Inventio and Imitatio: The Appropriation of Valois Style by a Converso Contador Mayor

Nicola Jennings

Inventio and Imitatio: The Appropriation of Valois Style by a Converso Contador Mayor[1]

The magnificent funerary chapel of Contador Saldaña in the Royal Monastery of Santa Clara de Tordesillas—built between 1430 and 1435, according to the painted frieze on its walls—is without local precedent (Figs. 6.1 & 6.2).[2] In contrast to the classic Gothic and Mudéjar styles characteristic of most contemporaneous buildings, its flamboyant tracery, gabled niches, figured corbels, and shield-bearing angels recall those from Charles VI’s programme at the Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes; its carved and gilded retable with folding wings is of the same type as those installed by Duke Philip the Bold at the charterhouse of Champmol; its naturalistic alabaster effigies are in the style of those commissioned by members of the late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Valois courts; and its limestone apostles—described by Clementina Julia Ara Gil as one of the ‘purest’ manifestations of Burgundian influence in Castile—are comparable with those in the Duke of Berry’s Saint-Chapelle in Bourges.[3] 

Royal Convent of Santa Clara de Tordesillas (with Saldaña Chapel on far right), Castile, Spain.
Fig. 6.1. Royal Convent of Santa Clara de Tordesillas (with Saldaña Chapel on far right), Castile, Spain.
Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, interior view facing east (1430–1435).
Fig. 6.2 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, interior view facing east (1430–1435).

Although historians have been fascinated by this chapel since the middle of the nineteenth century, little is known about its commissioning and construction, and many questions relating to its original appearance remain outstanding. This essay seeks to answer some of them by focusing on the physical evidence, interpreting it in relation to the rise and fall of the chapel’s patron, an ambitious converso at the court of John II of Castile.  Reassessing what the chapel’s interior originally looked like, the essay considers what the mix of imitation and invention tell us about Contador Saldaña’s efforts to make his mark during one of the most turbulent periods of Castilian history.

Fernán López de Saldaña (c. 1400–1456) was one of several converts from middle-class Jewish backgrounds who, under Álvaro de Luna’s patronage, became the backbone of John II’s new court apparatus.[4] Named secretary to the king in 1422, Saldaña soon married the daughter of a member of the Royal Council, Elvira de Acevedo, and by 1429 he was Contador Mayor (chief comptroller) and on the Royal Council himself.[5] By this time he had also amassed a great deal of land and income, and he soon secured permission to construct a funerary chapel at Santa Clara de Tordesillas. Elvira died in 1433—as we know from the painted frieze—leaving Saldaña with four surviving children; within a decade he had not only fathered two more children by his second wife, Isabel Vélez de Guevara, but also defected to the cause of the Infantes (John II’s cousins) who were determined to wrest power from the king.[6] When King John’s forces won a resounding victory at the Battle of Olmedo in 1445, Saldaña was forced to flee to Aragon where he died eleven years later.[7] Pérez de Guzmán, the well-known converso chronicler and loyalist, described him soon afterwards as ‘a small and base man (un pequeño e raez hombre) to whom too many people had shamefully bowed down’.[8]

Funerary chapels like Saldaña’s enabled wealthy Castilians to seek salvation at the same time as making extravagant displays of material wealth and heraldry.[9] Perhaps the most ostentatious was the chapel of Santiago in Toledo Cathedral, commissioned by Saldaña’s mentor, Álvaro de Luna. Saldaña’s selection of a site at Santa Clara was inspired: not only was this one of the most important royal foundations, but the new chapel’s river-frontage enabled the young contador to show off his newly-acquired status in a highly visible location. The contract between the nuns and Saldaña’s nominees refers to ‘well-polished and expensively-worked stone’, which emphatically contrasts with the brick from which the rest of the monastery was built and confirms the importance to the ambitious courtier of material display.[10] As in early Renaissance Italy, such display was associated by fifteenth-century Castilians with magnificence and nobility.[11] Saldaña’s fellow courtier and converso, Alonso de Cartagena, had in 1422 discussed the concept of magnificence in a compendium of Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, asserting that expenditure on objects was both pleasing to God and beneficial to society.[12]

Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, relief of shield-bearing angel inside tomb niche (1430–1435).
Fig. 6.3 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, relief of shield-bearing angel inside tomb niche (1430–1435).

Commissioning a tall northern European structure, Saldaña was clearly looking to fashion himself as a new kind of noble, deserving of status thanks his service to the king, just as Burgundian figures such as Nicolas Rolin were honoured for serving John II’s contemporary, Philip the Good.[13] Despite the import of increasing quantities of Flemish tapestries and other luxury goods, many chapels commissioned by wealthy Castilians in the first half of the fifteenth century were built in the Mudéjar style, out of inexpensive brick and stucco.[14] Saldaña’s chapel was built out of limestone, with slender buttresses, large windows and a pitched roof, and its gabled interior niches (Fig. 6.3) and shield-bearing angels (Fig. 6.4)—a motif directly associated with the Valois monarchy—imitated those at the Sainte-Chapelle at Vincennes and the Palais des Comtes at Poitiers.[15] It is likely to have influenced the choices made by Álvaro de Luna, who was granted permission to demolish three existing chapels in Toledo Cathedral for his own project just as work started in Tordesillas.[16] Although construction must have been advancing under the direction of cathedral’s  Castilian maestro mayor Alvar Martínez when Luna is visited in 1435,  the chapel’s spectacular flamboyant decorative programme is thought to have taken shape only after 1437 when the French mason Pierre Gelopa (known locally as Pedro Jalopa) took over.[17] Gelopa came from La Ferté-Milon in northern France and no doubt trained in the shadow of Louis d’Orléans’s nearby châteux of Pierrefonds, completed c. 1407.[18]

The only craftsman’s name to be documented in relation to the Saldaña Chapel is that of ‘maestre guillem de roam’ (probably a hispanised version of Guillaume of Rouen), who, according to an epitaph carved in Gothic script on one of the exterior walls, was the chapel’s aparejador or clerk of works.[19] A second name which has been associated with the chapel in recent years is that of Isambart, who is documented as working at Pierrefonds (under the name of Jehan Ysambart) in 1399.[20] They were both part of a network of northern European masons and sculptors who arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in the early fifteenth century, working in a number of sites that includes the cathedral of Pamplona, then being rebuilt by Charles the Noble, grandson of the Valois king, Jean II.[21]

Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, gabled niches next to entrance arches (1430–1435).
Fig. 6.4 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, gabled niches next to entrance arches (1430–1435).
Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, seated female saint (c. 1437–1445). Limestone, 135 x 62 x 50 cm.
Fig. 6.5 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, seated female saint (c. 1437–1445). Limestone, 135 x 62 x 50 cm.
Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, relief, exterior west wall (c. 1435–1441).
Fig. 6.6 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, relief, exterior west wall (c. 1435–1441).

