Aesthetics Wiki

The Spanish Golden Age was an historical and cultural period of history marked by the increase of artistic, philosophical and literary culture and the cultural and political importance of the Spanish Empire and the Habsburg dinasty. Many significant societal advances were achieved during this era, including literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, intellectualism, music and theater, among many other fields. Generally it features an unique mix of artistic and cultural movements from western Europe, including styles such as Baroque, Renaissance and Mannerism.

This era's influence is not limited to Spain and the Americas: it would affect the history and culture of multiple modern territories, including Portugal, Andorra, Southern Italy and Milan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Franche-Comte and Charolais (France), Morocco and the Western Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, and multiple other countries due to foreign influence.

Its influence can be noted on some 21st century aesthetics, such as New Spanish Catholic Girl, Angelcore, Royalcore or Spainwave.


The starting date of the Spanish Golden Age isn't associated with any date in particular, but it surged after the end of the Iberian Reconquista, the discovery of The Americas and the release of the first ever Castilian language (internationally known "Spanish") grammar book: Gramática de la lengua castellana (Grammar of the Castilian language). During the Spanish Golden Age, Spain experienced a period of political stability under the Habsburg dynasty. The rule of Charles V and his son Philip II over the country made the Spanish Empire become a global power and influenced many territories, including the newly discovered Americas, Europe and East Asia. This political stability provided the perfect environment to develop new forms of cultural entertainment; poetry, novels, theatre plays, etc.

Fine Arts[]

When it comes to art, the Spanish Golden Age is best known for its important appreciation of religious themes, influences by Realism and Naturalism, portraiture, inspiration from mythology, folklore and Spanish history, and adoption of the Baroque style, as the Spanish Golden Age coincided with the Baroque period. Various artists like El Greco, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Zurbarán created masterpieces which featured the spiritual themes and intense emotions of the era.

The representation of religion through art was given a lot of importance, with many artworks featuring saints, angels, martyrs and biblical scenes. In those religious-themed paintings, the technique Chiaroscuro was very commonly used; chiaroscuro consists on contrasting light and dark, and it added a dramatical aura to the paintings of this period.

Salamanca School[]

The School of Salamanca was perhaps one of the most revelant artistic and intellectual movements during the Spanish Golden Age. They were active from the 16th to 17th centuries and developed new ideas related to the Renaissance and Reformation, and other important topics such as human rights. Although the Salamaca School was more about ideas than art, various members notably engaged with fine arts and aesthetic theories, such as Francisco de Vitoria, who wrote about the relationship between beauty and social morals. He also considered art a perfect setting to express morality and ethical values.

Seville School[]

The Seville School of art attracted many artists who developed their own artistic style. Sevilian artists who belonged to this art movement mainly focused on naturalism and delicate details. The artist most associated with this movement is Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, whose works depicted scenes from everyday life, and also incorporated religious topics and spirituality.

Cusco School[]

The School of Cusco was the most influential artistic tradition in the Americas. It was estabilished in Cusco, in modern day Peru, which was part of the Spanish Empire (Viceroyalty of Peru) at the time. It was active during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Although it was estabilished in Peru, it also spreaded to other territories such as the Andes, modern Ecuador and Bolivia. The style was mainly developed by the artist Diego Quispe Tito. The style was exclusivily used to represent Catholic subjects, and it was characterized by its lack of a perspective. The colours used were traditionally bright red, gold and earth colours, and the visuals included distorted, dramatic images. Some common motifs were the use of flora, fauna and golden leaves, mainly in artworks featuring the Virgin Mary, and Warrior angels were also commonly depicted in artworks. The artworks were also inspired by Byzantine, Flemish, and Italian Renacentist Art.


Literature was a very important part of the Spanish Golden Age, as it reflected the taste, values and interests of the Spanish society of the time. It rightfully became the most important period of literature in Spain's history, and in fact the Castilian language reached its peak level of expressivity. Some of the most important novels ever were written during this period, such as Don Quixote, which is still subject to studies by modern scholars. Most of the Spanish Golden Age literature is expressed through poetry and various distinct novel genres, with the most important ones being Chivalric novels, Picaresque novels and Exemplary novels.

