Laura Fernández-González (University of Lincoln)

Wednesday 18 November 2015, 6.00pm, Keynes Library, School of Arts, Birkbeck, University of London, London WC1H 0PD

The Hall of Battles in El Escorial Monastery is a long gallery covered in frescoes commissioned by Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). The gallery is one among of the most remarkable spaces in El Escorial.  The building itself is a prime example of the Austriaco style in architecture developed by Philip II and his architects. The longest fresco in the Hall depicting the Battle of La Higueruela of 1431 against the moors of the Kingdom of Granada, completely covers the wall adjacent to the basilica. Facing this, in the wall panels between the nine windows of the chamber, a number of scenes are depicted representing Philip II’s victories in the Netherlands and France, including the famous battle of St. Quentin (1557). The remaining walls in the room are painted with frescoes of the battles of the Azores and of Tercera. The battles represent some of Philip II’s triumphs and those of his ancestry.

The selection of battles represented in the frescoes has been highly debated by scholars. Many have wondered why the Lepanto and Tunis campaigns were not present, and more importantly, why Philip decided to include La Higueruela.This fresco has been believed to be only surviving copy of a fifteenth-century ‘contemporary’ battle representation in Castile (and not a representation of a Biblical or mythological battle), other than the Pastrana tapestry series which display a complete different artistic style. However, a series of drawings copying mural representations of battles in the south of Castile have emerged recently, among them, a copy of a fresco that represent the Battle of Jimena (1431) which formed part of the same campaign led by Joan II of Castile against the Kingdom of Granada, (which was defeated in the battle of La Higueruela). Thus this paper compares both depictions and contextualises the representation of warfare in Philip II’s royal collections.  In addition, this paper will consider chronicles of warfare and history recording during Philip’s reign.

Dr Laura Fernández-González is a Lecturer in Architectural History at the University of Lincoln. Laura’s research programme and publication record concern cultural exchange, the relationship between centres and peripheries, and how these tensions are reflected in the artistic and architectural production of the early modern Spanish and Portuguese global empires.  Laura is currently completing a monograph entitled Philip II of Spain and the Wider World. The City, the Archive and the Fame of the Universal Monarch. In addition, Laura has co-edited a book titled Festival Culture in the World of the Spanish Habsburgs that will be published by Ashgate on September 2015.

Please click here to download a copy of the poster.