Scholars have long been intrigued by several questions relating to disruptions, breakages, and apparent lack of finish in some areas of the Saldaña Chapel, and by the combination of diverse materials and styles. What are the identities of the four effigies, and why is one of them made from limestone while the other three are alabaster, smaller, and carved by a different workshop? Were the four tomb-niches, with their blank armorial shields, originally polychromed? What was the function of three seated limestone saints, now free-standing but clearly designed to be attached to a stone surface (Fig. 6.5)? Begoña Alonso Ruiz has hypothesised that a break in the building line visible on the external wall and a diagram on the corresponding wall inside may relate to the death of Guillem de Rouen.[22] Ara Gil has speculated that Guillem’s death might also explain the change in style between the shield-bearing angels and apostles, and that the incompleteness of the set of apostles might indicate this aspect of the original project was left unfinished.[23] A carved relief on the outside wall, which displays the heraldry of the king, Saldaña, and his wives, includes an intriguing depiction of the arms of Álvaro de Luna at the centre of the relief with Saldaña’s hanging from them (Fig. 6.6). This striking armorial reference to Saldaña’s patron has led to the suggestion that Luna’s first wife, Elvira de Portocarrero, might be buried in the chapel.[24] However, such an unusual arrangement would surely have been mentioned in Saldaña’s contract with convent (signed in 1432, several years after Portocarrero’s death) which specifies only that the chapel should house those tombs and funerary monuments specified by Saldaña or the heirs to his mayorazgo.[25] Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza has written about the southern portal to the main church, which bears the arms of the family of Isabel de Guevara and was shifted, probably in the eighteenth century.[26]

Villaespesa Chapel, Tudela Cathedral, tomb niche (c. 1425).
Fig. 6.7 Villaespesa Chapel, Tudela Cathedral, tomb niche (c. 1425).
Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, crypt entrance and re-laid paving stones in between the crypt and the altar.
Fig. 6.8 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, crypt entrance and re-laid paving stones in between the crypt and the altar.

One problem with some of these arguments may be the assumption that the chapel as it appears now is largely intact, and that the date inscribed in its frieze marks the end of work.[27] This assumption is likely to be false. Isabel de Guevara—first documented as Saldaña’s new wife in December 1436—is not mentioned in the frieze (which was presumably completed by the end of 1435), but her arms appear inside the chapel and on the stone relief on the exterior wall.[28] Close reading of the physical evidence indicates that work may have continued well beyond 1435, and, when examined in relation to biographical information, can help to answer some of the outstanding questions and to understand Saldaña’s programme as one of appropriation, rather than pure imitation, of the Valois model.


The Identity and Original Location of the Effigies

With nothing painted on the shields above the tombs and no epitaphs, there has been considerable debate about the identity of the portrait-like effigies in the chapel’s four niches. These effigies are laid directly on the plinths rather than on raised beds, as was conventional.[29] The limestone effigy, representing a man in his late forties or early fifties dressed in a full-length formal gown, measures 205 by 67 by 52 centimetres; two of the alabaster effigies, representing young adult women, measure 190 by 47 by 30 centimetres; the third alabaster represents a man in his late thirties or early forties.[30] The alabaster effigies are thus considerably smaller than the limestone one and, as Ara Gil remarked, appear too small for their niches.[31] The female effigies are dressed in hopas belted above the waist (as was fashionable from about 1440) worn over laced briales, with elaborate head-dresses and necklaces, and chapines on their feet.[32]  The male alabaster figure is dressed in a knee-length ropa, with short gathered sleeves and a belt at the waist, as was fashionable in the late 1430s and 1440s.[33] All four effigies are carved with great skill, although the limestone figure is stylistically very different to the other three, which all appear to have been carved by the same hand.

At least one of the male effigies almost certainly represents Fernán López de Saldaña, whose name is inscribed in the frieze above the tombs, and whose heraldry features prominently in and outside the building.[34] Although Saldaña was originally buried at the convent of San Francisco in Borja (Aragon), it is known from the will of his son Pedro Vélez de Guevara that he had been reburied in the chapel by 1477.[35] Another of the effigies is likely to be Elvira de Acevedo, who is also mentioned in the frieze. The couple’s shields figure on the stairs leading down to the crypt beneath the chapel.[36] The second female effigy is likely to represent Isabel Vélez de Guevara, Saldaña’s second wife whose arms also appear on the crypt stairs.[37]

The first scholar to publish illustrations of the chapel, Valentín Carderera y Solano, writing in the 1850s, identified the male alabaster effigy wearing the knee-length ropa as Saldaña.[38] However, in the 1860s José María Quadrado claimed that Saldaña was instead represented by the limestone effigy wearing the more traditional ropaje talar associated with a contador.[39] Most scholars have accepted Quadrado’s identification, although the figure appears to be considerably older and dressed differently to the donor in the retable on the chapel’s altar, which has been dated, like the alabaster effigy’s knee-length ropa, to the mid-1430s.[40] In this painting, Saldaña is dressed identically to the alabaster effigy, with the same distinctive haircut, and it is difficult to disagree with Carderera that the alabaster effigy is intended to represent Saldaña himself.[41] Alabaster was, after all, the material chosen by high-status Castilians for their effigies.[42]

Is it possible that both the alabaster and the limestone figures represent the contador? The limestone figure appears to have been carved by the same sculptor as that of the polychromed limestone effigy of Francisco de Villaespesa (d. 1421), Chancellor of Navarre under the Valois-born Charles the Noble, in the Chancellor’s funerary chapel in Tudela Cathedral. The relationship between the design of Villaepesa’s tomb niche— produced by a team of northern-European masons who had worked under Isambart in the chapel of the Sagrados Corporales in Daroca—and that of the niches in Tordesillas was first highlighted by Ara Gil (Fig. 6.7).[43] Although the latter are not polychromed, they reprise not only the decorative tracery but also the innovative display of heraldry in the spandrels.[44] Saldaña is likely to have visited Tudela in the late 1420s as part of negotiations with the infante Juan, who was by then consort of Juana of Navarre. Saldaña may have commissioned his effigy at that time, long before he commissioned the alabaster figures, which, as discussed below, were probably not made until approximately 1440. Given Saldaña’s apparent admiration for all things related to the Valois, this hypothesis is worth further investigation.

These issues beg the question of whether the current position of the effigies is original. The description and illustration published by Carderera in the 1850s implies a different arrangement to that known since the early twentieth century, when the first photographs of the chapel were published. One of the most consistent features of the monuments commissioned by well-to-do early fifteenth-century Castilians such as Aldonza de Mendoza and Gómez Manrique was their placement directly in front of the altar, often almost touching the steps below it and accommodating both the donor and his or her spouse(s).[45] The disruption of the neatly laid paving stones in the centre of the eastern half of the Saldaña Chapel indicates that there was originally a structure which stood there, between the altar and the entrance to the crypt (see Figs. 6.2 and 6.8). The measurements of the relaid area, approximately 237 by 307 centimetres, are consistent with a large tomb accommodating the three alabaster effigies. Saldaña would lie in the middle, with Elvira dexter (as his first wife) and Isabel sinister (as his second).

Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Saint Andrew (c. 1437–1445). Limestone, 136 x 55 x 54 cm.
Fig. 6.9 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Saint Andrew (c. 1437–1445). Limestone, 136 x 55 x 54 cm.