Chivalric Novels[]


Don Quixote de la Mancha and Sancho Panza, 1863, by Gustave Doré

The Chivalric Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela de Caballerías) focused on tales about knights, chivalry, and heroic adventures. The novels focus on characters (who typically fit the knight-errant archetype) who participate on a series of adventures quests and battles, because the protagonist is searching for love, honor or glory. The genre takes a lot of inspiration from Medieval literature and legends. The Chivalric Novel was arguably the most famous genre during the Spanish Golden Age. Due to its heroic and escapist nature, it easily caught the attention of all social classes, and they were read by the nobles, commoners and peasants. Don Quixote or Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes is the most well known Chivalric movie. Don Quixote takes place in Castile-La Mancha, where an hidalgo called Alonso Quijano reads so many Chivalric novels that he goes crazy and becomes a knight-errant, and goes on several adventures with his squire Sancho Panza. Don Quixote as been labelled as the world's first modern novel.

Historical Novels[]

The Historical Novel Genre (In Spanish: Novela Histórica) refers to Spanish novels that were purely fictional but set in an historical context, especially in Spain's. This genre recreates a modern perspective on the past by mixing real historical events with fictional characters and storylines. This way, the authors/writers tell their perception on what they think the past was like.

Sentimental Novels[]


Sueño del Caballero by Baroque painter Antonio de Pereda.

The Sentimental Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Sentimental) focused on the emotions, feelings, and personal experiences of the novel's characters. Typically, the stories usually follow the love life, friendships, families and social experiences of the protagonist. One of the most important plays belonging to this genre is Life is a Dream, published in 1635 by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. This story is set in Poland and revolves around Segismundo, a Polish prince who had been imprisoned since he was born.

Mystical Novels[]

The Mystical Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Mística) revolves around mystical, religious and spiritual topics. The novels express religious and occult experiences and typically talk about related themes such as divine love, spiritual awakenings, searching for the meaning of life and the fussion between the souls of God and the Believer. The most famous mystical novel is The Life of St. Teresa of Avila, an autobiography written by Teresa of Ávila herself and published in 1565.

Byzantine Romance Novels / Pilgrim Adventure Novels[]

The Byzantine Romance Novel or Pilgrim Adventure Novel (Spanish: Novela Bizantina or Novela de Adventuras Peregrinas) genre was developed in Spain between the 16th and 17th centuries: it was heavily inspired by the literary trends that were prevalent in the Byzantine Empire, and mimicked Hellenic authors. The genre is characterized by its mysterious plots, romantic themes, adventures and fantasy. The most important Spanish Byzantine Novel is El peregrino en su patria by Lope de Vega, published in 1605. The novel tells the story of Pánfilo and Nise, two characters who were in love and only managed to reach it after going through hard times and adventures.

Satirical Novels[]

The Spanish Satirical Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Sátirica) was prevalent from the 16th century to the 19th century. The novels used Burlesque and humoristic elements with the intent to criticize or mock the social, political, and religious institutions of the time, as well as their corruption and the hypocrisy of the Spanish society. Consequently, the genre overtime became really broad and moved onto a lot of social issues and topics, such as politics, religion, gender, and social class. The most well known Satirical novel is The Golden Ass (known as Las metamorfosis in Spanish) by Apuleyo, which although was a found ancient Latin novel from the 170s, gained important attention in Spanish Golden Age literature.

Moorish Novels[]

The Moorish Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Morisca) is a literary genre that focuses on the daily lives of the Moorish peoples (an historical term applied to any person of north African or Arab descent living in Europe) that were living in the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. This genre typically revolves around love, honor, religious conflicts, and cultural identity, as well as the conflicts between the Iberian Christians and the North African Muslims. Because of this, the novels often feature Muslim protagonists who find themselves caught up between their Islamic heritage and the Christian-dominated society they live in. However, they're not meant to accurately reflect the conflicts and rather are poetic interpretations. So basically, this novels represent the harshness of the conflicts between religious and cultural groups during the Middle Ages, but not in a historically accurate way. The first Moorish novel published is El Abencerraje by an anonymous author, published throughout 1561 and 1565. The story narrates the life of a Muslim knight (abencerraje) who falls in love with a Christian woman, and surrounds topics such as love, honor, and religious tolerance.

