Contemporary Portrait of Philip II of Spain
Illuminated Carta Executoria de Hidalguía in Spanish issued in the name of Philip II of Spain in favor of Pedro Guillem de las Casas in the city of Jaén, dated 1590. 52 folios on vellum, complete. Granada, 1590: 309 mm x 215 mm (justification 238 mm x 132 mm). Single column, 35 lines, apparently ruled in graphite. Unfoliated. The text and additions are written entirely in Spanish. Decoration: 1. A single large frontispiece (254 mm x 179 mm) of Christ carrying the cross in an arched colonnade, detached, eighteenth- or nineteenth-century, in bright crayon and well-executed; perhaps depicting the harrowing of hell (denizens in hell below Christ are surrounded by hell-fire). SS. Sebastian and another saint with a cilice belt stand in flanking panels. 2. Seven beautifully executed miniatures of saints in bright colors, each approximately 60-70 mm x 55-65 mm, including SS. John the Baptist, James, Bartholomew, John the Evangelist, Francis, and others (one probably Justice); three miniatures of Christ blessing, the Holy Spirit as a dove, and King Philip II of Spain enthroned with scepter and orb, in a realistic contemporary portrait showing the prominent “Hapsburg chin.” 3. Four large colored initials, one in gold sporting a grotesque mask. For the pages with saints, the addressee shares the same name as the saint: Juan Sánchez de Castillo, Bartolomé de Medina, Juan de Monte Molin, etc. With the exception of St. John the Baptist, which has paint losses, the miniatures are bright, fresh, and of exquisite execution. Proof of the artist’s skill can be found in the delicate brocade (perhaps representing cloth of gold) behind King Philip. These miniatures were doubtless produced by a prominent miniaturist in Granada, which boasted a coterie of highly regarded artists at this time, including members of the Cano family. The script has innumerable decorative letters, strapwork initials, and cadels of consummate execution. Text: This document elevates Pedro Guillem de las Casas to the rank of hidalgo or “gentleman.” Pedro also seeks restitution for taxes paid in the past, and asks to be exempted from future taxation in respect of his new rank. Additional pages dated 1608 have texts contributed by Pedro’s son, Juan (now in Baeza), meant to prove his father’s status. Binding: contemporary, and almost certainly original, binding in purple velvet over pasteboards, now rather worn but perfectly serviceable. The seal that would have accompanied the document is missing. Condition: Overall good condition, doubtless the identical condition it was in at a nineteenth-century sale with clipping glued to the front pastedown. Condition: good. Two folios are reinforced with linen tape. The miniature of St. John the Baptist has paint losses to the face and elsewhere. Miniatures of St. John the Baptist and a female figure with a sword and scales (perhaps Justice) have been removed and returned to their exact places, but rather clumsily. No damage has been done to the miniatures, however.