On the occasion of the declaration of the state of alarm in Spain due to the spread of COVID-19, the Church Museums have joined in the social networks the initiative #quedARTEencasa, promoted by the sacred art museum of the Tesoro de la Concepción in La Orotava (Tenerife). The proposal aims to bring art into our homes, at a time when users are unable to approach museums themselves, which remain closed during the period of isolation decreed by the authorities.
Thus, each day a museum proposes a theme on which the publications are focused. Last week, we participated in this initiative from our accounts at Twitter e Instagramon the day that #NatureinArt was proposed as the theme. In order to make it accessible to a greater number of people, we share here, in another format, that content.
Nature is a subject that was always present in the thinking of our founder, Don Félix Granda y Buylla. He, who joined his priestly vocation to that of an artist, made it his purpose to serve the Church through art. His desire was to put beauty at the service of worship, to make visible, tangible, the Beauty that is revealed in it.
It is undeniable that nature, Creation itself, is an inexhaustible source of beauty for any artist. Don Félix Granda was, moreover, particularly sensitive in this regard, and we would almost say that it could not have been otherwise, being born in the lush land of Asturias, and growing up under the influence of the artistic movements of the late nineteenth century, which revered nature so much. To her, therefore, he constantly resorted to extract decorative motifs for his works and, above all, inspiration.
When contemplating the works directed by him, we can affirm that he certainly studied it in depth. Often we find it used simply as decorative motifs, as is shown by the drawings preserved in our Historical Archives. According to oral tradition in our company, the draftsmen and chiselers often copied these motifs from the plants they collected in the garden surrounding our first headquarters, the Hotel de las Rosas.
His prodigious mind for iconography, however, led him more often to endow his works with the theological sense suggested by their contemplation. This is the case of the chalice whose photograph we share here, in which the love of the bird feeding its chicks is an allegory of Christ's affection for souls. This evocative image was completed, moreover, with an inscription taken from the Holy Scriptures, from Psalm 84, which gave full meaning to the symbol: "Even the sparrow has found a home; / the swallow, a nest where to lay her chicks."
Don Félix Granda mixed with great skill traditional iconographic motifs with other novel ones. This ciborium, which he called "of the Tree of Life", represents this iconographic symbol as a pomegranate tree, whose roots take root on the four cardinal points. Among its branches, full of fruits and flowers, the world is supported. And, above it, a dove with the Cross and an olive branch, symbolizing Jesus Christ, pacifying with his blood the Earth and the Heavens.
The pomegranate tree and its fruit are symbols with multiple meanings, although don Félix Granda used to use it as an allegory of Christ's sacrifice, and pointed out that the red color of its seeds recalled his blood shed on the cross.
On the other hand, the Tree of Life, with its complex symbolism, was also a subject that he often depicted, as in this watercolor he made himself, which was a sketch for the roofs of the parish of San Juan el Real in Oviedo.
Creation in its totality is another frequent theme in his work. At the base of this monstrance, which he called "of the City", the material world is represented in the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), whose creatures praise the Creator.
This representation of the Creation was quite common in the feet of monstrances and tabernacles. We can see an example in this beautiful interior of the door of a tabernacle, which is, therefore, hidden from the view of the faithful.
Animals with a specific iconography also appear in the designs of don Félix Granda. Thus, the peacock, symbol of the immortal souls of believers, is usually represented chopping grapes, an allegory of the Eucharist.
It shares a similar symbolism with the doe, which in many pieces of Talleres de Arte Granda is represented drinking from the Fountain of Living Water, inspired by Psalm 41: "As the hind seeks streams of water, so my soul seeks You, my God".
Reflecting on art, the sadly deceased Joaquín Lorda, professor of History of Architecture at the UNAV, expressed the following idea:
"Gombrich spoke of the pearl that is formed with dross; in a sordid panorama, the sparkles of masterpieces shine; the fruit of the amazing human capacity to create beauty. The best thinkers of Ancient Greece saw in beauty a divine sign: something that reminds us that this world is not just dastardly and mediocre; there is something higher; and Christian thinkers believed that beauty proved the existence of God."
Gombrich worked until the end of his life for a history of art that would help people enter, when they needed to, a redoubt of authentic beauty; a redoubt always exposed, fragile, and diminishing, surviving in a world repeatedly darkened by violence and terror; a redoubt that needs guardians, keeping open the bridges that link us to the past."
Like Professor Lorda and our founder Felix Granda, we also believe in the need for Beauty, and we work every day to continue to make it visible. At a time like the present, when we do indeed feel the need to take refuge in a a stronghold of true beautyWe hope we have managed to bring a glimpse of it to your homes with this small contribution.