The Royal Aragonese Economic Society of Friends of the Country (RAESFC) was founded in Zaragoza, the city of Goya, and opened its establishment the year 1876, in 5 Reyno Square. Nowadays is addressed at 8 San Jorge St.
In 1980 the Caja de Ahorros y Monte de Piedad de Zaragoza, Aragón y Rioja (savings bank) inaugurated its new headquarters in Plaza de Basilio Paraíso 2 in Zaragoza. From the very first moment of completion of the building, it was thought that it was appropriate to pay tribute to the Institution that founded the aforementioned Savings Bank, with reason and celebration of its 100th anniversary in 1876. After the pass of more than two hundred years for the first steps of the Economic and one hundred years of the Caja de Ahorros, this wanted to remind its promoter and founder through an exhibition of the funds belonging to its artistic and documentary heritage, and as a full justification of social service be used as public recognition of the RAESFC and political virtues, in the widest sense of the word.
Therefore, 33 years ago around mid of may, the director of the then next to open Exhibition and Congress Centre, Mr. Francisco Ferrán de Irízar communicates me, by decision of the General Manager of the Saving Bank of Zaragoza, Don José Joaquín Sancho Dronda, that the exhibition hall of the Centre is inaugurated with an exhibition dedicated to the artistic funds of the RAESFC, founder of the Savings Bank in 1876. And that such exposure should be open to public in the early days of the month of October in the year 1981.
I was playing my role of curator or director of the art exhibitions of the institution since the month of September 1976, reason why my relationship with the Entity was fluent and continuous, and during one of our usual briefings Ferran, in accordance with the instructions of the Secretary General, Mr. Enrique González-Simarro, means I begin working on the matter and put me in contact with the Director of the Economic, the Marquis of Noya. To this end, it is shown to me to go that very same afternoon to the headquarters of the Economic, in 18 Don Jaime I Street, on the function suite. In the building, at the ground floor, there is an Assembly Hall which is owned by the Savings Bank, as well as the floor in which the Royal Society is domiciled and a few years later will be sold to the Real e Illustrious College of Lawyers of Zaragoza.
Welcomed by Mr. Jaime Jordán de Urríes y Azara, Marquis of Noya, accompanied by the curator of the art collection, Mr. Fausto Jordana de Pozas and partner of the Economic, Mr. José I. Pascual de Quinto, who confirm me the idea of the exhibition and remain at my disposal to show me the collections and start working, telling me that Mr. Pascual de Quinto will be my contact in the Economic and will be showing me everything and helping in as much as could be clarified.
That commission would become one of the milestones of my life, those moments or experiences that marks. In this writing I relive it and want, just from here, to thank this strongly to those who provided such opportunity, a challenge, for the confidence they had and believe that this exciting project could become a reality.
Because of the very limited time to fulfil the entrusted, we agreed to start to work on the next day and have two weekly meetings at the headquarters of the Economic. After the second meeting and due to the large number of pieces within the artistic background, I asked for an interview with Mr. Ferrán and Mr. González Simarro to whom I expose the work exceeds me in two ways: there are more than enough to make more than one exhibition and there is no time to do the job properly under the initially commanded conditions, because the collection is practically uncataloguing. This is the reason why I intend to comply with the mandate from Management opening the artistic season October 81 to June 82 with the collection of painting and some objects and, in the following years, to open the artistic seasons with drawings and engravings. Of course, in all three cases, presenting respective selections not exhaustive.
My proposal is accepted, so that I can start working on a more specific aspect of the collections, regardless of finishing a first approach to the totality of the artistic background prior to the work of cataloguing. Between one thing and another, we arrived to the month of June 1981 without having practically nothing done and did start to work, Mr. Pascual de Quinto and me, at evening meetings and without any external support.
It should be noted here that the project has no budget, Mr. Pascual de Quinto nor I receive any kind of fee for the work and is shown to me in the Savings Bank that cost must be as minimum as possible. Thus, we began the first cataloguing of the first sample (paintings, drawings and elevations of the lodge of the Gallery of the Vatican Palace, by Juan de Udine and Rafael Sancio, and the original monetary wardrobe of don Pedro Valero, painted by M. Salvador Maella), with only four months ahead nor one more day, and with the interruption of the month of August in which the two secretaries of the Economic have their holidays and the Institution and what hosts at its headquarters is closed. Tough work, rough task bordering on the miracle. That summer the Economic took our holidays intact…
There is the need, at the same time and within my duties as responsible for the exhibitions of the Savings Bank, to enable minimally space of the new exhibition Hall of the Savings Bank, design and layout a catalogue to use as a model for this and the following exhibitions, organize the design for invitations, advertising, posters, etc. and, of course, combine this work with the corresponding to the organisation and implementation underway following exhibitions to be held at the Hall of the Congress and Exhibition Centre in that same season (Benjamín Palencia; Pablo Serrano; Joan Miró; etc) and in the following (second exhibition with the funds of the Economic with drawings by J. B. Piranesi and A. Specchi, contemporary Spanish Art of the March Foundation, etc., and Academy drawings from the Economic, which will constitute the third exhibition). Also the coordination, programming and operative of the other exhibition Halls of the Savings Bank, either in Zaragoza, Huesca, Teruel, La Rioja (Logroño, Calahorra, Santo Domingo), Guadalajara and little afterwards -December 1983- in the city of Valencia.
