The Sert canvases

The Sert Canvases, housed in the church of San Telmo, are one of the museum’s finest jewels. In 1929, when the building was restored– and in thinking on how the convent was to be adapted to its new role as a museum - following the advice of the painter Ignacio Zuloaga, it was agreed that the walls of the church would be covered with paints illustrating the most important events in our history. This work was commissioned to the painter José María Sert (Barcelona, 1874 – 1945), who did the work on 17 drapes -11 canvases – over a surface area of 784 m2.

Between 2007 and 2013 Sert Canvases were restored.

The eleven scenes of San Telmo

Made of colour varnishes on a metallic background, represent the life and the history of Gipuzkoa: its people, its traditional activities, feats and beliefs.

1 A People of Legends

This scene refers to the akelarre, a rite from days gone by which is an unequivocal sign of the old beliefs of the Basque Country.

A People of Leyends

2 A People of the Wise

Our “Knights of Azkoitia”, who have set up the Basque Society of Friends of the Country, are visited by a wise chemist from abroad.

A People of the Wise

3 A People of Freedom

This Canvas is dedicated to the tree of Gernika, a symbol of the freedoms of Vasconia. At the foot of the old oak tree lies a huge open book, symbolising the rights of Biscay.

A People of Freedom

4 A People of Ship-owners

Sert represents the activity of the shipyards via a long row of hips. It is the building of the Invincible Armada.

A People of Ship-owners

5 A People of Rights

Alfonso VIII, king of Castile, vows the rights of Gipuzkoa.

A People of Rights

6 The Altar of Race

In the midst of a stormy sea, a stone block rises up like a watchtower. There, clinging to a tree, is San Telmo –patron saint of seamen – who, staff in hand, is saving a boat that is just about to come to grief.

The Altar of Race

7 A People of Fishermen

In a port in Gipuzkoa, a large number of fisherman are straining to haul a whale up a ramp.

A People of Fishermens

8 A People of Navigators

This canvas represents the halcyon days of Juan Sebastián Elkano, a sailor from Gipuzkoa - Getaria- who sailed around the world.

A People of Navigators

9 A People of Merchants

Canvas dedicated to the Royal Company of Gipuzkoa of Caracas, an organisation that gave the province an uncommon economic boost in the 18th Century.

A People of Merchants

10 A People of Saints

Ignacio de Loiola writes the Constitutions of the Company of Jesus, dictated by Christ who, with one hand un-nailed, gives him advice from the cross.

A People of Saints

11 A People of Blacksmiths

A group of blacksmiths forge a monumental anchor that evokes the days when the Gilisasti foundry made anchors for the English navy.

A People of Blacksmiths

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  • Ayuntamiento de Donostia-San Sebastián
  • Gobierno Vasco
  • Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa
  • Ministerio de Cultura