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DIVIDED into ten sections through religion, war, and nature—mountains, rocks, burnt plateaus where no grass grows—Spain remained for two thousand years without gaining command of her language. The Romans, the Arabs, and the French had, by turns, affirmed their domination through their imposing architectures, upon which the Spanish soul, still obscure and fragmentary, imprinted only furtive traces, until the hour when Catholic, political, and military unity interpreted its need for action. Then there was something like a tragic conflagration. The flames spurted forth from the shadow and pierced the walls in order to gain the summit of the towers; a frenzy of cruelty and melancholy passion appeared everywhere; the naves and choirs were encumbered with tortured altar-pieces and with stalls hollowed out with carvings; the alcazars and the mosques were seized and Christs of wood and altars of gold were set up in them. Everything pointed to a somber aspiration toward suffering, through which the voluptuous desire to enter upon life sought to punish itself even before life was mastered. But the painted idols which the artisans of the people had been carving to place at the crossroads ever since the first centuries of Christianity, the Calvaries, the niches, and the thin, bleeding gods hung by the nails in their hands, sinking on their spreading knees, could neither inspire in a people unused to great abstract constructions the power to build a fitting sanctuary, nor check the invasion of the less terrible images which the enriched cities and the triumphant monarchy summoned from abroad. The union of Castile and Aragon and the conquest of Granada did not bear fruit until later, and then only in a few solitary minds which wrested the soul of Spain from the foreigner only to render it a secret cult in their proud meditation. Spain has no collective expression defining for the future that jealous unity which it affirmed, sword in hand, upon the routes of the world.

Its sudden expansion through war subjected it for a hundred years to the peoples it had vanquished. The annexation of Flanders, the war with France, and the conquest of Italy deliver Castile to the Flemings and the French, and the eastern sea-coast to the Italians. The infiltration did not, moreover, wait political events before coming about. Jan van Eyck came to Castile soon after finishing the painting of the "Mystic Lamb" at Ghent, and, through Luiz Dalmau, the painter, conquered Catalonia. Later, the French sculptor Philippe Vigarni brings to Toledo and to Granada the knowledge of the men of the north, which his brother, the painter Juan de Borgona, a hard, tense draftsman, tries to place at the service of Italian idealism. Bartolomeo Ordonez, a sculptor of Barcelona, goes to Carrara in search of marble from which to carve his overloaded tombs, hollowed out like a piece of goldsmith's work, and Gil de Siloe peoples the chapels of Burgos with them. Ordonez also brings back the theatrical redundance and the grandiloquent mannerisms which are beginning to decompose Italy. Damian Forment, confronted by her, restrains the rude strength of his native Aragon. The power necessary to isolate themselves belongs only to the free spirits of culminating epochs made aware, by invulnerable pride, of the dangers of these contacts. But when a race is developing, all its energies are concentrated upon conquest and expansion. The Primitives, suddenly transported to a world which is descending the other side of the slope, allowed themselves to be dazzled by the skill and the audacity of the decadent artists. They think that they can learn. They abandon what they know. They give over to the men of civilization the control of their senses.

For a people without character the defeat is a decisive one. A people bent on defining itself, on the contrary, suddenly perceives that it has as yet said nothing about itself and employs the instrument which it did not forge to explore its depths. When Alonso Berruguete, the son of a good painter-workman who had helped with his ingenuous collaboration in the works of Juan de Borgona, had learned in Italy the speech of Michael Angelo, the Renaissance could penetrate no farther into Spain. The ease of Berruguete in making a torso twist from the hips, in sending a face back into the shadow of a shoulder, in furrowing a muscular belly with darks and lights, and in pursuing the most terrible and most grave reality in a cadaver stretched upon the «ground, bears witness to the fact that Spain is reacting at the very moment when she seems to be surrendering herself. She utilizes a style which she has learned, and which she will try to forget, only to deepen her faith in an ever-increasing cruelty. Berruguete had just died when Juan de Herrera constructed the Escorial. Spain has no architecture. But if there is a monument which interprets the efforts she had to make in order to resist the invasion of the complicated and declamatory styles born of the meeting of the Gothic men, the Arabs, and the Renaissance men, it is that monument. It is arid. Its long walls, bare and gray, are of a frightful sadness. It arises from a desert of stone, alone with the somber sun. Philip II died there in a cell without an opening to the sky.

Toward the end of the violent century which had seen Spain seizing Portugal and the two Sicilies, dominating Germany, vanquishing France, thrusting back Islam, conquering America, and launching the Armada against England, Philip II summoned, for the purpose of ornamenting his tomb, certain bad painters who at Genoa were prolonging the death struggle of Rome and of Venice. He was following the example of his father who had secured the service of Titian. But Titian had just died a centenarian, and Philip II, accustomed, since his childhood, to the magnificent forms which Italian art at the moment of its full bloom had been unfolding before his eyes, preferred, as always, the reflection and the husk to the somber spirit whose outline was being traced in the wake of the armies, the missions, and the ships starting forth at his command upon every path of apostleship and conquest. It is possible that Anton Mor, the Hollander turned Spaniard, who was so profoundly impressed with the pale faces and the feverish glances seen at his court, and that the Castilians, Sanchez Coello and Pantoja de la Cruz, whose sad and haughty spirit had bowed so spontaneously before the harsh etiquette which held the bored infantas upright in their stiff dresses, had declared themselves unable to decorate the walls. Morales, the mystic and barbarous painter of Estremadura, was not made for this task, either, and, besides, he was about to die. But it was already known that there were good painters at Valencia. At Cordova there existed a flourishing school. And above all, there was, at Toledo, an artist, who had himself been formed by the Italians, and who was painting, at the moment when the Escorial [Built from 1563 1584] was being finished, one of the greatest works of painting [“The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” dates from 1584], revealing, at a single stroke, the soul of Spain to itself—he, a Greek reared in Venice, at the very time that the Spanish hesitated to affirm it.

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