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Bertan > Baserria. The Basque farmhouse in Gipuzkoa > Versión en inglés: Decoration

Decoration



Wood

Starting from the fact that most Gipuzkoan farmhouses are works of great constructive virtue but of a marked plastic and ornamental sobriety, even when compared to other models of popular Basque house, it has to be admitted that wood is the material to have been used for carving adornments and decorative motives.

The most brillian period of popular Gipuzkoan capentry was that falling between the 16th and 17th centuries, in which it can be seen that, on top of their own repertory of figures, local craftsmen were perfectly informed about the most widespread ornamental tastes and bujects in neighbouring regions, from the south of France to the Duero.

132.	Geometrical consoles from the 16th century, with a carving technique which favours the effects of chiaroscuro.
132. Geometrical consoles from the 16th century, with a carving technique which favours the effects of chiaroscuro. © Xabi Otero
133.	Otabardi (Asteasu). The corbels of the roof framework were the places favoured by 17th and 18th century carpenters for ornamental carving.
133. Otabardi (Asteasu). The corbels of the roof framework were the places favoured by 17th and 18th century carpenters for ornamental carving. © Xabi Otero

Wood carving flourished during the central decades of the 16th century, in which farmhouses actively participated. During this period decoration was mainly concentrated on the parapets of the wooden or trellised façades and on the roof consoles and braces. Avast repertory of geometrical figures carved with an adze or firmer chisel was used, which favoured contrasting planes and marking the effects of chiaroscuro. The most common shapes were cords, peelings, nail heads, diamond point, palms, macles, fluting, and sometimes solar spirals and bevelled rosetons; a repertory which can be fully admired in the chancel of our lady of L Antigua in Zumarraga.

134.	One of the window embrasures of Ierobi Haundi (Oiartzun), was carved in the classicist syle, in the 17th century.
134. One of the window embrasures of Ierobi Haundi (Oiartzun), was carved in the classicist syle, in the 17th century. © Xabi Otero
135.	Harrillaga Haundi (Usurbil). During the 17th and 18th centuries, the fashion of using inverted natural oak forks as pillars spread through the Oria basin.
135. Harrillaga Haundi (Usurbil). During the 17th and 18th centuries, the fashion of using inverted natural oak forks as pillars spread through the Oria basin. © Xabi Otero

It is also normal in trellised houses from the firs half of the 16th century, and especially those with some kind of corbel, to find that one of the horizontal beams is carved with a row of small deep ogee arches, like those in Txulaene Goikoa in Oiartzun or Aritzeta Erdi in Alkiza, and which are of Basque-French origin.

Other parts of the house to receive special attention from renaissance carpenters were the pillar foot blocks and stair stringpieces. In both cases the most usual resource is that of softening the sharp edge of the wood with a sereies of peelings.

136.	Carved corbels. The purlin heads are decorated with scrolls and rope motifs.
136. Carved corbels. The purlin heads are decorated with scrolls and rope motifs. © Xabi Otero
137.	A window gallery with small ogee arches carved on the lintel, in Aritzeta Erdi (Alkiza), 16th century.
137. A window gallery with small ogee arches carved on the lintel, in Aritzeta Erdi (Alkiza), 16th century. © Xabi Otero

Popular 17th century Gipuzkoan carpenters endeavoured to highlight other points of interest. Their work therefore concentrated on carvin the heads of roof purlins, which were decorated with vegetable spiral, becoming increasingly more fleshy with the advance of Baroque aesthetics. The spiral normally had a small cord or string of pearls carved along its centre, as can be clearly seen in Otabardi in Asteasu. Also abundant in this period were wooden bars in the shape of glasses, often seen on balcony and stairway handrails.

The human figure was rarely represented, but there are some interesting exceptions, such as the carved masks of Arrillaga haundi in Usurbil and Zumitza in Alkiza.

138.	Windowsill with typical carvings from the 16th century.
138. Windowsill with typical carvings from the 16th century. © Xabi Otero

Stone

Stone decoration was reserved for the richest Gipuzkoan farmhouses and was normally kept to small quantities. Each period showed that it had its own wlldefined preferences, almost always related to the artistic language of the moment. Therefore, during the fist half of the 16th century, the only adornments on those which the stone mason could show his talente as a carver were on the protective medals –with the anagram of Christ wirtten in Gothic characters- which were set over the main door, and on the moldings of the window frames. The streamlined anchors on the lintel of Makutso in Oiartzun can be considered as a case of absolutely exceptional expression.

