Spanish ironwork produced in Castile and Andalucia developed in an entirely different way due to the influence of the Moorish artists in the area. Besides being influenced by their designs, the Spanish blacksmiths were also influenced by their work in other metals. The Arab influences, it seemed, played the most important role in the design of Spanish ironwork of this area.
The Saracens, Muslims who lived on the edges of the Roman Empire, didn’t bring with them structural architecture because they lived in the deserts. When they left Syria and Arabia and arrived in Spain they did bring with them the intricacies of their ornamentation.
So, while they didn’t help establish architectural structures themselves, their ornamentation was said to be structural. In fact, their ornamentation was so different from the usual ideas presented by the Arabs. Instead of being made up of graceful, natural forms it had geometric patterns that were combined logically.
This geometric form of Moorish influence on Spanish ironwork remained evident until after the Reconquest. Its staying power is due in part to the fact that Spaniards and Moors worked side-by-side when designing and building Christian buildings. It was inevitable that the two peoples would teach one another; the Moors, it seemed, had much more to teach the Spaniards.
Later, the Moorish and Gothic art forms blended together to form Mudéjar. This art form has geometric forms as their basis, and was considered to be harmonious. Mudéjar was not a new architectural style; it was merely a blending of these types of art forms together with whatever structure that was being built at the time.
Spain was not the only European country to be influenced by these Asiatic art styles. In some ways Italy, France, and England were affected. These influences were not direct, as they were in Spain, but more because of a concerted effort by their princes to modify the civilization by cultivating Eastern ideas.
Saracenic art and architecture then followed the trade routes into Western Europe where it landed in Venice. From there its influence reached into the rest of Italy and the other countries. You may see early Italian ironwork examples in Venice and those examples followed the pierced marble screens seen in Saracenic art.
Arabs didn’t use iron very often when building or ornamenting the structures. When they did, however, instead of using the methods of the blacksmith, they treated the iron like it was a precious metal. They used file, saw, drill, and vice.
Use of iron became more popular as a decorative architectural feature when it was used as door hardware,
knockers, and escutcheons. The art form was also used as a window screen by placing an iron grille or reja over the windows. Before long balconies became an architectural feature that was common in Spain. Candelabras were made of Spanish ironwork as well as railings surrounding tombs. It wasn’t long before entire pulpits were made out of wrought ironwork. These are some of the types of ironwork that were completed using Mudéjar.
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