Picaresque Novels[]


An illustration representing the Lazarillo de Tornes novel.

The Picaresque Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Picaresca) focuses on characters described as Pícaros; a low class marginalized character who lives off wisely exploiting other people in mostly harmless ways. The picaro is usually depicted as an anti-hero, engaging in dishonest or morally questionable behaviours to survive in a corrupt society. As the genre's name suggests, they serve as the protagonists of the novels. It is characterized by its episodic structure, satirical tone, and the adventures of the protagonist. These novels often provide criticism on society, social issues, institutions, and human nature. The most important Picaresque novel is Lazarillo de Tormes by an anonymous author, published in 1554. This specific novel is very popular even to this day, and some people have described it as "timeless", since it's easy to relate to it even in modern times. The novel narrates the life of Lazarillo, a young boy who over time becomes the servant of various persons, each representing a specific social class. From his personal experiences, Lazarillo exposes the hypocrisy and corruption of Spanish society at the time.

Exemplary Novels[]

The Spanish Exemplary Novel Genre (Spanish: Novela Ejemplar) surged in the 16th Century. As its name suggests, it preaches didadistic and moral values, and it also focuses on the lives of ordinary people. This genre was popularized by various Spanish writers such as Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo, and Tirso de Molina, who used satire and humor to criticize society. The most important characteristics of the Spanish Exemplary Novel is its focus on honor, morality, and personal integrity. Exemplary Novels usually incorporate topics such as love, family life, and social classes, to show a realistic point of view on the typical human interactions and social norms of the time. The most well known example of an Exemplary Novel is the Novelas Ejemplares series by Miguel de Cervantes, written from 1590 to 1612 and published in 1613.

Pastoral Novels[]


La Galatea, by Cecilio Pla

The Pastoral Novel genre (Spanish: novela pastoril, also called Bucolic or Eclogue) is based around the idealization of the rural world, in particular one where shepherds and shepherdesses live in peace and harmony with nature. The novels' topics are usually about love, beauty, and living a simple rural life. The shepherds and shepherdesses are often in love, but they often face obstacles to reach it. They traditionally use poetic characteristics and lyrical descriptions. La Diana (1559) by Jorge de Montemayor is considered one of the earliest and most influential Pastoral Novels, and La Galatea (1585) by Miguel de Cervantes is possibly the most famous example. La Galatea revolves around the love story of Elicio and Galatea, two young shepherds who face numerous obstacles in their pursuit of happiness.

Literary Archetypes[]

Some character tropes, archetypes and subcultures originating from the Spanish Golden Age literary works include:

  • Don Juan: also called Don Giovannis in Italian, are legendary characters who devote their life to seducing women.
  • Pícaro: Pícaros are legendary characters who do immoral yet not very important things and are smart and clever. They were written to be teens and young adults who slightly rejected the system and lived independently, often stealing things and cleverly resisting the justice system. They originate from Picaresque novel genre, which was revived during the Spanish Golden Age. The most well known example of a Pícaro character is Lázaro de Tormes.
  • Quixote: Quixotes are characters who are resistent heroes. Emotionally, they represent a mix of tragedy and comedy. The most well known Quixote character is Don Quijote.
  • Tonto-sabio: Tonto-sabios, literally meaning "Dumb-wise" in Spanish, are characters who might seem dumb but are actually really smart. The most well known character with this archetype is Sancho Panza.
  • Caballero Errante: Translating to Knight-Errant in English, Cabelleros Errantes are Knight characters who are portrayed as noble and virtuous warriors who embarked on quests to promote justice, defend weak people, and make women fall in love with them.


Spanish Golden Age Architecture is divided into three styles: Plateresque, Herrerian and Churrigueresque (also known as Ultra Baroque). This architectural styles mainly flourished in Madrid, Toledo and Andalusia, as well as in other ex-Spanish colonies.