139.	Tuscan column from a porch in Antzuola (q7th century).
139. Tuscan column from a porch in Antzuola (q7th century). © Xabi Otero
140.	Elkoro Barrutia (Bergara) coat of arms, from the 17th century.
140. Elkoro Barrutia (Bergara) coat of arms, from the 17th century. © Xabi Otero

In the 17th century the number of carved components rose slightly. They still decorated the most noble of window frames, now with classicist mortised moldings, such as those of the Elorrieta farmhouse in Asteasu, and heraldic carvings became more widespread with the appearance of ostentatious coats of arms which often had inscriptions identifying the arms of the family name and the year of the building’s construction. In some cases, such as in Iriarte Bekoa in Antzuola, graceful Tuscan columns help support the corbeling of the beam of the porch, but their number is almost insignifant in comparison with that normally found in the eastern ports of Biscay.

141.	Trilobate windows in Oiartuzn (16th century).
141. Trilobate windows in Oiartuzn (16th century). © Xabi Otero
142.	Coat of arms and sun dial from Alkiza Lete (Alkiza), early 18th century.
142. Coat of arms and sun dial from Alkiza Lete (Alkiza), early 18th century. © Xabi Otero

In the 18th century, arnomial bearings were still outstanding as the most cared for element in artistic stone carving, being over-decorated with adornments, large masks and incrusted pebbles. In this period many of the most noble farmhouses, such as the imposing Azpikoetxe in Berastegi, adopted the custom already used well into the previous century of resurrounding all the windows in the main façade with moldings of smooth plates which formed characteristical lugs in the vertexes, clearly identifiable with the sober northern baroque aesthetics. Farmhouses from the 19th century hardly had any decorative stonework, excpet for some new coats of arms, and some large plaques which gabe the date of inauguration of the builidng and the name of its promoter, as is the case in orbe haundi in Bergara.

143.	The anagram of Chirst (IHS) in Gothic letters is the oldest kind of stone decoration found on Gipuzkoan farmhouses.
143. The anagram of Chirst (IHS) in Gothic letters is the oldest kind of stone decoration found on Gipuzkoan farmhouses. © Xabi Otero
144.	Window from Asteasu with cassicist moldings (17th century).
144. Window from Asteasu with cassicist moldings (17th century). © Xabi Otero

 

145.	Window from Alkiza with Baroque moldings (18th century).
145. Window from Alkiza with Baroque moldings (18th century). © Xabi Otero

Iron

In a land which has survived in great part thanks to the forging and exportation of iron  it is surprising that such a small quantity of this metal has been used in the decoration of farmhouses.

146.	Baroque doorknocker (18th century).
146. Baroque doorknocker (18th century). © Xabi Otero
147.	Cast iron door (16th century).
147. Cast iron door (16th century). © Xabi Otero

In the 16th century, when the Basques had practically no European competitors with rescpect to iron production, the only iron elements of any decorative charm found in Gipuzkoan farmhouses are the heavy iron doors in the fire walls, which are decorated with large hanging rings and simple gemotetric incisions on the locking bolt.

148.	Lock with incisive decorations and burin stroke flowers on the bolt (16th century).
148. Lock with incisive decorations and burin stroke flowers on the bolt (16th century). © Xabi Otero
149.	Heads of ornamental nails for doors. All are from the 17th century:  the oldest are those with a diamond shaped and the most recent those wich are flower - or star - shaped.
149. Heads of ornamental nails for doors. All are from the 17th century: the oldest are those with a diamond shaped and the most recent those wich are flower - or star - shaped. © Xabi Otero

In the 17th century ironwork moved outside and concetrated on the iron door fittings: nails with diamod – or star- shaped heads, sinously shaped keyholes and in some cases huge door-knockers. On the other hand, although the Gipuzkoans won fame as skilled bar makers both in this as well as in the next century, their products rarely ever reached the farmhouse, since their high price meant that only churches and palaces could afford them. When bars are found on the lower windows of farmhouses, they are normally simple squaresectioned iron bars fitted in the 19th century, and the attractive conical profiles or vegetabel shapes as found in previous periods are only rarely seen.

150.	Ring for tethering mounts, decorated with incisions (16th century).
150. Ring for tethering mounts, decorated with incisions (16th century). © Xabi Otero
151.	Key.
151. Key. © Xabi Otero

The panorama of accessories and artistic adornments in the farmhouse is discreet, as it fitting for a building which, throughout its history, has only ever endeavoured to alleviate the hard life of the farmer. However, it is not in the easy field of decoration that the farmhouse shows off its beauty. The fascination which it awakens is born on seeing its silhouette appear throuth the mist, with its great volume and its solid, ancient and everlasting outline. There is the farmhouse: the ancient lord of the valleys.

152.	Hinge.
152. Hinge. © Xabi Otero
153.	Only a few farmhouses cuold afford artistically forged ironwork.
153. Only a few farmhouses cuold afford artistically forged ironwork. © Xabi Otero

 

154.	Nigtfall over the farmhouses in  Beizama.
154. Nigtfall over the farmhouses in Beizama. © Xabi Otero
155.	A snow storm takes a solitary farmhouse in Aduna by surprise.
155. A snow storm takes a solitary farmhouse in Aduna by surprise. © Xabi Otero
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