With an unknown budget and the warm request of minimum waste/expense as possible, the work is completely individual and without any support to do it. In any case, with the direct support of Mr. Ferrán and González-Simarro within the structure of the Savings Bank, and the sporadic collaboration of the secretary of Mr. Ferrán, Mrs. Mª Pilar Español, for urgent and essential matters.
Then well, carried out the first inspection and approach to the RAESFC artistic funds, we request from the curator of the collection and the librarian of the institution may provide us as many catalogues and art inventories are held in it. Founded in 1776, there are and lend at our disposal the inventory/catalogues of 1828 (*) and 1842 (**). And the Minutes of the Economic. We also used some Academy Minutes which relate to its awards in 1801 (***) and the catalogue of the exhibition for the Fernando the Catholic Institute, dated 1966 (****), as well as frequent consultation to the book by José Francisco Forniés Casals, based on the Economic, edited by the C.E.C.A. sponsored by the Savings Bank. It is that, although previously he had not performed this kind of work, considered the role of Mr. Pascual de Quinto as important, mutually agreed on everything and from the very first moment I considered that the curator of the exhibition should be and was shared by both. So to my proposal it was approved by the Savings Bank as promoter and patron of the project, and so is understood in the appropriate catalogue of each exhibition. And in which it is said that these exhibitions “offer the possibility to show in Zaragoza and to any interested person, a representation of one of the most prolific of the artistic history of our region, which was the XVIII century and the first third of the XIX” (sic).
The first exhibition is held in Zaragoza from October 9th to November 7th 1981, travelling lately to Huesca (Genaro Poza Cultural Centre) exhibiting from January 5th to February 8th 1982 and Teruel (in the new main office of the Savings Bank in Teruel) from February 9th to March 21st 1982. Such were the times that were then estimated the best for each city and thus were shown publicly. They are catalogued and exposed 91 pieces and are accompanied by a catalogue that contains 85 illustrations, of which 6 in colour, with texts, cataloguing and Gonzalo de Diego and José. I. Pascual de Quinto tabs. Among them are shown 6 works by Goya’s hand.
By the way, in my opinion, the greatest thing that happened to the Economic was the presence of Goya; how it sounds like. Nothing got in it more importance and resulted from greater range; from the point of view of art and high culture, nothing and no one were a shred of greater added value that the presence real and testimonial of Goya. In the enlightened spirit of a Voltaire, a Federico de Prussia, a Thomas Jefferson or a Nicolás de Condoncert, the wisdom and erudition of our local illustrates, as Juan Martín de Goicoechea, the Ambassador José Nicolas de Azara and the Pignatelli family, as well as their cosmopolitanism and sense of patronage, worth the Royal Society the coming of Goya and his spectacular contribution. Illustrates and skilful businessmen, there were in them a great desire to know, to approach the most cultural cities as Rome, a city that breathes eternal beauty, which had opportunity to be bright and help others to be. And they took advantage of it to innovate and also updating the Drawing teaching methods and Fine Arts, subject to most advanced fees at that time in Europe and with their contribution honoured, enriched and dignified Zaragoza and Aragon, faithful to “Bloom up encouraging” their founding motto.
Goya is named merit member of the Aragonese Economic Society; notified to the artist on October 22nd 1790, replies the painter, grateful and willing, in the letter of 29th of the same month.
Among his direct contributions and his patrons and colleagues from the RAESFC, 5 paintings and 1 attribution are preserved:
• The Virgin crowned to Santa Teresa (sketch). Also entitled The Virgin imposes the collar to Santa Teresa in presence of San José. Oil on wood, 24.5 x 37 cm and numbered with #51 in the 1981 catalogue.
• Appearance (sketch). Also entitled Apparition of the Virgin to Santa Teresa. Oil on wood, 24.5 x 37 cm and numbered with #52 in the 1981 catalogue.
Aesop the storyteller (circa 1778). Oil on canvas, 24.5 x 42.5 cm. Copy made by Goya of the picture by Velasquez, same theme. Listed in 1981 with the number #88.
• Menippus the philosopher (circa 1778). Oil on canvas, 23.5 x 42 cm. Like the previous one, it is a copy of Velasquez’s same theme. Besides, as the previous one, has a history of an etching by Goya dated in 1778 and measures 22 x 50,5 cm, catalogued by Gassier with number #103. Listed in 1981 with the number #89.
• Unidentified scene (blur) Circa 1780-81. Oil on canvas, 19 x 31.5 cm. Catalogued with the number #90 in the 1981 catalogue.[/one_half_last]
Escena no identificada (borrón) . Oleo sobre lienzo, de 19 x 31,5 cm.
