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Surviving Folk Instruments: Harp Iconography in Galicia and Asturias , Spain by Daniel García de la Cuesta

Harp Iconography in Galicia and Astrias by Daniel Garcia de la Cuesta. Posted under his kind permission. All rights reserved.

In order to complete a little more my study about the presence of harps in Galicia and Asturias, I am highlighting some images which represent these instruments from the Middle Ages. Many of these data appears on my work “The Harp And It’s Presence in Asturies”, already cited in other posts. If anyone has any other reference and wants to share it, please contact me on this email address: dagarcues@yahoo.es

On a first sight, a sheer recognition is a task not very easy and plenty of obstacles, for example, instruments may be confused with those so-called lyres, or broken-Psalter, as well studied by Christian Rault, and it is necessary to comprehend it’s difference.

The harps have their strings attached to the soundboard, over bridges that transmit vibration to the box. More details, such as the curvature of the spine and the intention to represent a claw as an ornament, can help us to recognize them. Furthermore, these details can not always be seen clearly, and sometimes are not faithful representations of reality.

Let us start observing images from Galicia, which are exposed by the order they are discussed. Thus, in the Cathedral of Compostela, A Coruña, in the Glory Porch of 1188, two harps are depicted..

This portal had a great influence on others, as in the Cathedral of Orense, in the mid XIII century and known as the Paradise, where two harps can be seen, but they are not good copies, since the placement of the strings is wrong and are fixed to the column instead of the sound box.
On the XV century portal of San Martino in Noia, A Coruña, and also in the copy of the Glory one two harps can be seen too. ,

Returning to Compostela, and in the square neighbourhood in front of the building known as College of San Xerome, we can see a small harp and possibly another. This porch belonged to the Azabachería ancient medieval hospice, and is inserted inside the present building, which is from the XVII century.
In the same square, in the Palace of Xelmírez, dated from the XII th century, we can see another instrument.

In Asturias, regardless, as I said, harps and bowed psaltery, the first depiction of a harp was engraved in the Cathedral of Oviedo, in the east side of the cloister, built between 1412 and 1441, we may find the figure of a centaur musician.
A few meters on your right, a picture of a knight, or King David, who rests his hand on a harp that seems stuck in a holster.

On the 1450 porch of the chapel of King Casto, where we see a figure of King David playing a harp.

Between 1512 and 1531, was constructed the altarpiece in the Cathedral and in the ornamentation above another representation of King David playing harp can be found. It seems that this figure took advantage of an older altarpiece from the XV century.

The first edition of a book printed in 1555 in Asturias, contains a harp on its front page.

Another harp iconography in Asturias, in this case due to the author's birthplace, is the image seen on a painting by Juan Carreño de Miranda, a painter of the king and royal camera, and made for the Trinitarians of Iruñea . It is signed in 1666.

In the church of Carbayu in Ciañu, Llangreu, dated from the XVIII century, the figure of King David playing harp painted onthe ceiling of the sacristy, can be seen again.

As you may gather, there are not to many representations but they help on the survey and history of the instrument.

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