, Eva L, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibero-American_Exposition_of_1929#/ media/File:Plaza_Espa%C3%B1a_2.jpg).

Many of the ceramics workshops and factories were contracted to design and build these benches. Casa González submitted the drawing below for one of the benches in the Plaza de España, and was commissioned to design part of the ceramic installations in the Plaza.

Bench project with central ceramic altarpiece for the Parque de María Luisa and the Exhibition of 1929.  (Courtesy of D. Cayetano Aníbal González Romero as found in http://retabloceramico.net/bio2_gonzalezcasa.htm) 

According to the Retablo Ceramico website, the catalog pictured at the beginning of this article was published in about 1930. Casa González continued in business during and after the 1930s, but not as a distinct family affair. Different family members controlled the various branches, and by 1951 the main branch in Seville became the home for the artist, Cayetano González Gómez, who would set up his goldsmith's workshop in the Pagés del Corro street in the district of Triana in Seville, which was then the premises of the family’s ceramics business. As mentioned above, it is not known when Jose Ma. Fernandez issued the Casa González catalog under the Fernandez name--it is thought sometime in the 1930s, nor is the relationship of the Fernandez and González businesses known.(19)

The c1930s catalog of Sevillian-style azulejos is reproduced below:

1 Professor Baeck has done significant research and has published many papers about the European tile industry.

2 A Google translation of Claire Dumortier, “Frans Andries, Ceramista de Amberes in Sevilla”; http://institucional.us.es/revistas/arte/08/03%20dumortier.pdf.

3 Garry Cruikshank & Eduardo Gonzalez, “A History of Tiles in Spain, Part II, Paradise Lost”, Tile Today, May-July, 1998, p. 74.

4 A Google translation of http://azulejos.fr/index_en.html.

5 Grutesco (from grotesque Italian , and east of grotta - " grotto " -) is a decorative motif  derived from the decoration of the "caves" discovered in fifteenth-century Rome and subsequently identified as rooms and corridors of the Domus Aurea… . They were widely used in Renaissance art and spread throughout Europe. It consists of the combination of plant elements ("foliages", garlands ), vessels, cornucopias , pananoplias , human and teriomorphic figures ("bichas",centaurs , satyrs , putti ), fantastic animals and mythological beings ("sabandijas", "chimeras"), mascarones, bucráneos, etc., which are capriciously related and fill in profuse space (horror vacui) in symmetrical compositions. (a translation of https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grutesco)

Examples of grutescos from the Wikipedia article above.

6 Garry Cruikshank & Eduardo Gonzalez, “A History of Tiles in Spain, Part II, Paradise Lost”, Tile Today, May-July, 1998, p. 74.

7 Gordon Campbell, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Volume II, Oxford University Press, New York, New York, 2006, p. 333.

8 A Google translation of an article by Ana María Moreno Fernández for a symposium on June 8, 2013, Start a journey (III); “Triana and the ceramic workshops”, downloaded from the website of the Niculoso Pisano Asociacion Amigos de la Ceramica on September 22, 2017.

9 “The CUENCA technique required the design to be pressed into the green clay with a mould that left a raised outline, delimiting the areas to be glazed. The tile was then biscuit fired, after which the holloes were filled with coloured glazes and refired.” (Garry Cruikshank & Eduardo Gonzalez, “A History of Tiles in Spain, Part II, Paradise Lost”, Tile Today, May-July, 1998, p. 74). 

10 “CUERDA SECA was a technique developed in the Middle East and introduced to Spain in the 15th century in an attempt to solve the problem of combining several colors on a single tile without the glazes bleeding into each other… . CUERDA SECA...may be considered as the negative version of CUENCA. It consists of engraving the design into the clay [while] it is wet, and filling the furrows with a compound of grease and iron oxide. Different colored glazes were them applied. During the firing the greasy lines kept the colours apart and at the same time produced the effect of a relief.” (Garry Cruikshank & Eduardo Gonzalez, “A History of Tiles in Spain, Part II, Paradise Lost”, Tile Today, May-July, 1998, p. 74).

11  A Google translation of Claire Dumortier, “Frans Andries, Ceramista de Amberes in Sevilla”; http://institucional.us.es/revistas/arte/08/03%20dumortier.pdf.   

12  Gordon Campbell, ed., The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts, Volume II, Oxford University Press, New York, New York, 2006, p. 333.

13 Ibid.

14 A liberal translation of Martin Carlos Palomo García, “Painters Potters , Potters , factories and workshops”; http://retabloceramico.net/autores.htm

15 http://retabloceramico.net/firmasfabricas.htm 

16 A liberal translation of http://retabloceramico.net/bio2_gonzalezcasa.htm

17 Gonzalez chose bricks as the main material to be used, in combination with tiles and marble columns. The building's style today is called Sevillian Regionalism. (http://www.sevilla5.com/monuments/plespana.html

18 http://www.aviewoncities.com/seville/plazadeespana.htm

19 A liberal translation of http://retabloceramico.net/bio2_gonzalezcasa.htm 



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