De manos de Monjas a manos de Loceras

From the hands of Nuns to the hands of Loceras

From the hands of Nuns to the hands of Loceras Reliving the past of Polychrome Earthenware

Today we want to share with you this interesting book from the group “ Huellas de Greda ”, dedicated to the rescue of the Talagantina Polychrome Earthenware. Designed by Pilar Labra G. with photographs by Claudia PM Santibañez and with the collaboration of the San Francisco Colonial Art Museum, the Talagante Cultural Corporation, the Carmen Museum of Maipú and the MAD Museum of Decorative Arts.

The book addresses from a historical perspective the Development of Polychrome Earthenware, heir to the tradition of the Ceramics of the Monjas Claras, “a valuable artistic manifestation of popular creation and brand new aesthetics” as its authors define and with which we completely agree. !

A look from women pottery makers to women pottery makers to give life, consistency and recognition to the Heritage of Polychrome Earthenware. We share the introduction below, and the complete book can be downloaded from the Memoria Chilena site .

Brief history of the Clara Nuns

The beginning of this Franciscan Congregation in Chile dates back to around 1570, when it was established in the city of Osorno. “The founders were Spanish, daughters or granddaughters of Spanish women.” [1] In 1601 there was an indigenous rebellion that forced the nuns to flee to Castro. After a difficult and long journey they arrived in Santiago, approximately in 1603, installing their convent in the place where the National Library is today at the foot of the Santa Lucia hill. In 1678 there was a division in the Congregation, creating that of the Poor Clares of our Lady of Victory, definitively separating from that of the Claras de la Cañada, to whom the work of ceramics is attributed. History speaks of many hardships and material poverty that the Congregation suffered. Although the initial objective of making the ceramics was to be a gift for religious and civil authorities and benefactors of the Convent, necessity made it begin to offer its artisanal and culinary products to the community.

“imitating the naturalness of fruits with icing, so vivid that they mislead their eyes and deceive them into thinking that they are natural fruits.”

“To pay for the reconstruction (of the monastery destroyed by the earthquakes) the nuns rented some rooms, surrounding the monastery with shops and trinkets; Possibly it was in one of the places where the delicacies prepared by the nuns were sold,...and the pots of the Poor Clares” [2] . The Clara Nuns, in addition to excelling in ceramic art, did so in cooking, sewing, making artificial flowers, and growing plants and flowers that achieved fame. Another task similar to ceramic modeling was working with a sugar paste called alcorza, with which they made figures that imitated earthenware or fruits ("imitating the naturalness of fruits with icing, so vivid that they mislead their eyes and deceive them into thinking that They are natural fruits” [3] ).
But not only the nuns manufactured the ceramics, since the various activities were shared by the entire community that lived in the convent. To begin with, there were the slaves: “... it is worth noting in our case what is related to the dowry of the nuns, since it consisted, in part, of the contribution of slaves when entering the convent. These slaves did not belong to the convent itself, but to the nuns who had taken them and as servants” [4] .

On the other hand, at that time there was no formal education, even less for women, which is why the convents also fulfilled the function of educational centers. “It was customary to admit little girls to raise them and educate older ones, especially those from distinguished families, since these convents were the right place for them to practice, along with a virtuous life, the cultivation of knowledge essential for their time. ..” [5] .

Although it was not typical of this Congregation to live with lay people, due to the need that we have mentioned, in both monasteries the entry of “ladies seeking refuge, little students and servants who accompanied their ladies” was accepted [6] . These antecedents regarding the composition of the conventual community are very important, since both the girls and women who entered to be educated or welcomed, as well as the slaves, left the convent with all the knowledge of what to do learned (the slaves or servants They were “freed” upon marriage or upon the death of their “owner”).

The ceramics of the Clara Nuns

This ceramic consists of small pieces of polychrome pottery, scented and decorated with flowers and birds. A report from the same monastery in 1945 tells us about the origin of this art and establishes that “the work of said ceramics dates back to the very times of the founding of the convent, around the years of 1604 or so, and has its origins in the recipe in Spain at the time when it was under the Moorish invasion, and the Spanish women learned it from them, many of whom came to Chile with the conquerors, several of them becoming Poor Clare nuns” [7] .

A more in-depth study could determine to what extent this art aesthetically adheres to Spanish-Moorish ceramics and to what extent the nuns' inventiveness reached. However, after a brief look at this European art, and also at the pieces produced on that continent in the 17th century, in the context of baroque aesthetics, the Claras Nuns were infinitely creative, capturing the concept of life in their ceramics. convent for a period of 300 years, in which techniques emerged that led to its own aesthetics that were maintained despite the social-historical changes that occurred in the heart of Santiago, first colonial and then republican.

Without a doubt this craft should be classified in the Colonial Baroque movement. “... the baroque comes to disrupt that utilitarian sense (of the Renaissance) since the elements become 'independent' of the merely functional sense, to stand as resources on their own.”... “... evidences the autonomy of the elements that once 'free' seek to highlight and as a consequence an apparently crowded whole is established...the baroque seeks tension and limit as an expressive resource” [8] .
The smallest pieces measure 1 to 7 cm, known as “fleas”, and serve a purely decorative purpose. They consist of jugs, mates, teapots, braziers, tea sets, cups, vases and animal figures. The mates were of normal and utilitarian size, highly decorated with outstanding flowers and birds attached to the piece by wires. They also existed with decoration of silver threads, ribbons and fabrics on wires.
“...They consisted of mates, dove-shaped incense burners, type teapots called pichel...; To this were added braziers with their teapot, a type of cups highly decorated with flowers in relief and others made independently, also of clay, and which, supported by fine spiral wires, which gave them movement, formed artistic clusters. To these they used to add a figure of a dove also suspended on wire” [9] .
Despite the outstanding characteristics of this ornamental pottery, what stood out most in its time was the perfume.
“This ceramic, which attracted so much attention at the time, contained the best kept secret of the time, its smell... and its flavor. Those pieces, cooked at a very low temperature, were placed on braziers where they expelled their smell, they were used for hot concoctions, such as mate, which was enriched with the enigmatic aroma, and they were even chewed by the ladies of the time at social gatherings. It was said that they had an expectorant capacity and were synonymous with pleasure for those who owned one of these pieces” [10] .
At the beginning of 1900, pottery was no longer made and it is reported that the perfume recipe had already been lost. In 1898, the last recluse who made this pottery in the convent was recorded as Sor María del Carmen de la Encarnación Jofré, who died in 1898, at the age of 57, who entered the monastery in 1851. It is known that she still worked in this art eight years before he died.

[1] Bichon, p. 17.

[2] Talagante Anthology, p. 98.

[3] Bichon, p. 18.

[4] Bichon, p. 14.

[5] Bichon, p.16.

[6] Anthology of talagante, p. 98.

[7] Bichon, p. 25.

[8] “Baroque Persistence”, Joya Brava Association, Santiago, 2014.

[9] Bichon, p. 33.

[10] Metropolitan polychrome ceramics, p. 17.

Back to blog