Aguirre y Ortés de Velasco, José María, V Marquis of Montehermoso

(Vitoria, 1733-1798)
Second Lifetime Director (1785-1798) of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country.

A prominent figure during the Alava Enlightenment, that triggered the desires and interests of a family who enjoyed the favour of the new dynasty ever since Philip V, who had recently entered the Peninsula, was staying at the palace in Vitoria owned by the Aguirre family, and who would later be captivated by the virtues of María Antonio de Salcedo y Chávarri, the widow of Vicente José de Aguirre y Zárate. Once the title of Marquis of Montehermoso was granted in 1708, the Aguirres henceforth maintained a strong link with the courtiers favored during the mid-century by the presence of Tiburcio Aguirre Ayanz in Madrid, an uncle of our protagonist.

As a second son in the line of succession to the title, José María Aguirre pursued a military career which, during the late 1740s, led him to the War of Naples. Until 1760 he served in Italy where he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Rosellón cavalry regiment. He took part in the Algiers Expedition (1775) and the blockade of Gibraltar (1779), to be then promoted to lieutenant general, and from 1786 he headed the Captaincy General of Gipuzkoa.

The aforementioned Tiburcio Aguirre had a remarkable influence on the education and intellectual development of the Aguirre brothers. The eldest, Francis Xavier (1732-1763), the Fourth Marquis of Montehermoso, showed greater inclinations for science. He belonged to the Royal Spanish Academy, and was an honorary member (1750), temporary member (1751) and full member (1754). Our protagonist, the Fifth Marquis of Montehermoso since 1763, was a devotee of Natural History and Fine Arts. In his residence in Vitoria, he established a veritable museum where you could see the most unusual pieces relating to science and a select collection of paintings including works by Italian and Spanish masters. Through the intercession of his uncle, he was named honorable academician for the painting (1756) of the Academy of San Fernando.

He was involved in the founding of the Royal Basque Society, being one of its most active members as a result of his friendship with the Count of Peñaflorida, his cousin, and his good standing in Madrid, where he undertook several tasks in support of the Enlightenment project. At its General Assemblies held in Vitoria in 1766, he read a speech on architecture that was published in Ensayo de la Sociedad Bascongada (Vitoria, 1768) under the title Discurso sobre la comodidad de las casas, que procede de su distribución exterior e interior (Discourse on the comfort of the houses, which comes from its exterior and interior layout). Along with Lorenzo Prestamero, he is credited with the publication of the work Guía de Forasteros en Vitoria por lo respectivo a la tres bellas artes de Pintura, Escultura, y Arquitectura, con otras noticias curiosas que nacen de ellas [Vitoria, 1792]. On the death of Peñaflorida in 1785, he was appointed lifetime director of the Royal Basque Society of the Friends of the Country later that same year.




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