I can't say that I've ever battled jet lag this badly before and lost. I feel like a gored matador, limping along with a torn capote and a broken sword. A losing battle that I, however, will not resign. Yesterday morning I slept in till almost noon after getting to bed at 2 AM. So we cooked some breakfast at home and spent the morning in interesting and deep conversations on religions. The type of social taboo's that you can comfortably break with your closest of friends.
The goal for the day, however, was to go to the Prado Museum and I was determined to make it with enough time. The online information says to allow three to four hours for the museum. I call bullshit. You need to get there when they open because you will be there until close. It's an all-day event. To understand why let us start with the history of the Prado.
The building that today houses the Museo Nacional del Prado was designed by architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785. It was constructed to house the Natural History Cabinet, by orders of King Charles III. However, the building's final purpose - as the new Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures - was the decision of the monarch's grandson, King Ferdinand VII, encouraged by his wife Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza. The Royal Museum, soon quickly renamed the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures and subsequently, the Museo Nacional del Prado opened to the public for the first time in November 1819. The Museum's first catalog, published in 1819, included 311 paintings, although at that time its collection comprised just over 1,510 pictures from the various Reales Sitios (Royal Residences). The exceptionally important royal collection, which represents the foundation of the Museum's collection as we know it today, started to increase significantly in the 16th century during the time of Charles V and continued to thrive under the succeeding Habsburg and Bourbon Monarchs. We owe to them the presence of some of the Museums greatest masterpieces.
More than 2,300 paintings have been incorporated into the Museum del Prado since its opening as well as a large number of sculptures, prints, drawings and works of art through bequests, donations and purchases, which account for most of the New Acquisitions. Particularly important was the Barón Emile d'Erlanger's donation of Goya's Black Paintings in 1881.
Important bequests have enriched the Museum's collection. Among them, we should mention the magnificent collection of medals bequeathed by Don Pablo Bosch's, the vast collection of drawings and decorative arts that belonged to Don Pedro Fernández Durán's, and the Ramón de Errazu Bequest of 19th-Century Painting.
The Prado's Collection, as well as its number of visitors, increased greatly throughout the 19th and 20th century. In order to more fully accommodate them, the Villanueva building underwent several expansions to the point that any further intervention was no longer possible. At this point, the Museum's development was solved by constructing a new building located on a site facing the east facade of the Prado and interconnecting the two buildings from within.
Sound massive? Yeah, it really really is... We spent 4 hours there and didn't see but a 1/3 of everything. I could spend the rest of my time in Spain writing about what I did see however, I'll just sum up a few favorites.
We started with various works of Titan (I really love his work Salome), and Tiepolo who's "The Immaculate Conception" is quite beautiful. Along with Caravaggio's, David and Goliath and Baudry's The Pearl and the Wave really got things going for me. However, it wasn't until we Reached the Rubens that I really got floored. Saturn Devouring His Son, Three Graces, The Immaculate Conception (better than Tiepolo's in my opinion), and The Origin of the Milky Way all really popped out so much more in real life than any picture I've ever seen of them in a book.
Then while poking around one section I found the Prado's, Mona Lisa. The origins of the Prado's Mona Lisa are linked to those of Leonardo's original, as both paintings were likely created simultaneously in the same studio. This one was done by one of his apprentices most likely. Until it's restoration in 2012 it was thought a worthless copy by art critics. Once the black was removed and the background discovered, and it was dated, all that changed. Now the Prado's Mona Lisa is said to be, scientifically, the version with the most historical value. Nice to see that such old art still holds so many surprises.
We started running out of time so I went off to some of the Goya rooms to find my favorites, I didn't find those but did see La maja vestida, and La maja desnuda side by side. After that Red wanted to see the Raphael's and there was more Goya's downstairs so we headed down and stopped by the cafe after walking through a breath-taking sculpture hall. With snacks and cafe solos down we headed to the Raphael's. They were mind-blowing of course. There is a reason that Raphael is so well known. The one that caught me though was the Transfiguration. This is a massive painting that had to have the crown molding cut in the ceiling just to fit it on the wall, and it's own plinth created because it was too thick and large to actually hang on the wall. However, that's not what got my attention. I was very confused because I was sure that painting was in the Vatican City, and also pretty sure they didn't loan that one out. Not even to the Prado. Upon inspecting the placard I found the answer. This was Penni's copy of Transfiguration.
The original work was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Medici in 1516 for the cathedral of Narbonne. The Prelate also commissioned Sebastiano del Piombo to paint a Resurrection of Lazarus for the same location, which led to competition between the two artists. Giulio kept Raphael´s work and commissioned Giovanni Francesco Penni to make a copy, which he took to Naples. The Transfiguration is Raphael´s most ambitious altar painting. It even includes an episode which is not part of this biblical passage: the Apostle´s failure to exorcise a possessed man. This allowed the painter to undertake an exhibition of physical and emotional states intended to surpass those depicted by Piombo. I have never seen Raphael's original so that's why I probably didn't know the difference but there are some in specific details. Christ, Elias and Moses appear enveloped in an aura and the trees on the left have disappeared. There is also a notable attenuation of the chiaroscuro. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Duke of Medina de las Torres acquired this painting. His son later ceded it to the Carmelite nuns of Saint Theresa in Madrid.
