AUCTION 55 | Thursday, June 21st, 2012 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts Autograph Letters, Graphic & Ceremonial Art

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Lot 308


Thirteen Manuscript Documents relating to the Spanish Conchillos Family. Most interesting cache of personal papers of one of the great Marrano families who wielded great power in Aragon and the Americas in the early 16th century. All documents in Spanish, all on paper (except 1486, on vellum), all unbound. A detailed collation of each manuscript is available upon request.

Tarazona, (Spain): 15th-17th centuries

Est: $12,000 - $18,000
These 13 documents vividly convey the wealth and influence of the noble Conchillos, or de Conchillos dynasty, major landed proprietors in and around the city of Tarazona, Aragon, throughout the early modern period. By the last quarter of the 15th century, when this documentation begins, members of the family had distinguished themselves in war and occupied prominent positions in government and the church. However in the first quarter of the 15th century, the Conchillos had been one of the 300 families that made Calatayud, Aragon (38 miles from Tarazona), one of the strongest Jewish communities in Spain. All that changed around 1414, in the aftermath of the “rigged” Disputation of Tortosa, which so demoralized Aragonese Jews and emboldened Christians. A barrage of new restrictions and threats led to wholesale defections among Calatayud Jews, with many leading families among the defectors. The number of conversions was so high that by 1415 the synagogue was ready to become a church--voluntarily. One Calatayud Jew baptized at this time, Azariah Chinillo, took the new name Luis de Santangel; it was his grandson and namesake who served as chancellor at the court of Ferdinand and Isabella and is immortalized as the principal enabler of Columbus and, also in 1492, of the maritime voyages of the Spanish Jewish refugees. The Conchillos, similar in many ways to the Chinillos, are represented in the mid- and late- 15th century by the brothers Lope Conchillos and Pedro Conchillos. Lope, a canon lawyer and churchman, was dean both of Tarazona and of Jaca, up in the Pyrenees in the north of Aragon. His brother Pedro, having conducted himself gallantly fighting the Moors in Granada, was rewarded with a crown appointment as governor of Tarazona--an important center of trade, where Aragon shares a border with Castile and Navarre, and, like Calatayud, home to a major Jewish community. Pedro married another New Christian, Margarita Quintana, whose uncle was--like Santangel and Columbus’s other “correspondent” at court, Sanchez, one of the coterie of administrators of Jewish extraction to whom Ferdinand elected to entrust his affairs. Among the children of Pedro and Margarita were: Gonzalo de Conchillos, the principal beneficiary of his uncle Lope’s will (item 1 in this lot) and Lope’s successor as Dean of Jaca--though evidently not a priest, if his marriage contract (item 2 in this lot) is any indicator; Garcia de Conchillos, a leading knight of one of the Spanish military orders, in which capacity he controlled great estates in Aragon; and Jaime de Conchillos, bishop of two Aragonese Italian possessions: Gerace (Calabria) and Catania (Sicily), and then, from 1512-42, Bishop of Lleida (Spanish: Lérida) in Aragon. Here he made what may be the Conchillos family’s greatest contribution, doing much, as a patron of the arts, to promote the Plateresque Gothic-Renaissance style of architecture and decoration. The eldest of the brothers rose to an even higher echelon of fame and fortune, yet none of his accomplishments is so unambiguously positive. Lope de Conchillos y Quintana was quite possibly the most successful (and quite possibly the most corrupt) Spanish politician of his time. Introduced into government as a young man by his mother’s courtier uncle, he rose to be first secretary to Ferdinand the Catholic in the generation immediately following Santangel and Sanchez. Indicative of his extraordinary political prowess, he managed to remain in power for the rest of his life, serving as trusted “prime minister” not only to Ferdinand but to the next three sovereigns or regents of Aragon: Joanna the Mad, Philip the Handsome, and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His service was interrupted only by a period of imprisonment, meant to get him out of the way while his much wronged mistress, Joanna, was falsely institutionalized. This association with her may be the great redeeming feature of his life. Certainly, he needs redeeming, as the strongest advocate for aggressive exploitation of the mineral wealth, and, thus, the indigenous people, of Spain’s American colonies. This stance made him the nemesis of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Bishop of Chiapas and official Protector of the Indians. It did endear him to his employers, though, all of whom reaped vast quick-and-dirty profits, as did he. For his efforts, he was ennobled as Count of Villa Umbrosa and granted the city of Arecibo and large tracts of land elsewhere in Puerto Rico. <<The documents comprising this lot are as follows: >> (i) Last will and testament of Lope de Conchillos, Doctor of Civil and Canon Law, Dean of Jaen. Tarazona, 1486. (ii) Marriage contract of Gonzalo de Conchillos to Elvira, daughter of Diego and Catalina de Castejon, 1489. (iii) Deed of sale by the Confraternity of San Francisco of property in Tarazona to Pedro de Conchillos, 1520. (iv) Deed of sale of property of the Tudela road at Tarazona to Alonzo de Soria, Archdeacon of Tortosa, 1524. (v) Transfer of property by Gonzalo de Conchillos, 1525. (vi) Inventory of the movable property of Gonzalo de Conchillos, 1525. (vii) Specific bequests from the “houses, vineyards, olive groves, orchards, fields, and property of Don Hernanado de Conchillos in the city of Tarazona in 1564.” Beneficiaries include his sister Isabel and the chantry at the cathedral of Tarazona endowed by his great-grandfather, Gonzalo de Conchillos. (viii) Ledger recording the acquisitions and gifts made by Pedro and Gonzalo Conchillos, early 16th century. (ix) Rent-roll of property acquired by Pedro de Conchillos in Tarazona, 1615. (x) Rent-roll of the estates held by the Count of Villa Umbrosa in the city of Tarazona, 1639. (xi) Transfer to the Conchillos family of a royal endowment originally originally gifted to Sancho de Rojas, archbishop of Toledo, in 1419. Not before 1668. (xii) and (xiii) Narrative accounts of early 16th-century property acquisitions by Lope (the younger) and Gonzalo de Conchillos in Tarazona and of subsequent actions on the part of their heirs as late as 1647. For more on the Conchillos family and the sources of its immense wealth, see A. Franco Silva, “El primer oro de las indias: La fortuna de Lope Conchillos, secretario de Fernando el Católico,” in: Historia, Instituciones, Documentos 33 (2006) 123-171.