CASTILIAN PLATERESQUE AND THE HEARST FACADE
Renaissance architecture in the Castilian states is perhaps best represented in the cities of Salamanca, Leon and Burgos, the real heart of the Castilian states, as well as Toledo, Granada and Seville. The influx of money from their American conquests helped propel the architecture of the 16th century towards a new richness. Charles V also wished to emphasise Spain's ties to Europe through a more Italian- influenced architectural program, and this Spanish love of a densely ornamented decorative style can be seen in the Hearst facade. Again, like the present facade, the arrangement, typically, was rhythmical, grouping two elements alternating with a single element. This can be seen on the facade of the University of Alcal de Henares, built between 1543 and 1583 and certainly contemporary with at least part of the Hearst facade. The use of semi-circular elements, arches, niched shells and further richly detailed mouldings and carvings are typical of this architectural school.
As has been noted in the Springfield Art Museums' archives (from the records of Frederick B. Robinson, Director), the central plaque possibly depicts the handing over of the keys which are thought to represent the territories of Sardinia and Corsica, given to the Emperor of Byzantium in Constantinople in exchange for reinforcements for the Frankish armies in their crusade to win the Holy Land. The present lot was formerly part of a larger architectural scheme owned by the Springfield Art Museums, and old photographs of their installation of the alabasters include a lower register with niches housing Saints Sebastian, Barbara, Mary Magdalene and Matthew. Each of these saints can be related symbolically to sickness and its cure, and it may be that the facade was originally for the interior courtyard of a hospice or hospital.
WILLIAM RANDOLPH HEARST
Like many of William Randolph Hearst's (1863-1951) acquisitions, the alabaster facade sold by the Springfield Art Museums was probably acquired on one of his legendary buying trips throughout the Continent. The American newspaper and magazine magnate, who had begun collecting art seriously in the first decade of the twentieth century, continued to buy on a staggering scale throughout the 1920s and 1930s. And, as lots 289-290 illustrate, it was not only early works of art and furniture, but architectural elements and indeed entire buildings, both religious and secular, that were deconstructed, stone by stone, labelled and shipped to his fabled castle which was rising on the coast of California. At San Simeon, his architect, Julia Morgan, then incorporated these disparate elements into the fantastic complex, which was part stage set and part personal monument, but still a serious collection of art and architecture, and created a house unlike any other in North America. However, in the late 1930s and 1940s, after the onset of severe financial problems, many objects from Hearst's collections were sold both at a series of auctions and privately through dealers and even department stores.