Plateresque Architecture[]


University of Salamanca, Spain

Plateresque Architecture flourished in Spain during the late 15th century and the 16th century, especially in the Spanish city of Salamanca. It was inspired by past trends in Spain such as the Renaissance and Gothic Architecture. This style is characterized by its ornate and eleborate ornaments, for example the monuments' facades are typically adorned with delicate stone carvings, such as reliefs, friezesor moldings. The decorations use traditional and cultural elements such as heraldry, mythological figures & creatures, Christian religious scenes and geometric patterns. Pinnacles, finials, and gargoyles are also quite common. The monuments are usually tall and slender, and they often have multiple levels. The term Plateresco is derivated from the Spanish world plata, meaning silver, because this style traditionally incorporates motifs originating from silversmith techniques.
Plateresque monuments sometimes also take inspiration and motifs from other existing architectural styles, such as Gothic Architecture, Mudéjar Architecture and Renaissance motifs.
The style started declining in the 16th century, when the newer architectural styles from the Spanish Empire gained more popularity.

Churrigueresque Architecture[]


Santa Prisca Temple, Taxco, Mexico.

Churrigueresque Architecture, also called Ultra Baroque, is a highly ornate and elaborate architectural style that was prevalent during the Spanish Golden Age, specially during the 17th century. Some traits of this style include exuberant decorations, intricate and elegant details & ornamentation, and an exaggerated use of curves or counter-curves. Churrigueresque interiors are often lavish and ornate. The ceilings are traditionally decorated with yesería which uses many fancy and detailed motifs and patterns. This style in particular was closely related with the Roman Catholic Church and its cultural influence at the time. As such, this architectural style was mostly reserved for churches, cathedrals and monasteries, among other buildings for Catholic purposes. Its name Churrigueresco comes from the Spanish & Catalan surname Churriguera, which was a family of Baroque architects from Catalonia. As this and its other name Ultra Baroque suggests, it is very associated with the Baroque period.
In the Spanish ex-territories, this style flourished and evolved into its own modern thing incorporating elements from the local cultures. Some of the most valued Churrigueresque masterpieces are today located in Mexico. This style also has a revival movement in California, called "California Churrigueresque". A well known example of California Churrigueresque is the Casa del Prado theatre in San Diego.

Herrerian Architecture[]


Calle de Alcalá by Antonio Joli. This painting represents how Madrid used to be full of Herrerian architecture.

Herrerian Architecture was the architectural style developed in Spain during the third and last stage of the Spanish Renaissance movement during the reign of Philip II. Its prevalence continued during the 17th century, however, it eventually became more influenced by Baroque. Herrerian architecture is characterized by its grandeur, symmetry, and use of classical elements, and it is heavily inspired by the Italian Renaissance, Andrea Palladio's works in particular. This style was named after Juan de Herrera, a Spanish architect who helped develop the style itself. This style was encouraged by the Spanish Habsburg dinasty.

Spanish Neo-Colonial Architecture Around the World[]


Balboa Park, California, USA.

The term Spanish Neo-Colonial Architecture refers to any monument or type or architecture that takes heavy inspiration from the architectural styles that were prevalent during the Spanish colonial era. This monuments and architectural movements are usually found in places where the Spanish colonialists were present, such as most of The Americas or the former Spanish East Indies, but not necessarily, as this styles have also been practiced in Australia and China. Because of this, Spanish Neo-Colonial Architecture can be divided in multiple styles, such as California Churrigueresque, United States Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Estilo Misión or Mexico's Neo-Colonial Style, among many multiple other styles that can be found in Florida, Hawaii, Australia, China, Argentina, etc.


Some notable architects of the Spanish Golden Age include:

  • Alonso de Covarrubias
  • Carlos Martinez
  • Diego de Siloé
  • Pedro Machuca
  • Andrés de Vandelvira
  • Diego de Riaño
  • Juan Bautista de Toledo
  • Juan de Herrera
  • Francisco de Mora
  • Juan Gómez de Mora
  • José de Churriguera

Notable Monuments (Spain)[]

Notable Monuments (Ex-Spanish Colonies)[]