Now with Raphael taken in it was off to find the Goya's and I did in the back gallery. A smaller room hosted Goya's Black Paintings. This is the name given to a group of fourteen paintings by Francisco Goya from the later years of his life, likely between 1819 and 1823. They portray intense, haunting themes, reflective of both his fear of insanity and his bleak outlook on humanity. In 1819, at the age of 72, Goya moved into a two-story house outside Madrid that was called Quinta del Sordo (Deaf Man's Villa). Although the house had been named after the previous owner, who was deaf, Goya too was nearly deaf at the time as a result of an illness he had suffered when he was 46. The paintings originally were painted as murals on the walls of the house, later being "hacked off the walls and attached to the canvas."
After the Napoleonic Wars and the internal turmoil of the changing Spanish government, Goya developed an embittered attitude toward mankind. He had a first-hand and acute awareness of panic, terror, fear, and hysteria. He had survived two near-fatal illnesses and grew increasingly anxious and impatient in fear of relapse. The combination of these factors is thought to have led to his production of the fourteen works known collectively as the Black Paintings.
Using oil paints and working directly on the walls of his dining and sitting rooms, Goya created works with dark, disturbing themes. The paintings were not commissioned and were not meant to leave his home. It is likely that the artist never intended the works for public exhibition: "...these paintings are as close to being hermetically private as any that have ever been produced in the history of Western art."
I could go on and on about all fourteen but it's two in particular that are my favorite. Witches' Sabbath or The Great He-Goat (Aquelarre or El gran cabrón) and Saturn Devouring His Son (Saturno devorando a un hijo).
In the Great He-Goat, it shows Satan as he holds court before a circle of crouched and mostly terrified women, accepted by art historians as a coven of witches. Some bow their heads in fear, others look towards him in open-mouthed and rapt awe. An old woman sits to the right of the goat; her back to the viewer. Her face is half hidden, and she wears a white-hooded headdress resembling a nun's habit. She sits alongside bottles and vials on the ground to her right. Art critic Robert Hughes wonders if they "contain the drugs and philtres needed for the devilish ceremonies". The eyes of some figures are lined with white paint. The faces of the two main figures – the goat and the woman to the far right – are hidden. The woman is separated from the group, she is perhaps a postulant to be initiated into the coven. She may represent Goya's maid and probable lover Leocadia Weiss, whose full-length portrait appears in the same series. Goya's depictions of witchcraft mocked what he saw as medieval fears exploited for political gain.
In the Saturn Devouring His Son, Goya depicts Saturn feasting upon one of his sons. His child's head and part of the left arm have already been consumed. The right arm has probably been eaten too, though it could be folded in front of the body and held in place by Saturn's thumbs. The Titan is on the point of taking another bite from the left arm; as he looms from the darkness, his mouth gapes and his eyes bulge widely. The only other brightness in the picture comes from the white flesh, the red blood of the corpse, the white knuckles of Saturn as he digs his fingers into the back of the body. There is evidence that the picture may have originally portrayed the titan with a partially erect penis but, if ever present, this addition was lost due to the deterioration of the mural over time or during the transfer to canvas; in the picture today the area around his groin is indistinct. It may even have been overpainted deliberately before the picture was put on public display.
Various interpretations of the meaning of the picture have been offered: the conflict between youth and old age, time as the devourer of all things, the wrath of God and an allegory of the situation in Spain, where the fatherland consumed its own children in wars and revolution. Goya may have been inspired by Peter Paul Rubens' 1636 picture of the same name. Rubens' painting, also held at the Museo del Prado, is a brighter, more conventional treatment of the myth: his Saturn exhibits less of the cannibalistic ferocity portrayed in Goya's rendition. However, some critics have suggested that Rubens' portrayal is the more horrific: the god is portrayed as a calculating remorseless killer, who – fearing for his own position of power – murders his innocent child.
Inspired by the Goya paintings on the way home I took us by El Retiro Park again to view the Fallen Angel. It is often said that Madrid is the only city in the world with a monument to the Devil. In fact, it is a fountain, representing the Fallen Angel being exiled from Paradise. Located in the Retiro tourist area, it was sculpted by Ricardo Bellver in 1878 for the Paris World Fair held that year. Subsequently, it was acquired by the Madrid City Council, who commissioned the architect Francisco Jareño to design the pedestal. It was made of granite, brass, and stone, creating a fountain structure with a wide basin. The piece was officially inaugurated in 1885.
Afterward we took a new route home and grabbed some Mediterranean takeaway from Shisha. This time in bed by midnight. Yay right??? right??? no... I laid there not able to fall asleep until after 3:30 in the morning. Damn you jetlag, you win again.