Sobre La Mesa

April 19 2010, 3:45pm

The present pair of occasional tables were constructed in the early 20th century, although they have been designed to simulate Spanish models from centuries earlier. The shaped legs take the form of Spanish Baroque trestle legs of the type that were found on benches and tables being made in Catalonia in the 17th century. Here we have two drawings of comparable trestle legs found on a bench in a private Spanish collection and another from the Valencia Don Juan Institute in Madrid. The legs, as well as the edge of the tabletop, are embellished with gold and turquoise painted arabesque designs. Drawing of comparable trestle legs from a 17th century bench from a private Spanish collection. Drawing of comparable trestle legs of a 17th century bench from the Valencia Don Juan Institute, Madrid. The table tops are painted with illusionistically rendered plates using trompe l’oeil effects, giving the viewer the impression that there are actual dishes sitting upon the tables. The plates simulate 15th or 16th century hispano-moresque pottery, made in the province of Valencia. Valencia had been inhabited by the Moors since 8th century, and by the 1200s the coastal province was also home home to Catalans, Aragonese. The decoration of the dishes is of archetypal hispano-moresque design: “Small ivy or briony leaves, in blue or in lustre, arranged in circles, bands, arabesques, covering the entire surface of the piece…In the centres of dishes are shields of arms, animals, flowers, and other designs.”

A European gothic influence is also apparent “in the more naturalistically rendered ornament, the use of heraldic devices and shields, and inscriptions of a Christian nature rendered in Gothic script.” One dish is centered by the arms of Aragon: the crown above a shield of four red paletts on gold ground. Alternating crowns and blue vines surround the rim of the plate.  An hispano-moresque faience dish in the British museum, circa 1580, features the arms of Aragon at it’s center (along with those of Castile and Leon). Hispano-Moresque tin-glazed earthenware dish, circa 1479, depicting the arms of Castile, Leon, and Aragon. © The Trustees of the British Museum Another is centered by a floral and hexagram motif, is edged with the inscription Senta Catalina Guarda Nos (”Saint Catherine protect us”) in gothic lettering. This phrase appears on the rim of various dishes from the region and period, including a late 15th century example, also in the  British Museum. The cult of St. Catherine gained great importance in the Catalan-Aragonese lands during the 14th and 15th centuries, with numerous churches, altars and convents dedicated to her, including the first Dominican convent in Catalonia. Drawing of a mid-15th century Hispano-Moresque tin-glazed earthenware dish depicting the phrase “Senta Caralina Guarda Nos.”