Ceremonial dress from La Alberca

Traje de vistas de la Alberca

Mid-19th - early 20th century

Alberca (Salamanca)

In order to paint the large-format panel Castile. The Bread Festival (1913) Sorolla travelled through Castile compiling information on local costumes and traditions in this area. In the Sierra de Francia in La Alberca (Salamanca), known for the beauty of its landscape, its traditional dress and local people, he encountered the image he was seeking, depicted in Bride and Bridegroom from Salamanca of 1912 (inv. no. 967). Using his remarkable technique and ethnographic focus, the artist was able to convey the beauty of this traditional costume now housed in the Museo Sorolla, which was worn by women from the area and is notable for the large number of necklaces and chains with suspended amulets that cover the garment from head to toe.

Bride and Bridegroom from Salamanca, detail

Sorolla was interested in acquiring this dress the year he painted his canvas but was deterred by its high price. Two years after finishing the panel on Castile and motivated by a collector’s interest rather than its relation to the painting, he purchased the dress for an elevated sum.

Women of La Alberca wore a dress of this type, known as a “traje de vista”, as wedding dresses and they continue to wear them today when attending religious processions and ceremonies such as those of the Corpus Christi and Assumption.

The costume comprises a black jacket or doublet decorated with silver buttons and a series of superimposed underskirts that are open at the back and tied to the waistband with tape, with bands of coloured braid or ribbon left visible at their lower edges. These underskirts give volume to the costume as a whole. Over the upper skirt, which is richly decorated with lace and velvet in comparison to the plainer underskirts, is an apron in dark colours with bands of silver or salmon pink ribbon towards the lower edge and embroidered floral decoration in the centre which relieves the overall severity of this garment.

The costume with its combination of numerous skirts, a design which offered another way of demonstrating a household’s wealth, was short enough to show the wearer’s red stockings, embroidered in different colours, and black shoes with chased silver buckles.

Pulse para ampliar Apron laid out flat
Pulse para ampliar Detail of the lower edge of the skirts

The headwear displayed here is not the traditional one that accompanies a “traje de vistas”, which is a white lace or muslin mantilla decorated with embroidery, falling down in a point over the forehead and covering the chin. Sorolla replaced that mantilla in his preparatory drawings with a woollen one richly adorned with strips of ornate black ribbon from the neighbouring village of Candelario, as reflected in the present display of this costume.

The most striking aspect of this ensemble is, however, the amount of jewellery that women could attach to them, depending on their level of prosperity and in another display of family wealth. This jewellery includes necklaces such as the “large string” and the “medium string” (names that reflect the size), consisting of large, filigree silver spheres and cylinders from which hang large medallions with religious figures and large crucifixes. Also notable is the set of silver chains hanging from the shoulders which have protective amulets suspended from them. These chains include religious elements such as medallions and reliquaries but also secular motifs such as an articulated trout, a bride’s heart, a coral hand and a horse chestnut, among others.

Pulse para ampliar bride’s heart
Pulse para ampliar Necklaces from La Alberca, detail

For more information on the jewellery associated with this dress from La Alberca, see “Work of the Month. The jewellery collection”.PDF