Although there is no documentary evidence of a central tomb and its destruction, there is physical evidence of undocumented change within the chapel (such as the displacement of the seated saints from their original location) as well as in its vicinity (such as the movement of the entrance portal with the arms of the Vélez de Guevara family). There are also many precedents for the re-siting and removal of tombs in the decades and centuries following their construction.[46] The tombs of Pedro Fernández de Velasco and Juan Fernández de Velasco in the monastery of Medina de Pomar, for example, were re-sited from the middle of the capilla mayor into niches by Juan’s son when he rebuilt the church in 1436.[47] Monuments could be removed to make way for new benefactors or if the chapel was to be re-dedicated. Burial rights were an important source of income, and the forfeiting of patronage rights if donors did not maintain private spaces according to the terms of their contracts was common.[48] Royal confirmations of the López de Saldañas’ rights in the chapel issued in 1489 and in 1509 may have been instigated by the nuns to remind Saldaña’s descendants of their obligation to pay the annual fee.[49]

The siting of important tombs featuring portrait-like alabaster effigies in front of altars was also a feature of Valois funerary chapels such as the Duke of Berry’s Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges and Philip the Bold’s tomb at Champmol, designed, like Saldaña’s, to be seen on all four sides and centrally positioned in the monks’ choir facing an altar.[50] Given the regular diplomatic and mercantile exchanges between Castile and Flanders, eyewitness reports brought back by travellers such as Pedro Tafur, and growing fascination with vivre noblement in the Burgundian fashion, Saldaña must have heard about Champmol even if, to the best of our knowledge, he never left the Iberian Peninsula.[51] He must certainly have known about the magnificent and innovative carved and gilded Altarpiece of the Crucifixion in the choir at Champmol, as he commissioned a similar work for his own chapel (see Fig. 6.2). This object was the first of its kind in Iberia and one of the earliest T-shaped carved retables of the type which would be exported to Castile from the southern Netherlands in large numbers from the mid-fifteenth century onwards.[52] Given the proximity of the no-longer-extant tomb-chest to the altar, the Saldaña group effigies would likely have been closer to it than Philip the Bold’s in the larger and more formal space of the monk’s choir in Champmol. Saldaña thus succeeded in referencing the grandeur of the Burgundian duke whilst at the same time placing himself and his spouses in almost direct physical contact with site of the transubstantiation.

The existence of a central tomb would, furthermore, make sense of the chapel’s four niches which would have remained empty according to our hypothesis. When building started in 1430, Saldaña must have anticipated burial spaces not only for himself and Elvira in a central tomb but also for their four surviving children: Fernán (a.k.a. Ferrando, c. 1428–1496), Sancho (d. 1444), Elvira (d. 1454), and María (d. 1491).[53] His contract with the monastery specifically mentions the burial rights inherent in his casa, so it is likely that he planned space for the four surviving children from the outset. However, Saldaña’s daughters Elvira and María both appear to have been buried in the convents in Toledo and Salamanca where they died, and his son Sancho, who died fighting with his father and the rebels at the Battle of Olmedo, would not have been granted burial in the chapel after his father’s betrayal of the king.[54]  The only son by Elvira whose bones may be amongst those in the crypt is Fernán, who left two wills, one asking to be buried in Tordesillas, the other in Salamanca.[55] The absence of effigies corresponding to these individuals and the lack of polychromy on the shields above the niches tends to confirm that none of them were ever buried in the chapel.


Inventio and the Seated Saints

The existence of a central tomb also answers the question about the original location and function of the seated saints representing Andrew (Fig. 6.9), an unidentified Franciscan, and an unidentified female (see Fig. 6.5). On one side of each sculpture, a rough-surfaced square of stone projects outwards, clearly designed to anchor the figure to another stone surface. The detailed carving on all three other sides indicates that they were designed to remain visible: for example, a long braid hangs down the female saint’s back (Fig. 6.10). In two cases, the projecting square is on the left, and in the third it is on the right. Saint Andrewwhose right elbow is bent, with a ledge cut out from its underside, would have leant on the left side of the tomb chest. Although this ensemble represents an unprecedented design, the tradition of saints praying for the effigy—and often reading from the scripture—was well-established, featuring, for example, in Queen Beatriz de Portugal’s tomb at the nearby monastery of Sancti Spiritus at Toro (c. 1420).[56] The design can, furthermore, be related to that of the tomb of Sancho Sánchez de Oteiza in Tudela, attributed to Jehan Lome, where two young deacons, on either side of Oteiza’s head, read the scripture (one of them holding a hand to his face, like one of the angels on Claus Sluter’s Well of Moses) (Fig. 6.11).[57] The parallel between the bent elbow resting on the bible held by one of the Tudela deacons and Saint Andrew’s elbow resting on the tomb in Tordesillas seems too close to be coincidental.

Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, seated female saint, back view (ca. 1437–1445).
Fig. 6.10 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, seated female saint, back view (ca. 1437–1445).
Tomb of Sancho Sánchez de Oteiza, Tudela Cathedral, detail of deacon (c. 1418).
Fig. 6.11 Tomb of Sancho Sánchez de Oteiza, Tudela Cathedral, detail of deacon (c. 1418).

The reconstruction of the tomb proposed on this basis is illustrated in Figs. 6.12 and 6.13. Saint Andrew, on the left of the tomb chest, prays for Isabel, whose arms prominently figure the saint’s cross. The Franciscan is likely to be Fernán’s name saint, Saint Anthony of Padua (who was baptised by the name of Fernando), often represented with a book. The female saint, who prays for Elvira, may represent Saint Catherine of Alexandria, a model of wifely virtue whose monastery on Mount Sinai was a popular destination for fifteenth-century pilgrims.[58] The sculptors of these figures must have had the opportunity to see the finished effigies as the seated Saint Catherine wears the same laced brial and belted hopa as those worn by Elvira de Acevedo and Isabel Vélez de Guevara. The result is both imitative of the contemporary Castilian and Valois preference for a central tomb with alabaster effigies, and inventive in its inclusion of the three seated saints.

Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Proposed reconstruction of central tomb with alabaster effigies and seated saints. Drawing by Matilde Grimaldi.
Fig. 6.12 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Proposed reconstruction of central tomb with alabaster effigies and seated saints. Drawing by Matilde Grimaldi.
Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Proposed reconstruction of central tomb with alabaster effigies and seated saints. Drawing by Matilde Grimaldi.
Fig. 6.13 Saldaña Chapel, Santa Clara de Tordesillas, Proposed reconstruction of central tomb with alabaster effigies and seated saints. Drawing by Matilde Grimaldi.

The ledge under Saint Andrew’s arm, approximately 95 centimetres from the ground, indicates the height of the tomb chest. This corresponds approximately to the height of the chest of the near-contemporary tomb of Gómez Manrique and Sancha de Rojas, now in the Museum of Burgos.[59] The fact that the seated figures of Saints AndrewAnthony and Catherine gaze in the direction of their respective namesakes confirms this arrangement. As Jeffrey Hamburger and others have underlined, seeing was an important vehicle for salvation,[60] and gaze was important element in the empathic meditation which became popular in the Iberian Peninsula in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.[61] The accuracy of the arrangement is confirmed by the effigies’ gazes too: Saldaña’s looks straight ahead at the altar, while Elvira’s and Isabel’s look towards the altar from their respective sides. Although this design was clearly unconventional, the tomb of Alfonso Enríquez, admiral of Castile, which featured a similarly unconventional boat, was built around 1431 in front of the altar in the monastery of Santa Clara de Palencia.[62]


The Apostles: Unfinished Imitatio or Inventio?

On the walls above the niches in the Saldaña Chapel are seven unpolychromed limestone sculptures of the apostles, all approximately 180 centimetres in height. They are stylistically different to the relief carvings around the tomb niches and alabaster effigies but appear to be by the same workshop as the seated saints. Whereas stone apostles had often featured on Iberian cathedral portals and were depicted on columns in the Cámara Santa in Oviedo, their placement against the interior walls of churches was strongly associated with Valois structures such as the Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges which Saldaña’s northern craftsmen are likely to have known.[63] Ara Gil concludes, no doubt correctly, that Saldaña’s intention was for a set of twelve.[64] It is possible that one of the missing apostles is the seated Andrew, and that the other four were intended for the four empty niches on the piers between the chapel and the main church (see Fig. 6.3). These niches are approximately 210 centimetres high, the right size to have accommodated the sculptures of the apostles, which are 180 centimetres high. Whether these sculptures were produced (and, if so, destroyed or removed), or whether the project was left unfinished, is unknown.