• The headdress of the Lady (attributed, but more than doubtful). Oil on paper, 21 x 31 cm. Catalogued with number #87 in the 1981 catalogue.
For more details it is convenient to read the aforementioned catalogue of 1981, in which its authors declares it is a first approach to a serious cataloguing of the collection of paintings, leaving the door open for other jobs that later in future, with more time and possibilities, might closing the chapter of these paintings with total guarantee and reliability. It isn’t, however, the same case for what regards in the engravings and academic drawings that, with more time, will be treated more deeply and with a more stable character.
The 1981 exhibition was divided into three groups of distinct works corresponding to:
- A first group, consisting of the relationship of Directors of the RAESFC whose portraits are in its artistic background, as well as the portraits of those personalities whose relationship with the Royal Society was relevant.
- A second group comprising the 19 plans and elevations for the lodge of the Gallery of the Vatican Palace, by Juan de Udine y Rafael Sancio.
- And a third group of works that constitute the bulk of the exhibition and, at the same time, was subdivided because of its subject matter into the following groups:
- Religious themes.
- Sketches of domes, ceilings and domes.
- Other portraits and self-portraits.
- Profane themes.
In October 1982 the second exhibition of the Royal Society, dedicated to the engraving which, with the title of “Etchings by Juan Bautista Piranesi and Alessandro Specchi” opens in the Savings Bank (Congress Centre) and is publicly presented on the 7th closing on November 6th 1982. This exhibition also travelled to Huesca (February 8th to 26th 1983) and Teruel (December 3rd to 18th 1982).
In it was presented publicly 65 Views of Rome which, except for another 15 who were sent to restore at the, if I remember, Paper Restoration Institute, of the C.S.I.C., – what today is the Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain-, constitute the background of views owned by the Society. Views that have left that image of Rome devoured by time, neglect and decline through its main monuments.
A lot has been written about Piranesi and published his work, reasoned and profusely. Among the many opinions on him, there is who argue that is an avid encyclopaedist of the art forms during the Imperial Roman past, and that has a special place in the History of Art for being one of the first to operate a critic, as radical as lucid, about the myth and the tradition of the classic. There is a high probability that Goya met personally Piranesi and we are confident that saw his work. To do so, it might be the influence of the Italian on the Spanish as it is known that Piranesi will be part to a short essay, written by Nodier in 1836, in where is mentioned as the only artist who had left influenced his art with his nightly dreams. Nodier argued that prisons of Piranesi or the Carceri were daytime reflections of obsessive nightmares of imprisonment, isolation and repression. And he believed that Piranesi was suspicious of having intentionally built its architecture, reminiscent of the labyrinth of nightmare that had been wrapped him in dreams. That puts us in a track of Goya after the Goya of the Economic.
In the exhibition of the 82, together with the piranesianan Roman views and due to the thematic analogy, although nearly half a century earlier, they were catalogued and showed the 52 etchings that put together the Fourth Book of the New Theatre of the Palaces in perspective of Modern Rome, recorded by Alessandro Specchi under the direction of Doménico de Rossi, in the edition made by this one in its Roman intaglio in year 1699.
There were presented two versions of Rome, different for its treatment and conception, but with the common nexus of the Roman monumentality at the end of the XVII and first half of the XVIII. Through both versions identify the invariants of the various Roman architectures: the Roman properly meant in the engravings by Piranesi and the Renaissance and Baroque by Specchi. With a common catalogue of 80 pages, lavishly illustrated with 117 black and white illustrations were exhibited the above 117 prints, with a text and cataloguing of Gonzalo de Diego and the collaboration of José Pascual de Quinto.
Frontispicio de las Vistas de Roma. Aguafuerte 460 x 674 mm JB Piranesi
Veduta del Palacio de la Curia romana en Monte Citorio.
Aguafuerte, 236 x 372 mm. A. Specchi
In this regard, and in the case of Rome, is also exciting to see in current erudite cinema (La Grande Belleza, by Paolo Sorrentino and Umberto Contarello) how there are still today beautiful vestiges as exceptional as the Neronian Aqueduct that, from the Porta Maggiore brought the water to the Palatine and that so superbly engrave J.B. Piranesi in the print on etching that conserves the Economic. Same does the illusionistic architecture in the game of the trompe l’oeil,-in Spanish trampantojo (trick; fiddle; cheat)-, or reminiscent of the beautiful villas on the suburbs of Rome that in detail shows etchings by Alessandro Specchi. Like that of Prince Borghese, outside of Porta Pinciana, or others in Esquilino Mount or in Frascati.
There are no prints by Goya in the collection of the Economic Society, since Goya later begins to engrave the etching and neither his collections nor loose prints on etching or lithographed enters into the Royal Society, nor legacy directly by the artist or by other benefactors of his artistic and documentary fund.
To be continued…
Gonzalo de Diego