Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Academy of Fine Arts

Just around the corner from don Quijote (past the overpriced Starbucks on the corner) is the impressively named Museo De La Real Academia De Bellas Artes De San Fernando. There's the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, see, and they've got their own little museum, and somehow Saint Fernando comes into, which makes no sense at all, because Saint Fernando is the patron saint of Seville. If you are wondering which Saint Fernando we are talking about here, I´ll give you a hint - he was one half of the hit Iberian team - "los reyes catolicos" (the Christian monarchs) back in the day. The Sonny to Isabel's Cher, if you will.

On May 30 Seville celebrates the festival of Saint Ferdinand, the Patron Saint of the City. Ferdinand was the King and leader of the Christian Reconquest in Seville, which was at the time under Muslim control, thereby reincorporating it to the Crown of Castilla and León in the 13th century. Seville commemorates this eminently Christian day with various acts in the cathedral, among which the contemplation of the uncorrupted body of the monarch is of special note. The body is conserved in a crystal urn and can be viewed from the early morning in the Main Altar.

If I'm reading this correctly, his sainthood was a reward to putting an end to 700 years of peaceful coexistence among Christians, Jews, and Muslims throughout Andalucía. Way to go, Ferdy!!

But I digress. The museum is right there on the Calle Alcalá, a two-minute walk from the Puerta del Sol. And [practical tip for travelers coming right up] admission is free on Wednesdays. So, today, instead of walking by obliviously, as I've done every day for the past three weeks, I stopped in to pay a visit.

Which is how I made the acquaintance of a painter about whom I had been shamefully ignorant up until now, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, more commonly known simply as Goya. He became Director of the Academy in 1795, a position he retained for several years. The museum has two full rooms dedicated to his paintings, including a remarkable self-portrait (below), and a series of depictions of children at play (one example above).

I have only hinted at the riches in this (small) museum, but it's getting awfully late, so I will have to leave it there for this evening.
The plain people of Ireland: Hey! You can't stop without telling us about yer man the flower child above.
The management: You're right. That picture, also in the gallery, is one of a set called "The Four Seasons" by a 16th century painter called Arcimboldi. The other three are in Paris and Vienna.
The plain people of Ireland: Then yer man must be "Spring", so.
The management: Yes, indeed. There's hope for you yet.

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