The question of whether Saldaña intended the sculptures of the apostles and seated saints to be polychromed is also intriguing. The stone apostles commissioned by the Duke of Berry for the Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges were polychromed, as were those from the same period in the Sint-Martinusbasiliek in the Flemish town of Halle, although those in Saint Peter’s in Liège (as depicted in Rogier van der Weyden’s Exhumation of Saint Hubert) were not.[65] According to a 1988 communication from the Patrimonio Nacional, no traces of polychromy were found on any of the limestone sculptures during the 1988–90 restoration campaign.[66] As noted above, showing off the cost of the stone and the skill with which it was carved was clearly an important consideration for Saldaña, and it may be that he intended minimal polychromy from the outset. This would have been a bold choice in a visual culture which expected and valued colour.

Nevertheless, considering the absence of polychromy on the shields and the surprising lack of decoration on the tomb fronts, it seems more likely that the work was left unfinished when Saldaña fled to Aragon in 1445.[67] The blank shield on the pillow of the limestone effigy in the Saldaña Chapel indicates that the original intention must have been to polychrome at least that. As Kim Woods and others have underlined, most early fifteenth-century sculpture in northern Europe was fully polychromed or intended for polychromy.[68] Susie Nash stresses the vital contribution polychromy made to effect and meaning.[69] It is possible that the polychromy of the shields was left for completion when Saldaña’s children were buried in the chapel which, as we have seen, did not happen.


A New Chronology of the Saldaña Chapel

Previous scholarship on the Saldaña Chapel has taken the inscription in its frieze at face value, concluding that the structure and all its contents were completed by 1435. The text should, however, be treated with caution. The difficulty of evaluating inscriptions is well-known, and not only are the opening words missing here but the circumstances of its production are unknown.[70] The start of construction in 1430 is confirmed by a papal bull issuing indulgences to visitors, by a contract between Saldaña and the monastery of 1432, and by the no-longer visible epitaph of of maestre Guillem’s death.[71] Despite the fact that the maestre Guillem died in 1431, given the scale and nature of the work there is no reason to doubt that the basic structure was indeed complete by 1435. This would include the four tomb niches and most of the integral decorative carving on the arches and corbels, although certain tasks, such as the painting of the heraldry pertaining to the niches, appear to have been left unfinished. The inscription itself must have been carved in 1435: Elvira had died by then but the inscription does not mention Isabel, who is first named as Fernán’s wife in a legal document of December 1436.[72] The Saldaña Retable, in which Saldaña is accompanied by neither Elvira nor Isabel, is likely to have been produced sometime between the middle of 1433 (after Elvira’s death) and early 1436.[73]

Additional work must have been carried out between late 1435 and 1445, the year in which Fernán and Isabel fled to Aragon with two young children (Pedro Vélez de Guevara, 1442–1477, and Costanza Vélez de Guevara, c. 1443–1505).[74] This included the arms of Isabel Vélez de Guevara and other heraldry on the chapel’s exterior west wall (see Fig. 6.6). The fact that the display sits under a load-bearing arch indicates that the tablet on which it is carved replaced the original one installed in around 1430 when Saldaña was still married to Elvira de Acevedo.[75] Isabel’s arms provide a terminus post quem for the display as it appears now of late 1435 or 1436, and Álvaro de Luna’s shield at the centre of the relief provides a terminus ante quem of June 1441 (the date of Luna’s exile).[76]

Work carried out after 1435 would also have included the installation of the central tomb and limestone apostles. The effigies may have been commissioned soon after Saldaña’s betrothal to Isabel in 1436, but the production of the seated saints must have come a year or two later given the relationship between the garment worn by Saint Catherine and those worn by the effigies representing Elvira and Isabel. It may be that the tomb with the saints around it was installed in 1441, when the couple’s marriage contract was signed. Even if Saldaña had intended to commission a central tomb earlier, Elvira’s sudden death and the pressures of political life in the 1430s may have prevented this. As noted above, the production of the effigies between approximately 1436 and 1438 fits well with the clothes and hairstyles, and that of the seated saints and apostles towards the end of the decade explains the change in style noted by Ara Gil between them and the shield-bearing angels produced eight or nine years earlier.[77]

When the couple fled, they would thus have left behind their finished tomb, the apostles, and the altarpiece (commissioned, as noted above, before 1435), but the four niches appear to have been left empty. We can infer this from Pedro Vélez de Guevara’s wish to be buried there with his own alabaster effigy, and from a similar request in 1496 by Saldaña’s son by Elvira de Acevedo, Ferrando López de Saldaña. Why, then, were none of the children commemorated in the chapel?[78] The answer may relate to the confusion which reigned for several years after Saldaña’s exile over who had the right to be buried in the chapel, as well as to continuing political upheaval. García de Salazar’s account states that Saldaña lost all his assets upon fleeing Castile.[79] Ceballos-Escalera y Gila provides a breath-taking summary of these assets as well as an account of their expropriation.[80] Ferrando, who had remained in Castile, had a long-running dispute with the monarchy over his father’s estates, although it is not clear whether Saldaña’s rights in the chapel at Tordesillas were part of this.[81] In 1455, just before Saldaña died, these rights were confirmed in a royal charter, probably as a result of an extraordinary ‘deal’: shortly after the beheading of Álvaro de Luna in 1454, Saldaña sent word from Aragon to John II asking for pardon and the return of his position and assets in return for revealing where Luna had hidden some of the treasure he had accumulated in office, said to be worth more than 800,000 gold doblas.[82] Castile’s political situation continued to be difficult after Saldaña’s death and things only began to settle down in 1474, when Isabella of Castile ascended to the throne.

Whether or not Pedro was interred in the crypt in 1477, the arms that appear on the surviving entrance to the monastery church appear to be his (Fig. 6.14).[83] This entrance may have also been commissioned after Saldaña fled to Aragon. Although it repeats some elements of the interior portals, its decorative scheme is simpler, not unlike the portals Juan Guas produced for Ávila Cathedral in the 1460s. By this time Pedro was maestresala to Enrique IV.[84]  

Santa Clara de Tordesillas, south portal (1460s?), detail of the arms of Fernán Lopez de Saldaña (L); and of the Vélez de Guevara and Ayala families impaled dexter with castle and lion of Castile and León (R).
Fig. 6.14 Santa Clara de Tordesillas, south portal (1460s?), detail of the arms of Fernán Lopez de Saldaña (L); and of the Vélez de Guevara and Ayala families impaled dexter with castle and lion of Castile and León (R).

