Broadside: Copper engraving, contemporarily trimmed irregularly around printed area (Good, light glue-staining from verso from having been contemporarily pasted to larger piece of paper, very slight loss to printed extremities due to contemporary trimming), size (irregular): 26.5 x 17.5 cm (10.5 x 7 inches).
This exquisite separately-issued souvenir engraving was printed in Málaga especially to commemorate the ascension of King Carlos IV and Queen María Luisa (reigned 1788 to 1808) to the Spanish throne. While the death of Carlos III on December 14, 1788 officially ushered in the new reign, it was some months before elaborate ceremonies celebrating the ascension were organised throughout Spain.
The Andalusian port city of Málaga planned an especially grand spectacle to occur on May 17, 1789, during which the staff and students of the La Escuela de Niños Abates de la Ciudad de Málaga (Abbey Children’s School of Málaga) was to play a leading role. The Escuela was a well-funded and beloved institution that specialised in giving children from modest backgrounds a first-class education, with many of its graduates going on to find careers in the clergy, military or civil administration. The school’s headmaster, Don Antonio Recalde, a prominent resident of the city, orchestrated the spectacle that was to focus on a great procession of students accompanied by a choir singing songs in praise of the new king and the glory of Spain.
The event was, by all accounts, an extremely impressive affair, recorded in a now very rare pamphlet, written by Miguel Pérez Baylón, one of the city’s leading educators, La Lealtad en la Niñez, Demostracion Festiva que en Celebridad de la Proclamación del Rey... Carlos IV hicieron los Niños de la Escuela de los Abates en ésta ciudad de Málaga, día 17 de mayo de 1789 (Málaga: Por los herederos de D. Francisco Martínez de Aguilar, 1789).
Interestingly, Recalde, in a display of his own accomplished penmanship, created an exquisite drawing celebrating the ascension of Carlos IV and María Luisa, which was placed within a silver frame and carried in the procession by Luis de Unzaga, a military cadet and one of Recalde’s disciples.
Accordingly, Recalde commissioned Francisco de la Torre, Málaga’s leading print illustrator, to engrave and separately publish his drawing, so creating the present work (his imprint ‘Franco. de la Torre lo Gravo’ appears at the bottom). Produced in only a very limited quantity, the engraving was given as a souvenir of the celebration to those closely associated with the Escuela, as well as local dignitaries who observed the event.
The elegant piece is an one of the finest examples of engraving done in Málaga during the 18th Century, and features a roundel bearing a half-length portrait of Carlos IV and Maria Luisa, surrounded by rays composed of elegant sinuous rills penmanship, amidst which are listed the numerous personal virtues of the new monarch, set within the national symbol of the Pillars of Hercules and the twin hemispheres of the globe. The field below features iconography relating to maritime themes, the source of Málaga’s prosperity, as well as objects relating to learning, symbolizing the Escuela.
Below, are images of cherubs composed entirely of elegant curves of penmanship, set above an inscription that reads:
‘Es copia de la original de pluma dibujado por D. Antonio Recalde, Maestre de esta Escuela que con marco y coronación de plata, condujo y colocó en las Casas Capitulares D. Luis de Unzaga, su discípulo, Cadete del Regimiento de Infantería de la Costa, hijo del Comandante General de la Costa del Reyno de Granada.’
[Translation: ‘This is a copy of the original pen drawing composed by Don Antonio Recalde, Master of this school, that was placed in a silver frame, and led and placed in the Chapter House by Luis de Unzaga, his disciple, Infantry Cadet oft he Marines, son of the General Commander of the Marines of the Kingdom of Granada’].
The historical importance of the present work as an authentic artefact of Málagan and Spanish royal history, as indicated by the fact that it appears prominently in an engaging academic article written in 2009 by Rosario Camacho Martínez (see citation below).
The present engraving, like virtually all such works of 18th Century ephemera, has a very low survival rare and is today extremely rare. We are aware of at least one other example surviving in a Spanish collection (illustrated in Camacho Martínez’s article) that is likewise contemporary trimmed around the printed area. Supposedly, this was done so that the print could be mounted within an album amicorum or personal journal. The present example was previously glued to a larger sheet of paper (long since removed), which is supposedly the main reason that such a delicate piece of ephemera survived to the present day.
References: Rosario Camacho Martínez, ‘Los niños de la Escuela de Abates de Málaga celebran la proclamación al trono de Carlos IV’ (The children of the Málaga Abbey School celebrate the proclamation of king Charles IV), Cuadernos de Arte, Universidad de Granada, no. 40 (2009), pp. 227-233. Cf. Federico Castellón Serrano, El grabado calcográfico en la Málaga Moderna. Francisco de la Torre, grabador y maestro de dibujo (2013).