Juan de Jaureguí- Dialogue Part II

ESCULTURA: Painting, you don’t convince me
with all that talk of your greatness;
as those men you are talking about
will be dead in two days,
them and their works.

You can think of his fame
as complete whose foundation
is just a thin layer
of canvas or a painted wall,
which the wind will wipe clean in a moment.

My bronzes are powerful
against your vain envy;
and in fearsome marbles
my Praxiteles and Phidias
will live on, forever famous.

PAINTING: The fame of your chisels
does not lie in broken marble;
that fame is shared by my Apelles,
Parhassius and Polignotos,
with no trace of their brushes.

Matter can never
give honour to the artist,
who exceeds it with his art;
and concedes to wax
the same life as to bronze.

Our arts are given credit
when they perfectly know how
to copy the forms they imitate.
and their honour is not limited
to whether they last or fade away.

NATURE: I would like to allay
your dispute without annoying you,
so that the truth may be understood
and not to offend
the wisest artist.

I say, then, that you should not doubt
that you are equal in nobility
in one essential point,
which is the end that you give yourselves to
in copying my nature.

But the means alone
by which this end is attained
(Sculpture do not get angry)
give preeminent honour
to the art of Painting.

Because by the joining
of perfect colouring
and one or another precept,
her imitation is extended
to all visible objects;

and with her mixed tints,
with a foundation in good drawing,
her imitated images
come to be as believable
as my own formed works.

The chisel cannot imitate
faithfully in any material
fire, the sun’s rays
fields laid out, the sea,
sky, stars, sun and moon.

And given that the supreme honour
of the sculptor and painter
is when he strives to imitate
man, who is the creature
that is most similar to the Creator,

also in man it is plain
that colours come forth
with admirable beauty,
giving to the human body
a thousand inner passions.

Whose eyes are not fooled
by the strange lifelikeness
of some face where can be seen
even the sparkle in the eye
and the subtle eyelash?

The quality of the painter
grows also when you see him tasked
with great difficulties,
and always in need of
genius and ability.

And if the sculptor alleges
that his blows are tiring,
it is a blind allegation:
since it is more tiring for the one
who rows, digs or reaps.

And if the liberal art
of the good brush and chisel
were honoured by such work,
we would owe the same honour
to low and manual occupations.

The higher work
which gives value to the arts
is employed in creativity;
and this is the work that
the painter diligently employs.

Sculpture, with a more tempered
and more relaxed spirit,
looks at and measures without deception,
the bulks it translates
into form, action and size.

But he who paints on flat surfaces,
is not informed by size,
action or form of what he works on,
nor is there any distinct clarity
that the paintbrush does not re-form:

there is no measure to help him,
and his gaze does not assure him
unless it is accompanied by wise art,
when, with pure hard work,
he corrects and changes it all.

This is now Perspective
on which base is founded
all that the paintbrush paints;
a difficult and elusive art,
and, more than difficult, faithful;

for if the painter who understands it
prizes it and does not offend
in the darks and lights,
he forms the strange foreshortening
that tricks the eyes of the wise.

From this admirable labour
and extreme difficulty
the sculptor lives apart;
and to the ingenious painter
gives supreme authority.

I have pondered the parts
of most greatness and pleasure;
and don’t say I have held back
the honour I owe to both sides
in the highest degree.

This is the conclusion of the Dialogue. You can see that Jaureguí settles for painting as the higher art in the end. This is based on the breadth of its potential for imitation. We have tended to move away from the idea that imitation of nature is the foundation of art. However, I find the argument is still fresh. The idea that “matter can never give honour to the artist” is still intriguing today.

Jaureguí came from a npble Basque family. The prestige of painting in the seventeenth-century is shown by the fact that he went to Italy to study painting. Pacheco refers to him as an artist and Cervantes says he made a portrait of him. I have been unable to find anything that is unequivovally by his hand unfortunately.

He won poetic competitions in Sevilla and went on to Madrid where he wrote against the current of difficult, highly ornate language of Gongora and his followers. Seville was the great emporium of the south attracting people from all corners of the Spanish empire to trade goods, money and ideas. In this respect it was more international in flavour than Madrid, even though the court was based in the capital.

In Seville there was a fruitful interplay of poetry and painting. Poets took the classical idea that they were “painters with words” and played around with literary games such as ekphrasis, the description of painted scenes. At the same time painters enjoyed the prestige of their association with literature, prided themselves on their connections with poets and emphasised the intellectual side of their work. Francisco Pacheco’s uncle was a poet and canon of the Cathedral who ran a small writers’ group.