In conclusion, the revisions proposed here provide possible answers to questions relating to the physical evidence remaining inside the Saldaña Chapel. They make sense, for example, of the seated saints and unfinished appearance of the tomb niches. But they also help us to understand the chapel’s design more clearly as an expression of Fernán López de Saldaña’s dynastic ambitions, and as part his efforts to ensure that he stood out in relation to his peers. By highlighting not only those features in the existing ensemble that were modelled on Valois commissions but those which no longer survive, the revisions allow us to consider this converso patron’s use of imitation and innovation as part of a strategy to fashion himself as a new kind of noble serving the emerging Castilian state


[1]This essay is based on a chapter from Nicola Jennings, ‘The Chapel of Contador Saldaña at Santa Clara de Tordesillas: New Proposals about its Original Appearance and Role in the Fashioning of Identity by an Early Fifteenth-Century Converso’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2015. My thanks go to a number of friends and colleagues for their guidance and support, in particular my supervisor, Susie Nash, and to Rose Walker, Tom Nickson, Phillip Lindley, Kim Woods, Javier Martínez de Aguirre, Diana Olivares, Carmen García Frías, María Jesús Herrero, and Ángel Balao. I also thank the reviewers of this essay for their very constructive comments.
[2]Since Manuel Gómez-Moreno’s article, ‘Jooskén de Utrecht, arquitecto y escultor?’, Boletín de la Sociedad castellana de excursiones (1911): pp. 63-66, many articles have appeared on the chapel. For a comprehensive bibliography, see e.g., Begoña Alonso Ruiz, ‘Una montea gótica en la capilla Saldaña de Santa Clara de Tordesillas’, in S. Huerta & F. López Ulloa (eds.), Actas del octavo congreso nacional de historia de la construcción (Madrid: Instituto Juan de Herrera, 2013), 1: p. 35.
[3]Clementina Julia Ara Gil, Escultura gótica en Valladolid y su provincia (Valladolid: Institución Cultural Simancas, 1977), p. 194. On the conservative nature of Castilian architecture in the first few decades of the fifteenth century, see Begoña Alonso Ruiz and Martínez de Aguirre, ‘Arquitectura en la Corona de Castilla’, Artigrama 26 (2011): pp. 103-147.
[4]Saldaña’s Jewish background is mentioned, for example, by L. García de Salazar in Las bienandanzas e fortunas: Códice del siglo XV. Libro XX (Bilbao: A. Rodríguez Herrero, 1955), p. 58. Several historians have discussed the close relationship between Luna and the conversos. See, for example, F. Márquez Villanueva, ‘Conversos y cargos concejiles en el siglo XV’, Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos 63: 2 (1957): p. 510.
[5]See Alfonso de Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza de Fernán López de Saldaña’, Medievalismo 21 (2011): pp. 170n25 (citing, legajo 34.318, Archivo Histórico Nacional, Consejos Suprimidos) and 174. He was one of three treasurers responsible for all the Crown finances.
[6]Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, pp. 180 and 183.
[7]Cayetano Rosell (ed.), Crónicas de los reyes de Castilla: Desde don Alfonso el Sabio hasta los católicos don Fernando y doña Isabel (Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1877), pp. 628-29.
[8]Fernán Pérez de Guzmán, Generaciones y semblanzas, ed. Robert Brian Tate (London: Tamesis Books, 1965), 2: p. 112.
[9]There is a great deal of literature on funerary chapels in fifteenth-century Castile. See, for example, E. Paulino Montero, ‘Patrocinio religioso, patrocinio artístico e identidad familiar a finales de la Edad Media. El caso de los Fernández de Velasco’, eHumanista, 24 (2013): pp. 411-432; Isidro Bango Torviso, ‘El espacio para enterramientos privilegiados en la arquitectura medieval española’, Anuario del Departamento de historia y teoría del arte 4 (1992): pp. 93-132; and Joaquín Yarza Luaces, ‘La capilla funeraria hispana’, in Manuel Núñez and Eugenio Portela (eds.), La Idea y el sentimiento de la muerte en la historia y en el arte de la Edad Media: Ciclo de conferencias celebrado del 1 al 5 de diciembre de 1986 (Santiago de Compostela: Servicio de publicaciónes e intercambio científico de la Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 1988), pp. 67-91.
[10]‘Vna capilla de piedra e obra muy polida e costosa’, Caja 2, Expt. 22, Archivo Santa Clara de Tordesillas (henceforth abbreviated to ASCT).
[11]See, for example, Begoña Alonso Ruiz, ‘La Nobleza en la ciudad: arquitectura y magnificencia a finales de la Edad Media’, Historia Moderna 24 (2012), pp. 213-49; Richard Goldthwaite, ‘The Empire of Things: Consumer Demand in Renaissance Italy’, in Francis Kent, John Eade and Patricia Simons (eds.), Patronage, Art, and Society in Renaissance Italy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 166.
[12]Jeremy Lawrance, ‘Alfonso de Cartagena y los conversos’, in Ralph J. Penny and Alan Deyermond (eds.), Actas del primer congreso anglo-hispano (Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 1993), 2: p. 109.
[13]For a more extended discussion of Saldaña’s self-fashioning as a converso homo novus serving the emerging Castilian state, see Nicola Jennings, ‘The Chapel of Contador Saldaña at Santa Clara de Tordesillas and the Fashioning of a Noble Identity by an Early Fifteenth-Century Converso’, Hispanic Research Journal 17 (2016): pp. 1-17.
[14]Examples of Mudéjar chapels built in the first half of the fifteenth century include the capilla del Crucifijo at the monastery of Olmedo commissioned by don Velasco Fernández circa 1411, the chapel of the Villagómez in Santa María de Arbas in Mayora built in 1422, the chapel of Diego Gómez de Sandoval, c. 1420, in the Franciscan convent of Sahagún, and the chapel of the Riberas at Santa María de las Cuevas in Seville, dated 1411. See M. Valdés Fernández, ‘Patronazgo señorial y arte mudéjar en el Reino de Castilla’, in J. Yarza Luaces and M. Melero Moneo (eds.), Imágenes y promotores en el arte medieval (Bellaterra: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2001); María del Carmen Lacarra Ducay, Arte mudéjar en Aragón, León, Castilla, Extremadura y Andalucia (Zaragoza: Institución Fernando el Católico, Excma. Diputación de Zaragoza, 2006).
[15]The iconography of supporting angels was developed in France in the late fourteenth century by the Valois monarchy, and in the 1390s Charles VI adopted an image of a heraldic angel as his counterseal. See E. Taburet-Delahaye (ed.), Paris, 1400: Les arts sous Charles VI; Exposition présentée à Paris, Musée du Louvre, 22 mars-12 juillet 2004 (Paris: Fayard, 2004), p. 31.
[16]C. González Palencia, ‘La capilla de Don Alvaro de Luna en la Catedral de Toledo’, Archivo Español de Arte y Arqueología 5: 13 (1929), pp. 109-122.
[17]On Martínez’s involvement, see e.g., José María Azcárate, ‘El Maestro Hanequín de Bruselas’, Archivo Español de Arte 21: 83 (1948), p. 177.  On Jalopa, see Amalia María Yuste Galán, ‘La Introducción del Arte Flamígero en Castilla: Pedro Jalopa, Maestro de los Luna,” Archivo Español de Arte 77: 307 (2004), pp. 291-300; Victor Daniel López Llorente, ‘“Las Más Suntuosa Capilla de España”. Poder y Magnificencia en la Arquitectura de la Capilla de Álvaro de Luna’, in Matilde Miquel Juan, Olga Pérez Monzón and María Martínez Gil (eds.), Retórica artística en el tardogótico castellano. La capilla fúnebre de Álvaro de Luna en contexto (Madrid: Silex, 2018), pp. 335-351.
