SPAIN AND PORTUGAL IN THE TIME OF THE RENAISSANCE
What of Spanish style? Where, in what century, is there a school that can be called national? “ These questions occur in Carl Justi’s Introduction to the History of Spanish Art, and he thus answers them: "One might put forward certain prelates, grandees, magistrates, guilds as the friends of art in the past—of art that proved their taste to be uncritical and unprogressive—but they showed their enthusiasm rather as spectators than as artists, just as the Arabs were wont to take pleasure in the dance.” [For background information on Pesian, Arab and Islamic gardens, see Chapter 5]
Arab influence on Spanish gardens
These words are more true of the world of gardening than of any other. During the whole period when Spain was under the yoke of the Arab, she was so controlled by the manners and customs of his nation that the Oriental way of life was accepted everywhere as natural and inevitable: therefore gardens were open living-rooms, and in arrangement and ornament were extremely like rooms or halls of houses, which contained fountains and flowers as decoration.
And Moorish customs had struck such deep roots that for a long time after the struggle for power in Spain had ended in a victory for Christendom, the castles and pleasure houses of Spain's Catholic kings and their nobles were with very few exceptions much the same as the Moorish ones. It is true that historians endeavour to distinguish separately a style called Mudejar, made use of by Christianised Spain until the sixteenth century; but what we really find is that Arabian architects have discovered a way to combine their usual style of ornament with something from the Italian Renaissance, just as they had previously done in the case of Gothic structures. For the ground-plan of the house is Oriental-Arabian as it was before. The living-rooms are grouped around a central court to which a few side courts are attached by great towers, and on one side—occasionally on two—there is a garden adjoining. It is as much as possible shut in from the outside by portions of other buildings, by galleries, and by high walls—and this moreover at a time when in Italy the outdoor country house has succeeded in being entirely in the open.
The Alcazar in Seville is an excellent example (Fig. 282). When Peter the Cruel (1353—64) built his royal palace here, it was over the ruins of the old sultan’s castle, which covered a much greater area, and with its garden reached as far as the Guadalquivir, though now only one of the old fortresses remains, the so-called Golden Tower. The king employed Moorish workmen in rebuilding, and very probably he was able to utilise some of the Arabic remains, in any case as models. During the next five hundred years there was constant building and restoration going on about this old kernel in the centre; but never did the Moorish feeling for complete seclusion, and dislike of the open, disappear. The beautiful chief façade was regarded as a kind of façade to a court ; and this led to smaller spaces being grouped around the central one, which was called the Patio de las Doncellas (Fig. 283).
This is a paved court ; but there would be pots with plants in it just as there were in the courts of certain private houses, which are to be seen at the present day. There is no fountain in the Patio, but it may have been lost when Charles V.
rebuilt the place. Other courts, such as the Jardins de la Maria Padilla (the beloved lady of Peter the Cruel) and the Patio de las Banderas, whose surroundings are certainly moderni were perhaps always planted with oranges and palms as they are now.
The flower-garden proper lies south-east of the buildings (Figs. 284 and 285). Don Pedro (Peter the Cruel) first made it, but its present style dates from Charles V. in the sixteenth century. Still the same thing is true of the garden as of the buildings, that in spite of changes and improvements made by later generations, the fundamental idea has never been obliterated which shows it to be a near relation of the gardens of the Alhambra and the Generalife. For these also complete seclusion was a sine qua non, and hence the high walls, which in Pedro’s time had galleries all round (Fig. 286).
Now they are adorned with grotto-work in the baroque style, beneath which is concealed old work of many kinds. The entrance was at the side, without any architectural connection with the house (A, Fig. 282), and into a sunk garden. From a large pond at the side (G) there was a way down to the baths of Maria Padilla, before which lay a small parterre, the great garden sinking to the west in several terraces. When Charles V. made a second entrance at the back, at the end of the middle walk, it was really a pavilion in Mudejar style (I), ornamented inside with Azulejos, which means blue tiles (Fig. 287). At the end of the eastern gallery is a garden-house (F, Fig. 282) leading to the fruit-garden (E). Beside the pavilion of Charles V. was another large reservoir (H) which was named after his mother Joanna, called the Crazy.
At the intersections of the tiled walks stand fountains with round seats about them, and in the same way as at the Generalife little spurts of water spring up from unseen pipes to sprinkle the unwary. The separate beds are laid out in geometrical figures and always bordered. A novelty which was probably unfamiliar to the Arabs, the labyrinth (K), was introduced by Charles. It was a very large one, and put on the lowest terrace so that it could be seen from above. In the second half of the sixteenth century the taste for the baroque had introduced all sorts of tiresome novelties, and dripping grottoes, and garden gates, but also had added many beautiful fountains, such as the Mercury fountain in the Jardin del Estanque. But each of these things was really a foreign element in the picture.