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The most charming corner of Jerez

Palace of Grace. Jerez de la Frontera.

The origin…

In the 15th century, the Spanish monarch Henry IV wanted to visit the city.

Unable to stay in the ancient arab fortress as usual due to its serious ruinous state, he ordered the construction of some houses to be donated to the city mayor, Don Esteban de Villacreces.

The palace was erected next to Santa María de Gracia Convent, therefore it received the popular name «Palace of Grace.»

Over the years, the heirs made modifications to the building.

The beautiful decoration of this corner on the facade was added in the 16th century, when María de la Cueva y Zurita inherited the house of her aunt Luisa de Villavicencio y Zurita. When Maria marries Francisco Ponce de León and Basurto, the couple decides to execute the real jewel of the building.

They chose the architect Fernando Álvarez, known in the city for the impressive facade, the Riquelme Palace one.

Style and composition

We know that this artwork dates from the sixteenth century by the lower right side banner, which marks the date 1537.

The style, therefore, is Renaissance. However, due to the profusion, type of decoration and iconography, we can speak of plateresque style.

The window is structured as follows:

  • Bottom: double frieze or podium.
  • Middle part, on the frieze or podium: germinated span with arches and a mullion. Another arch surrounds them, resting on two pilasters stacked with candelieri decoration. On the sides, two balustrade columns close the composition.
  • Top: frieze topped by cornice.

The iconography

Bottom part:

  • right side: banner with the date of 1537.
  • left side: representation of the word «year» by the face of an old man shouting, with wings, flanked by two tenants half man, half vegetal, who pull rings on both sides of the old man by ropes.

The cry of the old man shows concern for the passage of time.

The wings indicates that “time flies.”

Frieze between banners with latin sentences:

  • “Omnia pretereunt preter amare Deum”: everything pass by, except the love of God.
  • “Vanitas vanitatu um et Omnia vanitas”: vanity of vanities and everything is vanity.

Frieze:

  • to the left: two putti hold baskets with flowers and fruits on their heads, separated by a cup full of the same. On the head of another putti, rests a bust of a young woman with ribbon in the hair and front, which is intermixed with a fruit ornaments crown. The young woman is flanked by small fruit cornucopias.
  • right side: a disproportionate putti head with an undulating body steps on the head of another putti. His right hand holds a torch from which a helmet hangs, and his left hand holds a spear or bow from which a breastplate hangs. The head of the putti serves as the base of a bust of an elderly woman with a crescent headpiece or bow, holding a torch in the left hand.

Both women could be allegorical figures of “Hémera” and “Nicte”, that is, day and night. When Hémera appears on the horizon, Nicte disappears in Tartarus.

Middle part:

This place is occupied by three coat of arms of the families:

  • Villavicencio-Zurita
  • Ponce de León
  • De la Cueva

Between the coat of arms, holding them, there are two tenants or angels. They are youthful and virile, so they can be angels or the childish representation of the Niké or Victory .The spaces between the lower and upper semicircular arches are occupied by two figures surrounded by floral crowns with poppy blossom:

  • the one on the left looking like a mature bearded male.
  • the one on the right, a beautiful maiden, with a chain that adorns her headdress from which hangs a medal that rests on her forehead.

These may well represent the owners of the palace.

However, another interpretation could be the mythological figures of Hades and Persephone: Hades, a man of advanced age in the care of the underworld, fell in love with the beautiful nymph Persephone. Hades came up with something to deceive Persephone (here comes into play the poppy blossom) and took her to the underworld. Once her mother found her, she had to accept an agreement with Hades: during fall and winter time, her daughter would stay with Hades and later on, by spring and summer she would remain with her mother. Hence the origin of the year seasons.

The pilasters and the arch containing the reliefs above are profusely decorated with grutesco.

  • the one on the left shows two superimposed portraits on animal heads, fruits and leaves. The portraits show a mature man and a young woman.
  • the one on the right shows mythological beings half winged rams, half snakes, on candelieri decoration, with fruit motifs, weapons, helm, shield, drum…


The main arch containing the one above, is also decorated with candelieri motifs, with heads of hyena, putti, vases, fruits, heads of rams… In the center there is a vessel «lekythos» shaped (similar to the vases we use for flowers)

The spandrels of the arches show two medallions with portraits accompanied by starving deformed figures:

  • the one on the left shows a young person with a helmet in the shape of a hawk with wings unfolded. Because of the smoothness of the facial features it could be both male or female. It may be the representation of the god Mercury.
  • the one on the right shows a young man dressed as they used at that time, with a hat and chain on the neck.

Top part:

In the frieze there is a relief decorated with grutesco:

  • composition of old man bodies with plant legs, children on fantastic beings, weapons surrounding the head of a child shaped like a vase from which a small cornucopia comes out, masks with dreadful expressions…
  • central part (corner of the window): it is occupied by the head of a putti with closed eyes next to a winged insect. On his head rests a crater-shaped vessel.


This composition could be telling us about good and evil, as well as the «Pandora’s Box» story, since it seems that the whole representation comes from inside the central crater-shaped vessel.

What do you think?

I’m sure Jerez rings a bell for many things, but few unveil these treasures scattered around the city.

If you want to discover the city, you have many options in the section «tours and services», and not only Jerez, but the whole province and its surroundings.

And if you have another idea in mind, please let me know so I will design your perfect plan.

Thank you.

Carolina

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