[18]Javier Ibáñez Fernández, ‘Con el correr del sol: Isambart, Pedro Jalopa y la renovación del gótico final en la península ibérica durante la primera mitad del siglo XV’, Biblioteca: Estudio e investigación 26 (2011): p. 206.
[19]The epitaph, which is no longer visible, read: ‘Aquí yace maestre guillem de roam, maestro de la iglesia de leon, y aparejador de esta capilla, que dios perdone, et finó á vii. de deciembre año de mil, et cccc et xxx et un años’. Antonio Ponz, Viage de España: En que se da noticia de las cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella, 2nd ed. (Madrid: Por don Joachin Ibarra, 1776-1788), p. 138. It was mentioned by several nineteenth-century visitors, including Richard Ford, A Handbook for Travellers in Spain (London: John Murray, 1847), p. 620. It is not known when or how the epitaph disappeared, but it was clearly still there when Gómez-Moreno visited the chapel c. 1911.
[20]See for example Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza and Antonio García Flores, ‘Ysambart y la renovación del gótico final en Castilla: Palencia, La capilla del contador Saldaña en Tordesillas y Sevilla. Hipótesis para debate’, Anales de Historia del Arte 19 (2009): pp. 43-76; Ibáñez Fernández, ‘Con el correr del sol’, pp. 205, 220-26; Alonso Ruiz, Martínez de Aguirre, ‘Arquitectura en la Corona de Castilla’, p. 125; Fernando Villaseñor Sebastián, ‘Nuevas aportaciones a la historia constructiva de la capilla del contador Saldaña (Real Monasterio de Santa Clara de Tordesillas) (c. 1430-1435) y su importancia en la renovación del gótico castellano’, in Santiago Huerta and Fabián López Ulloa (eds.), Actas del octavo congreso nacional de historia de la construcción, Madrid, 9-12 October, 2013 (Madrid: Instituto Juan de Herrera, 2013), 2: pp. 1037-46.
[21]See, for example,, Javier Martínez de Aguirre, ‘El siglo XV en las catedrales de Pamplona y Palencia’, in Alfonso Jiménez Martín (ed.), La Piedra postrera. Simposium internacional sobre la catedral de Sevilla en el contexto del gótico final (Seville: Cabildo Metropolitano de Sevilla, 2007), 2: pp. 115-48; Javier Ibáñez Fernández and Jesús Criado Mainar, ‘El maestro Isambart en Aragón: La capilla de los Corporales de Daroca y sus intervenciones en la catedral de la Seo de Zaragoza’, in La piedra postrera, 1: pp. 75-113; Ruiz Souza and García Flores, ‘Ysambart y la renovación del gótico final en Castilla’, pp. 43-76; Alonso Ruiz, Martínez de Aguirre, ‘Arquitectura en la Corona de Castilla’, pp. 125-47; Ibáñez Fernández, ‘Con el correr del sol’, pp. 220-226.
[22]Alonso Ruiz, ‘Una montea gótica’, p. 40.
[23]Ara Gil, Escultura gótica en Valladolid, p. 203.
[24]Caja 2, Expt. 22, ASCT. On the suggestion that Elvira de Portocarrero is buried in the chapel, see González Hernández, ‘Un enterramiento en la capilla de Saldaña en el monasterio de Santa Clara de Tordesillas’, Boletín del Seminario de Estudios de Arte y Arqueología, 58 (1992): pp. 301-12. It has also been ventured the Infanta Beatriz of Portugal may have been buried there. See Magdalena Santo Tomás Pérez, ‘Beatriz de Portugal y el hospital Mater Dei de Tordesillas‘, in María Isabel del Val Valdivieso and Pascual Martínez Sopena (eds.), Castilla y el mundo feudal: homenaje al profesor Julio Valdeón (Valladolid: University of Valladolid, 2009), pp. 5-6.
[25]Clementina Julia Ara Gil proposes a more convincing interpretation of the armorial depiction, relating it to Saldaña’s description in the Crónica de Álvaro de Luna (started while its subject was still alive and finished soon after his death) as the condestable’s ‘criado y fechura’, his ‘dependent and his product’. See Ara Gil, Escultura Gótica, pp. 195.
[26]The reason for the shift appears to have been a change in floor levels due to constant flooding of the terrace just beneath the church and chapel: Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza, ‘La iglesia de Santa Clara de Tordesillas. Nuevas consideraciones para su estudio’, Reales Sitios 140 (1999): pp. 9-10.
[27]See, for example, Ara Gil, Escultura Gótica, pp. 201-202; Javier Castán Lanaspa, Arquitectura gótica religiosa en Valladolid y su provincia (siglos XIII – XVI) (Valladolid: Diputación de Valladolid, 1998), p. 565; Villaseñor Sebastián, ‘Nuevas aportaciones’, p. 1039.
[28]For the marriage, see M-71, fols. 193v-197, Colección Salazar y Castro, Real Academia de Historia (henceforth abbreviated to CSyC RAH). The marriage contract was not, however, signed until 1441: Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, p. 179.
[29]See Ángela Franco Mata, ‘Iconografía funeraria gótica en Castilla y León (siglos XIII y XIV)’, De arte 2 (2003): pp. 67-69. The Saldaña Chapel niches can be compared, for example, to those in Álvaro de Luna’s chapel of Santiago in Toledo cathedral, built in the same period, where all the effigies lie on raised beds.
[30]The author is grateful to the Patrimonio Nacional for providing these measurements. The male alabaster’s legs have been broken off, but, based on the size of the upper body and its height and width, it must have been of similar length to the female effigies.
[31]Ara Gil, Escultura gótica, p. 202. On the importance of ‘measurements and proportions … satisfying to the eye’ and relating to the belief that God had created man in his own image, see N. Saul, ‘Patronage and Design in the Construction of English Medieval Tomb Monuments’, in Paul Binski & Elizabeth A. New (eds.), Patrons and Professionals in the Middle Ages: Proceedings of the 2010 Harlaxton Symposium (Donington: Shaun Tyas/Paul Watkins, 2012), pp. 322-24.
[32]C. Bernis Madrazo, Indumentaria medieval española (Madrid: Instituto Diego Velázquez, 1956), pp. 49-50. For Burgundian fashion in this period, see for example François Boucher, A History of Costume in the West (London: Thames and Hudson, 1987), pp. 206-8.
[33]C. Bernis Madrazo, 1956, pp. 44-45. Belts had been worn lower down from 1420-1435.
[34]The inscription reads, ‘[Esta obra mando fazer] Fernand lopez : de : Saldaña : contador : mayor: del virtuoso : rey : don :  john et : su : camarero : et su chanceller e del su conseio et : fue : et : es : comencada en el : año : del : nascimiento : del : nro : salvador : jhu xpo : de mill : et : quatrocientos : et : treynta : años : et acabose : en el : ano : del : nascimiento : del : nro : salvador:  jhu xpo : de mill : et : quatrocientos : et : tre: ynta et : cinco años : a : honor et : reverencia : de : nra : señora : a quien:  el : siempre:  tovo et tiene por protetora : et : abogada : en todos sus : fechos : et esta : aqui esta enterada Elvira: de : Azevedo: su muger que /Dios perdone la qual fino en Toledo viespera : de : Pascua : mayor : que : fue a honze dias de abril del ano de mil et quatrocientos et treinta : et tres : anos. Gloria in excelsis Deo et in tera pax hominibus bone voluptatis, laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramos te, glorifi’.  Francisco Molina de la Torre, Valladolid (siglos X-XV), Corpus Inscriptionum Hispaniae Mediaevalium 3 (León: Universidad de León, 2017), pp. 180-81.
