Saturday, March 7, 2009

Alfonso X's and Others' Cantigas de Santa Maria - Coda # 2










1. Alfonso X's portrait: Libro de los juegos (the book of games; 1283);
2. cantiga # 256 in the Florentine codex (facsimile: Edilán, 1989); some of the comics in the Florentine codex are unfinished letting us see the cantigas' early stages: with one exception (eight panels), everything started with a six panel grid; in this cantiga the Holy Mary heals queen Beatriz;
3. panel from cantiga # 42: Medieval baseball?, no, but its the juego de la pelota (the ball's game); this huge repro let's us see how detailed the art in the miniatures is;
4. two panels of cantiga # 63 depicting the battle of San Esteban de Gormaz against Almansor; the split panel, another supposedly modern feature is, actually, more than seven centuries old;
5. the second panel above in which the artist depicted Almansor's troops; it's fine to note that, unlike modern war propagandists, the 13th century artist didn't caricature the enemy;
6. if you thought that there were no moment-to-moment transictions (to use Scott McCloud's classification) in Medieval comics, think again: cantiga # 74 (detail);
7. cantiga # 142: "King don Alfonso and his men were hunting on the banks of the Henares River. One of his falcons injured a heron and broke its wing. The heron fell into the river. The dogs could not retrieve the bird because the current was too swift. One of the King’s men jumped into the river to fetch the bird and was swept under the water. He was repeatedly submerged, but he called on the Virgin. The King assured his men, who were also beseeching the Virgin, that she would save the man. The man emerged from the river carrying the heron. He presented the bird to King Alfonso who blessed the Virgin for the miracle."; the artist who did this cantiga sacrificed the reading direction to symmetry (the last two panels are read from right to left), but he let us a clue in order to read the page in the appropriate manner: the fly of the falcon (Breixo Harguindey: "As Cantigas de Santa Maria: obra mestra das orixes da historieta" (the Cantigas de Santa Maria: a masterpiece from the origins of comics; Boletín galego de literatura # 35, 2006: 47 - 59; image as published in said essay);
8. cantiga # 183: "In Faro, there was a statue of the Virgin. It had stood on the seashore since the time of the Christians, and captives prayed to it. Christians called the city “Holy Mary of Faro” because of the statue. The Moors resented this and threw the statue into the sea. As long as the statue lay in the water, the Moors could not catch any fish. When they realised this, the Moors recovered the statue. They placed it on the wall between the merlons. Afterwards, the Moors caught even more fish than they had before.";
9. cantiga # 207; read it, here (read cantiga # 63 as well): (The summaries above were taken on The Oxford Cantigas de Santa Maria Database:

PS You may find many cantigas, here (the resolution is mediocre, alas): just search for "Cantigas de Santa Maria" in "Buscar Imágenes."
The Cantigas de Santa Maria are also the first (but we can never be sure about firsts, can we?) autobio comic. Joseph F. O'Callaghan wrote a book on the subject: Alfonso X and the Cantigas de Santa Maria: A Poetic Biography (BRILL, 1998). Even if the author talks about "biography" instead of "autobiography" he says very early in the book (1) that it may also be an autobiography. What happens is that we can't be sure that the king himself wrote any cantiga. One name in particular needs to be cited here as a co-author of the book: poet Airas Nunes. Anyway, as you can read in the summary to O'Callaghan's book on the Google Book Search engine page: "Declaring himself Mary's troubadour, [Alfonso] appeals to her as his advocate and consoler as he recounts specific events in his life and that of his kingdom. As he tells us about his family, his war against the Muslims of Granada and Morocco, the treachery of the nobility, his frequent illnesses, and his fear of hellfire and damnation."


David Soares said...

Hello, Domingos!

I'd like to read more about this subject. Keep up the great work.


Isabelinho said...

Obrigado David! The Cantigas are really amazing, but the French propaganda imposed the Bayeux tapestry as the most recognizable proto-comic or Medieval comic. I'm glad that the BD Avant la BD exhibition corrected that a bit.

Breixo said...

Hi, and thanks for quoting me. More than biographical, As cantigas seem to me a kind of superhero comic, The Holy Virgin Mary playing the role of Batman.Regards

Isabelinho said...

De nada Breixo! Man! Comparing the Holy Virgin Mary with a right wing vigilante is a bit too much, don't you think? :)