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  • Jaime I el Conquistador: Imágenes medievales de un reinado
  • Alexander Ibarz
Serrano Coll, Marta . Jaime I el Conquistador: Imágenes medievales de un reinado. Zaragoza: Institución "Fernando el Católico" (Colección de Letras), 2009. 311 pp. ISBN 978-84-7820-946-0

This book collects in one place the identified and identifiable images of Jaume I of Catalonia-Aragon (reigned 1213-1276) and studies them as a whole. By far the most famous scion of the House of Barcelona, this king's conquest of the three kingdoms of Mallorca, Valencia and Murcia won him renown during his lifetime. His legacy as a lawgiver and his reputation as a wise ruler would seem to explain [End Page 215] why his image became so celebrated. Until now, the mythology of Jaume's imago regis has not been the object of a general study, and Serrano Coll breaks new ground by putting together this collection, arranged around themes of kingship, war, law and piety. The corpus studied, comprising more than sixty works in total, includes miniatures, coins, seals, sculptures, murals and paintings from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. The public persona of the monarch that can be rescued from this miscellany is heterogeneous, reflecting different views of kingship and changing perceptions and uses of the king's image over time. The collective memory that these images depict is necessarily a partial one, but in its partiality, Serrano patiently reveals its value.

The book opens with the king's coronation in a masterpiece of Gothic illumination from 1334 (Llibre de franqueses i privilegis del regne de Mallorca, f. 113v). Serrano views the image of Jaume being crowned by angels in the iconographical tradition of a "coronación simbólica"; historians as well as art historians will doubtless find interesting what she adds to the wider discussion by drawing attention to the discrepancies and convergences between the iconographie representation and the description of the event in Desclot's and Jaume's chronicles.

Ch. 2 leads us to the image most widely known, the king's head on coinage (33-40). We learn that Jaume hardly innovated, though he did substantially need to increase the pool of currency at the disposal of his rapidly expanding realms. The numismatic evidence suggests a continuity with the fashion styled in the reign of his father, Pere I (1196-1213). The anverse shows the monarch's head portrayed in the style of the conventional images used on earlier coins. The reverse of a series of cruciferous coins reveals a typological specification relative to Jaume's kingdoms: a square cross for Catalonia; a processional cross for Mallorca and Valencia, with floral patterning; and a double or patriarchal cross of Byzantine provenance for Aragon.

The seals (40-57) share with the coins stylistic continuity with earlier regal iconography. On the anverse of his seals Jaume is portrayed seated on a rather ornate carved wooden throne that shows clear signs of French influence. He is holding the orbus cruciger in his left hand. In his right a sword lies across his lap, replacing the sceptre that adorned his father's seals. The reverse of the seals portrays a helmeted king on horseback in battle armour, with a lance bearing toward a Marian star. Pere I's iconography of kingship had strongly played up his papal coronation. Jaume was not crowned by the Pope because of his unwillingness to acknowledge any feudal [End Page 216] suzerain. Interestingly, the Marian star adorning his seals reflects the sense of religious devotion and mission which characterized much of Jaume's monarchy. As seals were reissued periodically to reflect the incorporation of new conquests, the stylistic evolution of Jaume's regnal iconography can be traced in some detail (41).

In ch. 3 the theme is the king as legislator, and the material illustrates the enduring legacy of statehood. In a number of legal texts from the fourteenth century, the king's image is used repeatedly to show his authorship of legal statutes. As Serrano explains, Jaume's laws were regarded with reverence in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and, as many historians have sensed, his reign was looked upon with such...


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