Juan de Herrera

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Juan de Herrera

The Spanish architect Juan de Herrera (ca. 1530-1597) helped to plan the Escorial and introduced there a style that influenced Spanish architecture for over a century.

Juan de Herrera was born in Mobellán, Santander Province. He completed his studies at the University of Valladolid in the spring of 1548. The following October he joined Prince Philip (later Philip II) for a 3-year tour of Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. He returned to Italy in 1553 in the service of Emperor Charles V and subsequently fought in the campaign of Flanders.

Herrera called his service to the monarch his "highest ideal." Not surprisingly, then, he followed Charles V into retirement in a monastery in Yuste, Estremadura region, and remained until the Emperor's death in 1558. Thereafter Herrera entered the service of Philip II. Herrera declared that, from 1565 onward, he made it a point "to follow His Majesty constantly wherever he might go." He also considered it to be his obligation to dress elegantly and to spend "excessively" in the best places as a living proof of "so great a prince."

One evidence of Herrera's ambition to be the very model of a multitalented Renaissance man is his geometrical illustrations for an abridgment (1562) of Alphonse the Wise's book on astronomy. Herrera also applied his knowledge of mathematics to the invention of navigational instruments that have been said to have increased the accuracy of nautical calculations.

In 1563 Philip II appointed Herrera to assist Juan Bautista de Toledo, the court architect, in the plans and construction of the Escorial (1561-1584), which the monarch described as "a palace for God and a little house for me." Some authorities insist that Herrera's real contribution to the Escorial design and construction did not begin until 1572, 5 years after Toledo's death. Letters between Philip II and Pedro de Hoyo in 1564, however, indicate that Herrera was playing an important role even then.

The Escorial is a complex of monastery, church, royal mausoleum, and palace. The site chosen was near the Guadarrama Mountains in the little town of El Escorial. All controversy over the extent of Herrera's contribution aside, the completed monument was the introduction of a style known traditionally as Herreran. The style is austere, symmetrical, and majestic, influenced by an Italianate, classicistic mannerism. Yet it is unique: its majesty is unforced; its formality is polyphonically muted; and its severity is a sovereign simplicity. Like the Gregorian chant, it is a paradox, simultaneously solemn and profoundly intimate.

Later works by Herrera, such as the Alcázar of Toledo (1571-1585) and the Palace of Aranjuez (ca. 1564-1586; finished in the 18th century), justify his fame. Among his disciples were Jorge Manuel Theotocopuli, the son of El Greco; and Francisco de Mora and his nephew Juan Gómez de Mora. Owing to what has been called the metaphysics of Herrera's principles, his style has been largely inimitable.

Herrera fell seriously ill in 1584 and was obliged to rely heavily upon the assistance of his pupils, particularly Francisco de Mora. He died on Jan. 15, 1597, in Madrid. He had married twice and was survived by his only child, Lorenzo.

Further Reading

The most informative source on Herrera in English is Fernando Chueca y Goitia's article in the Encyclopedia of World Art, vol. 7 (1963). George Kubler and Martin Soria, Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominions: 1500-1800 (1959), provides sufficient information on the number of architects involved with the Escorial to give the reader an excellent idea of the controversy, which may continue until further documentation is discovered.

Wilkinson-Zerner, Catherine., Juan de Herrera: architect to Philip II of Spain, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. □

Herrera, Juan de

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Architect and scientist who completed the escorial ;b. Mobellan (Asturias), Spain, c. 1530; d. Madrid, Jan. 1, 1597. Herrera, the son of small landowners, studied at Valladolid before following Prince Philip (later philip ii) to Italy in 1547. In 1563 he was appointed assistant to the royal architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, who had already projected the Escorial. Upon Toledo's death in May 1567, Herrera gradually assumed direction of the enterprise, received full charge in 1572, and brought it to completion in 1584. He also directed work at royal seats in Madrid, Aranjuez, Segovia, El Pardo, and Toledo. The Exchange in Seville (1584; now the Archivo General de Indias) and the unfinished cathedral of Valladolid (begun in 1585) are also his designs. His work differs from that of his Italian contemporaries, Vignola and Palladio, by its functional severity, as well as by the estilo desornamentado inherited from Juan Bautista de Toledo and other military architects of the 1560s, and by the richness of its proportional harmonies. He was the author of Discurso sobre la figura cubica (after 1579), and in 1584 he helped to found an academy in Madrid for mathematical studies. He also devised instruments for navigation.

Bibliography: l. cervera vera, La semblanza de Juan de Herrera (Madrid 1963). a. ruiz de arcaute, Juan de Herrera: Arquitecto de Felipe II (Madrid 1936). g. kubler and m. soria, Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and Their American Dominions, 15001800 (Pelican History of Art, ed. n. pevsner. Z17; Baltimore, 1959). b. bevan, History of Spanish Architecture (London 1938). a. l. mayer, in u. thieme and f. becker, eds., Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 37 v. (Leipzig 190738) 16:540542.

[g. kubler]

Herrera, Juan de

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Herrera, Juan de (1530–97). The most celebrated Spanish architectural practitioner of C16, he introduced an austere Classicism (known as éstilo desornamentado because of its bareness) to that country. In 1563 he became assistant to Juan Bautista de Toledo, and when the latter died Herrera rose to a position of eminence until in 1579 he was confirmed in his position as Architect to King Philip II (1556–98). Herrera's career was closely bound up with the building of the Royal Monastery, Palace, and Mausoleum of El Escorial, near Madrid, the plan of which is not unlike various reconstructions of the Temple of Solomon, especially that of the Jesuits Hieronymo Prado (1547–95) and Juan Bautista Villalpando (1552–1608), and has various astrological, magical, religious, geometrical, and symbolic allusions that cannot be discussed here. The form of the complex, with its grid-iron plan and four angle-towers, may be an allusion to the martyrdom of St Laurence: Pope Gregory XIII (1572–85) presented some of that Saint's melted fat to the King, and the Escorial Church is dedicated to St Laurence. Herrera's other Royal buildings include the completion of the Alcázar, Toledo (1585), work on the Palace at Aranjuez (1571–86) which has many of the Escorial motifs, the elegant Lonja (Exchange), Seville (1582–98), and part of the Cathedral of Valladolid (1585–97). The last, though incomplete when Herrera died, was widely copied, notably at Salamanca, Mexico City, Puebla, and Lima Cathedrals.


Chastel & and Guillaume (1953);
J. Curl (2001);
Fraser, Hibbard, & and Lewine (1967);
Kubler (1982);
Kubler & and Soria (1959);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Ruiz de Arcaute (1936);
Jane Turner (1996);
Wilkinson-Zerner (1994)

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