[35]Caja 22/1, ASCT. Saldaña’s death in Aragon is recorded in the Cronicón de Valladolid: 1333-1539. See Pedro Sáinz de Baranda (ed.), Cronicón de Valladolid (Madrid: Viuda de Calero 1848), 13: pp. 26-27. His burial at San Francisco is recorded on a family tree compiled by J. Pellicer de Osau. See 26.385, D 31, fol. 22v, CSyC RAH.
[36]This crypt contains the remains of five unidentified bodies. This information appears in Patrimonio Nacional, ‘Acta de Investigación, 29 enero 1991’, unpublished.
[37]Although this seems to be the accepted view, Ángel González Hernández believes this is Álvaro de Luna’s wife Elvira de Portocarrero. However, even if a letter of 8 March 1433 (Caja 4916, Expt. 12, ASCT) confirms that his wife was buried in the monastery, it would be extraordinary for her to be buried in the Saldaña Chapel, and there is no mention of this in Saldaña’s contract with the monastery of 1432. González Hernández bases his hypothesis on the presence of Luna’s shield on the stone relief on the chapel’s exterior walls (see Fig. 5). But as Ara Gil has stated, the way that this is depicted, with Saldaña’s shield hanging off it, clearly indicates Saldaña’s status as Luna’s ‘criado e fechura suya’ (as he is described in the Crónica del halconero de Juan II) rather than Portocarrero’s burial in the chapel. See Ara Gil, Escultura gótica, p. 195. If Elvira were buried there, her own arms rather than her husband’s would be displayed both outside and inside the chapel, and this is not the case.
[38]Valentín Carderera y Solano, Iconografía española: Colección de retratos, estatuas, mausoleos y demás monumentos inéditos de reyes, reinas, grandes capitanes, escritores, etc. desde el siglo XI hasta el XVII (Madrid: Impr. de R. Campuzano, 1855-64), plate 25.
[39]José María Quadrado, Valladolid, Palencia y Zamora Recuerdos y bellezas de España (Madrid: Imprenta de López, 1865), 10: p. 242.
[40]On the dating of the retable, see Francisco Javier Sánchez Cantón, ‘Maestre Nicolás Francés, pintor’, Archivo español de arte y arqueología 1 (1925): pp. 16-17; Sánchez Cantón, Maestre Nicolás Francés (Madrid: CSIC, 1964), pp. 20-21.
[41]The male alabaster effigy has been linked to Pedro Vélez de Guevara on the basis that Pedro’s will of 1477 stated that he wished to be buried in his father’s chapel with an alabaster effigy: Paulina Junquera de Vega, ‘La pintura en el monasterio de Santa Clara’, Reales Sitios 14 (1967): p. 43. However, as Ara Gil points out, the figure’s pudding-bowl haircut was out of fashion by 1450. See Ara Gil, Escultura gótica, p. 201. This is confirmed by pictures of Castilian courtiers from the 1470s published in Bernis Madrazo, Indumentaria medieval, Figs. 159-162.
[42]The 1435 will of Aldonza de Mendoza, for example, specifies a tomb which is ‘de alabastro convenyble a my persona’: Francisco Layna y Serrano, Historia de Guadalajara y sus Mendozas (Madrid: Aldus, 1942), p. 310.
[43]Clara Fernández Ladreda-Aguadé, ‘Escultura: Jehan Lomé y los talleres coetaneos’, in C. Fernández-Ladrade (ed.), El arte gótico en Navarra (Pamplona: Gobierno de Navarra, 2015), p. 540. This relationship was first highlighted in Ara Gil, Escultura gótica, p. 205. On the Sagrados Corporales, see Javier Ibáñez Fernández and Jesús Criado Mainar, ‘El maestro Isambart en Aragón: La capilla de los Corporales de Daroca y sus intervenciones en la catedral de la Seo de Zaragoza’, also in Alfonso Jiménez Martín, La piedra postrera, 1: p. 79.
[44]On the innovation represented by the display of heraldry in the spandrels, see Javier Martínez de Aguirre and Faustino Menéndez Pidal de Navascués, Emblemas heráldicos en el arte medieval navarro (Pamplona: Gobierno de Navarra, Departamento de Educación, Cultura, Deporte y Juventud, 1996), pp. 53-57.
[45]Tombs positioned in this way include those of Pero López de Ayala and his wife, Gómez Manrique and his wife, and Aldonza de Mendoza. Gómez Manrique’s will, drafted in 1410, states: ‘mando que entierren mi cuerpo en la capilla mayor del monasterio, que yo fago en Santa María de Fresdelval e que me entierren en la sepultura de alabastro que ay tengo fecha, delante del altar mayor’. See Sección de Clero, Legago 1053, Archivo Histórico Nacional. Aldonza’s will includes similar instructions: Layna y Serrano, Historia de Guadalajara, p310.
[46]See, for example, Clementina Julia Ara Gil, ‘Monjes y frailes en la iconografía de los sepulcros románicos y góticos’, in José Ángel García de Cortázar (coord.), Vida y muerte en el monasterio románico (Aguilar de Campoo: Fundación Santa María la Real, Centro de Estudios del Románico, 2004), p. 175.
[47]Clementina Julia Ara Gil, ‘Sepulcros medievales en Medina de Pomar’, Boletín del Seminario de Estudios de Arte y Arqueología 40-41 (1975): pp. 201-202.
[48]S. Rodríguez Guillén, ‘El monasterio de Santa María la Real de Tordesillas (1363-1509)’ (unpublished PhD diss., Alcalá de Henares, 2010), p. 266. There are various instances over the centuries of Spanish churches and convents selling property to raise funds as well as rededicating chapels. It was also common practice in Italy. See J. Burke, Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004), p. 123.
[49]Caja 3, Expt. 19, ASCT; S/H 347/25, Archivo General del Palacio, Madrid.
[50]Sophie Jugie, Dossier, Les Ducs de Bourgogne, 2003, accessed 18 January 2019, Also see the diagram provided by Cyprien Monget, La Chartreuse de Dijon d’après les documents des Archives de Bourgogne (Montreuil-sur-Mer: Imprimerie Notre-Dame des Pères, 1898), 1: p. 54. The exact position of the duke’s tomb will be discussed by Susie Nash in a forthcoming article.
[51]Pero Tafur, Travels and Adventures, 1435-1439, trans. and ed. Malcolm Henry Ikin Letts (London: G. Routledge, 1926), chapter 23. See Jennings, ‘The Chapel of Contador Saldaña at Santa Clara de Tordesillas and the Fashioning of a Noble Identity’, pp. 4-5.
[52]See Nicola Jennings, ‘Made in Iberia: A New Look at the Retable of Contador Saldaña in Santa Clara de Tordesillas’, in Daan van Heesch, Robrecht Janssen and Jan Van der Stockt (eds.), Netherlandish Art and Luxury Goods in Renaissance Spain (London/Turnhout: Harvey Millar, 2018), pp. 27-44.
[53]For the López de Saldaña family tree, see Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, p. 163. Their first-born, Leonor, died circa 1430.
[54]On the burial places of Saldaña’s daughters, see Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, pp. 195-6.
[55]Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, pp. 195.
[56]Diana Lucía Gómez-Chacón, ‘Religiosidad femenina y reforma dominicana: el sepulcro de Beatriz de Portugal en el monasterio del Sancti Spiritus de Toro’, Anuario de Estudios Medievales 47:2 (2017): pp. 607-64.
[57]On the tradition of accompanying angels, see for example Franco Mata, ‘Iconografía funeraria gótica en Castilla’, pp. 71-73. On the innovation represented by the Oteiza tomb and its relationship to sculpture at the charterhouse of Champmol in Dijon, see Fernández Ladreda-Aguadé’s articles ‘Escultura: Jehan Lomé y los talleres coetaneos’, pp. 524-7; ‘La escultura en Navarra en la primera mitad del siglo XV, Johan Lome y su círculo’, Anales de historia del arte 22 (2012): pp. 7-37; and ‘La escultura en Navarra en tiempos del Compromiso de Caspe’, Artigrama 26 (2011): pp. 203-7. The first to study of Lomé’s work in depth was Janke.  See R. Steven Janke, Jehan Lome y la escultura gótica posterior en Navarra (Pamplona: Diputación Foral de Navarra, Institución Príncipe de Viana, 1977).