Spanish Golden Age Fashion was characterized by its opulence and luxurious style, matching the wealth and power of the Spanish nobility of the time. The use of expensive fabrics like silk, velvet, and satin was common, as well as intricate embroidery, lace, and jewels. Generally, a person's fashion choice often could "read into" one's social and laboral status through elaborate clothing and accessories. Religious motifs were also common in the clothing, due to its important influence. Motifs such as rosaries, crosses and images of saints were commonly found, especially in women's dresses, because modesty and purity were seen as fundamental feminine traits. Along with this, Gender roles were a fundamental value of the society, so men wore loose-fitting garments with intricate details, while women wore more restrictive clothing that traditionally represented modesty. Another important key feature of the fashion worn during the Spanish Golden Age were the regional and historical influences. Since Spain was a recently unified country at the time, pretty all the regions had pretty distinct cultural backgrounds (for example; the Castilians, Aragonese, Granadians/Andalusians, Catalans, Basques, Navarrans, Galicians, Asturians, Leonese, Valencians, etc. - All of these regions had their differences due to the fact they were distinct kingdoms before unification), and this obviously contributed to the sense of fashion in Spain during the 16th and 17th century. The north of Spain was stereotypically considered to be more modest, conservative, religious and 'cultured', while the south of Spain was considered romantic and warm. Southern fashion also included north African and Andalusi influences such as Moorish-inspired patterns and colours, reflecting the long standing Muslim heritage of the south.


Some common elements used in Spanish Golden Age outfits include:


  • Ruffs
  • Doublets
  • Capes
  • Jerkins
  • Hoses
  • Codpieces
  • Leather boots
  • Shoes with high heels or pointed toes
  • Musketeer-inspired hats


  • Bodices
  • Mantillas
  • Collars
  • Ruffs
  • Farthingales
  • Dresses
  • Gowns
  • Silky sleepers with jewels


  • Ruffs
  • Jewelry
  • Fans
  • Roses
  • Decorative bows
  • Religious motifs
    • Crosses
    • Pictures of Saints
    • Rosaries



  • Diego Velázquez
  • Jusepe de Ribera
  • Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
  • Francisco de Zurbarán
  • Francisco Ribalta
  • El Greco
  • Francisco Pacheco
  • Pedro Aibar Jiménez
  • Martín Amigo
  • José Antolínez
  • Vicente Berdusán
  • Juan Carreño de Miranda
  • Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina
  • Juan de Juanes
  • Juan de Flandes
  • Pedro Berruguete
  • Alonso Berruguete
  • Luis de Morales
  • Juan Correa de Vivar
  • Alejo Fernández
  • Pedro Machuca
  • Alonso Sánchez Coello
  • Juan Pantoja de la Cruz
  • Alonso Cano
  • Claudio Coello
  • Francisco Herrera el Viejo
  • Francisco Herrera el Mozo
  • Juan de Valdés Leal
  • Juan van der Hamen y León
  • Mateo Cerezo
  • Juan Fernández de Navarrete
  • Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo
  • Juan Bautista Maíno


  • Miguel de Cervantes
  • Francisco Gómez de Quevedo
  • Lope de Vega
  • Santa Teresa de Jesús
  • Tirso de Molina
  • Fernando de Rojas
  • Alonso de Ledesma
  • Luis de Ulloa y Pereira
  • Andrés Rey de Artieda
  • Salvador Jacinto Polo de Medina
  • Vicente Espinel
  • Diego Jiménez de Enciso
  • Cristóbal de Mesa
  • Constanza Ossorio
  • Lope de Rueda
  • María de Zayas
  • Gregorio Silvestre
  • Luis José Velázquez De Velasco
  • Antonio Hurtado de Mendoza

Literature & Plays[]

  • Don Quixote / (Don Quijote de La Mancha) by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea / (La Celestina) by Fernando de Rojas
  • Lazarillo de Tormes (by an anonymous author)
  • Life Is a Dream / (La vida es sueño) by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
  • Fuenteovejuna by Lope de Vega
  • Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla
  • The Dog In The Manger / (El Perro del Hortelano) by Lope de Vega
  • The Lady Boba: A Woman of Little Sens / (La Dama Boba) by Lope de Vega
  • La Galatea by Miguel de Cervantes
  • La Diana by Jorge de Montemor.

Movies & TV Shows[]

  • Alatriste (2006)
  • La conjura de El Escorial (2008)
  • Isabel (2011-2014)
  • The Spanish Princess (2019)
  • The Maidens' Conspiracy / (El Tirante Al Blanco) (2006)
  • The Dog In The Manger / (El Perro del Hortelano) (1996)
  • El Greco (2007)