The volume contains two full-page images that underscore the great significance of these documents as a corpus of portraits of Golden Age Spain. As the rich collection of the Hispanic Society attests, they afford an invaluable glimpse of the period.
In this donor portrait, Domingo Castañeda kneels with his wife and children before an altar with statues of the Virgin, Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine. Whereas few 17th-century canvases depict Spanish families together, these documents often feature such images. In this regard, manuscripts like this one add considerably to an appreciation of 17th-century Spain. The illuminator displays great subtlety in his depiction of the faces and the details of the costume and attributes, including the woman’s veil, tassels of the pillows they kneel on, and the book from which one of the boys reads. The polychromed statues on the altarpiece are also remarkable for seeming almost as alive as the donor and his family.
IMAGE: Letters of Patent Nobility of Petitioner Captain Domingo Castañeda Velasco, fol. 1v, Illumination on parchment, Valladolid, Spain, 1628