Ut pictura poesis, a motto derived from Horace’s Art of Poetry, gave classical authority to an age-old theme: that poetry is like painting and painting like poetry.

The image is Baltasar del Alcázar from Pacheco’s Libro de descripción. He had a house he called the Casa Jocosa where he had literary tertulias and lived a jovial life. I think you can see that from his face!



About Jason Preater

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7 Responses to Juan de Jaureguí- Dialogue Part II

  1. nannus says:

    I wonder what is the term in the original text that you translated as “creativity”? The term “creativiy” seems to appear in English only during the 20th century, according to https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=creativity&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Ccreativity%3B%2Cc0, However, I am interested in concepts that are precursors of the concept of creativity in the history of ideas.


    • The word is ingenio. It is a little difficult to translate. I feel that ingenuity has a different range of meaning. For us ingenuity implies something almost intricate and complicated. In Spanish genio is genius but in a much broader spirit- say like Shakespeare uses it in the dice scene with Antony and Octavian in Antony and Cleopatra. Since ingenio contains genio I feel that association and that is why I translate it as creativity.

      The word actually appears twice and I translate it differently in the two contexts: in the following stanza I translate it as spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. nannus says:

    It is interesting to see how our concepts of art have changed (as you also indicate in your comment). In this interesting text, the purpose of art is seen in immitation. There is no idea of the possibility that an artist could create a new structure that is not the immitation or image of an existing one, as we can see it in abstract art, for example. In art as described here, there is the world of real being and there is the immitation of art. This reminds me of Plato and actually the neo-platonism that came into vogue during the Italian renaissance might be behind the theories presented here. In non-representational art, on the other hand, the work of art is the primary thing that exists, not some immitation of it. This is a possibility that was not seen at the time (or maybe it was suppressed: there seem to have been some theological discussions in medieval and early modern times – leading to several instances of iconoclasm – about the status of icons: are they just images or symbols, or is the saint somehow in them, given them some higher ontological status?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I find those arguments interesting as well. Seventeenth-century Spanish art theory is very repetitive. They wheel out the same arguments again and again, citing the same classical sources and the same doctors of the church.

      There is a whole sub-genre in this discourse to do with what is an authentic image. There are many representations of the Santa Faz, for example, which is the cloth that St Veronica held up to Christ’s face. Since it was miraculously imprinted with his features it acquires a unique status. For one thing it is an undeniably authentic image. For another it shows that God was not averse to painting himself, if you like.

      Cespedes talks explicitly about God the painter.

      St Luke, the patron of the painters’ guild, was also said to have painted a portrait of the Virgin. There is a painting of this by Zurbarán in the Prado.


  3. nannus says:

    Is there a lot of such philosophical or scholarly poetry in Spain? Or is this an exception? And if not, in which periode of time did such poems appear?


    • This poem is from the seventeenth-century. If you think of English Metaphysical poetry of the same time it gives you a good sense of the period. Plenty of lawyer types like John Donne and a lot of religious effusion, without the internal view of George Herbert.

      In Spain there was a huge number of educated people in monasteries and convents who created a weighty literature. The Jesuits created a school system that put a lot of emphasis on drama and argument. This had an influence too.

      There is no Spanish equivalent to Shakespeare (Lope de Vega comes closest, I guess) because religious theatre was in the driving seat: theological, religious dramas called autos sacramentales. Calderón de la Barca was a key poet of this kind of drama.

      The fact that verse was used to make arguments makes it a very rich culture even though so much of it is repetitive and frankly dull. You have to wade through a lot of shit to come up with a nugget of gold. I have a high threshhold, haha.

      As you go into the eighteenth-century the literature changes in character. There is an idea that prose might be appropriate for the sciences. There are still argument poems in treatises especially in the introductions but Palomino, for example, is much more of a prose stylist.

      I am particularly interested in poet/painters. That is one of the aspects of Galicia that I find so appealing. An artist such as Castelao is a painter, poet, politician and linguist. That is in the twentieth-century.


      • nannus says:

        I am not an expert on this but I think this kind of poetry also existed in German (I cannot give any examples or names though, probably because most of this stuff is rightfully forgotten), mainly from the 15th to the 18th century. Theater in verses can still be found in the 19th century (e.g. Goethe). Lessing’s plays are in verses, but his theoretical writings are in prose (e.g. his Essay “Laokoon” (1766), about the relationship of painting and poetry, to stay with your topic), although there are some poems of philosophical content by him (some are, I think, translations of or inspired by Tommaso Campanella, who wrote some remarkable philosophical poems.


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