[58]See, for example, Christine de Pizan, The Treasure of the City of Ladies, trans. Sarah Lawson (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 146. Pedro Tafur, for example, went to Sinai. The seated saint closely resembles a polychromed Saint Catherine in León Cathedral: Gómez Moreno, ‘Jooskén de Utrecht’, p. 65.
[59]For a description of this tomb, see M. J. Gómez Bárcena, ‘El sepulcro de Gómez Manrique y Sancha de Rojas’, Reales Sitios 83 (1985): pp. 29-36.
[60]See, for example, Jeffrey Hamburger, ‘The Visual and the Visionary: The Changing Role of the Image in Late Medieval Monastic Devotions’, Viator 20 (1989): pp. 161-82.
[61]The influence of Pseudo-Bonaventure’s Meditationes Vitae Christi and Ludolph’s Vita Christi in Catalonia by the late fourteenth century has been widely published. The arrival of empathic devotional practices in Castile is less well documented, but it is clear from the popularity of, for example, the iconography of the Pietà by the early fifteenth century that it was already gaining ground. See, for example, Matilde Miquel, ‘Pintura, devoción y piedad en Toledo a principios del siglo XV’, Boletín del Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao 7 (2013): pp. 49-87. For a brief summary of the spread of Christocentric devotional practices in Iberia see Justin Kroesen, Staging the Liturgy: the Medieval Altarpiece in the Iberian Peninsula (Leuven: Peeters, 2009), pp. 355-361.
[62]Bango Torviso, ‘El espacio para enterramientos privilegiados’, p. 118. The choice of three figures positioned in this way rather than four may seem odd, but it is not in itself unique. Jacques Moreau designed a tomb circa 1451 for René d’Anjou which was to be surrounded by three standing knights and three seated ladies reading their Books of Hours: R. A. Lecoy de la Marche, Le Roi René, sa vie, son administration, ses travaux artistiques et littéraires, d’après les documents inédits des archives de France et d’Italie (Paris: Firmin-Didot frères, fils et cie, 1875), 3: pp. 99-104.
[63]See Alain Erlande-Brandenburg, ‘Jean de Cambrai. Sculpteur de Jean de France, duc de Berry’, in Monuments et mémoires publiés par l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres 63 (1980): pp. 167-86; Susie Nash, ‘The works for Jean de Berry at Bourges and Mehun-sur-Yèvre’, in Susie Nash (ed.), No Equal in Any Land, pp. 144-77.
[64]Ara Gil, Escultura gótica, pp. 196-97.
[65]On the Berry figures, see Erlande-Brandenburg, ‘Jean de Cambrai’, p. 157; on the figures in Halle see J. W. Steyaert et al., Late Gothic Sculpture: The Burgundian Netherlands (Ghent; New York: Harry N. Abrahams, 1994), p. 68; on those depicted by van der Weyden, see Susie Nash, Northern Renaissance Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 243.
[66]M. Grandmontagne, ‘”Fassungslose Figuren”. Materialkonzepte zweier spanischer Grablegen im Spiegel von Claus Sluters Werken für die Kartause von Champmol’, in B. Borngässer Klein, H. Karge & B. Klein (eds.), Grabkunst und Sepulkralkultur in Spanien und Portugal. Arte funerario y cultura sepulcral en España y Portugal (Frankfurt am Main; Madrid: Vervuert, Iberoamericana, 2006), p. 95n13.
[67]The Castilian convention of decorating tomb chests with narrative imagery, saints, weepers, and heraldry is demonstrated, for example, in María Jesús Gómez Bárcena, Escultura gótica funeraria en Burgos (Burgos: Diputacíon Provincial de Burgos, 1988).
[68]See, e.g., K. Woods, ‘The Master of Rimini and the Tradition of Alabaster Carving in the Early Fifteenth-Century Netherlands’, in A. S. Lehmann, F. Scholten and P. Chapman (eds.), Meaning in Materials: Netherlandish Art, 1400-1800 (Leiden: Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek, 2012), p. 62.
[69]S. Nash, ‘”The Lord’s Crucifix of Costly Workmanship”: Colour, Collaboration and the Making of Meaning on the Well of Moses’, in V. Brinkmann, O. Primavesi, & M. Hollein (eds.), Circumlitio: The Polychromy of Antique and Medieval Sculpture (Munich: Hirmer, 2010), pp. 356-381.
[70]See, e.g., Molina de la Torre, Valladolid, pp. 40-41. The ongoing debate over the quatrain on the Ghent Altarpiece illustrates the difficulties inherent in evaluating medieval inscriptions.
[71]Caja 7, Expt. 13, ASCT, and Caja 2, Expt. 22, ASCT. Villaseñor claims that construction must have been ended by 1431 on the basis the bull, but it seems more likely that of the bull was obtained in advance of the chapel’s completion. See Villaseñor Sebastián, ‘Nuevas aportaciones’, p. 1039.
[72]See above and note 28.
[73]Nicolás Francés, to whom the Saldaña Retable is attributed, is documented as having completed the huge retablo mayor of León Cathedral by 1434, making another commission in the run up to its completion unlikely. See Sánchez Cantón, Nicolás Francés, p. 9.
[74]These children were Pedro Vélez de Guevara, circa 1442-1477; and Constanza Vélez de Guevara, circa 1443- 1505.
[75]My thanks to Javier Martínez de Aguirre and Tom Nickson, whose explanations about the construction process and possible revisions to it have been extremely helpful.
[76]The shields are unlikely to have been commissioned after Luna’s return to court in 1443 as by then Saldaña had gone over to the rebels.
[77]Clementina Julia Ara Gil, ‘El siglo XV. Influencia europea y singularidad castellana’, in A. García Simón (ed.), Historia de una cultura: Castilla y León en la historia de España (Valladolid: Junta de Castilla y León, 1995-1996), p. 115.
[78]It may be that Pedro’s and/or Ferrando’s bones were interred in the crypt where at least five skulls have been found. Only the arms of Fernán López de Saldaña and his two wives appear on the stairs leading down to the crypt.
[79]García de Salazar, Las bienandanzas e fortunas, p. 58.
[80]Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, pp. 181-83 and 188-90, notes 101-9.
[81]This is documented in F-6, fols. 1-42v, CSyC RAH; M-71, fols. 214-218, CSyC RAH; and M-108, fol. 14, CSyC RAH.
[82]Gonzalo de la Hinojosa, Continuación de la crónica de España, ed. Feliciano Ramírez de Arellano (Vaduz: Kraus Reprint, 1966), p. 137. A Castilian dobla was worth 200 maravedis, and it was clearly considered at the time to be an extraordinary sum.
[83]The right spandrel displays the arms of the Vélez de Guevara and Ayala families impaled dexter with the castle and lion of the monarchy. As this quartering is not found elsewhere in relation to Isabel Vélez de Guevara, these arms are likely to belong to Pedro, perhaps granted to him on account of the military service which led to his premature death in 1477. On this type of concession, see A. García Carraffa, Enciclopedia heráldica y genealógica hispano-americana (Madrid, 1919), 9: p. 204. These arms to do not appear on the steps leading down to the crypt.
[84]Ceballos-Escalera y Gila, ‘Generación y semblanza’, p. 196.

DOI:  10.33999/2019.50