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This book sets out to describe the experiences of foreign ambassadors dispatched to Spain during the long reign of Philip IV (1621–65). Through a selection of diplomats of various nationalities—from the Holy Roman Empire, the Holy See, France, England, Venice, Tuscany, Genoa, the small Italian states, Sweden, Denmark, and the Ottoman Empire—it paints a broad picture of political missions to the ‘Planet King’ and of personal agendas in Golden-Age Madrid. With their different perceptions of the Habsburg court and life in a city that was entirely transformed into the capital of a worldwide monarchy in the decades of the mid-seventeenth century, these men bear fascinating witness to the interactions between a dominant state at pains to preserve its hegemonic role and a variety of powers ranging from close allies to sworn enemies on the international stage.
The operations of the administrative and political system with which new ambassadors were confronted on reaching Madrid are scrutinised here by a distinguished group of academics, museum curators and independent researchers who provide complementary approaches to diplomatic history. Twenty-one specialists from eight different countries contribute texts devoted to thirteen ambassadors and highlight specific assignments in the foreign service, showing how much these agents relied on their own backgrounds and interests when assessing Spaniards and Spain. Mostly based on unpublished sources and lavishly illustrated with more than 280 images, this anthology of essays sheds light on Madrid as a centre of international diplomacy and offers a new perspective on the king who was deemed by Europeans to be the most powerful monarch in the world.
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This summary was taken from the CEEH website.
The Spanish government’s Ministry of Culture and Sport has recently published a document detailing how museums and galleries may be able to manage visitors and collections once lockdown has been fully lifted in Spain. Xanthe Brooke has written a summary of their guidance:
‘In addition to implementing hygiene and physical distancing rules the Dept. considers that in the short term at least there will be no room for block-buster exhibitions attracting mass tourism, nor social and educational activities attracting groups of visitors, and that cultural activities should resume with the limitation of capacity to one third. Museum libraries, archives and research rooms will not be available to the public until the de-escalation phases have been completed and, in any case, assistance by telematic means will prevail.
Instead museums and galleries should continue to make their collections accessible by placing their collections online by digitisation, virtual reality, and other technological means. The Dept. goes on to state that though lower visitor numbers might increase the quality of the visit, it might also lead to a more ‘elitist museum’, and so museums must ensure that future visitors are diverse, and seek out methods in which participation can involve different sectors of society.
The Reina Sofía Museum of Contemporary Art has already announced that when it re-opens, sometime in early to mid-June, as well as abiding by hygiene and temperature advice, it will: aim to reduce its visitor numbers to 30% of its previous footfall; introduce a 1-way system around its rooms; and withdraw paper brochures, maps, plans and guides to the museum to prevent the transfer of the virus, and instead introduce an app for visitors’ mobile phones.’
Please find additional information on the guidance here (in Spanish): https://www.hoyesarte.com/artes-visuales/como-planificar-la-reapertura-de-los-museos_278418/
A book launch and Q&A will be held on the 23 November, 3–5pm, at the Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck University of London.
In this book launch, Birkbeck scholar Mpalive Msiska will interview Dr Carmen Fracchia, from the Department of Cultures and Languages, about her new book Black but Human: Slavery and Visual Arts in Hapsburg Spain, 1480–1700 (OUP, 2019). This will be followed by a brief conversation between the author and the visual artist Victoria Burgher, who will give a short presentation of her work.
Carmen Fracchia is a Paraguayan academic trained originally in Italian and Spanish Art History at the Universities of Siena and University College London. She is a Reader in Hispanic Art History at Birkbeck. Her work focuses on the visual articulations of Hispanic intellectual, political, and religious thought about local Spanish and transatlantic slavery, freedom, subjectivity, race, and hybridity, with special emphasis to the visual representations of Africans and Afro-Hispanic enslaved and liberated people, such as Juan de Pareja (Antequera, c.1610-Madrid, c.1670).
Mpalive Msiska is a Malawian academic who is a Reader in English and Humanities at Birkbeck where he teaches courses and supervises research work on Post-colonial and Global literatures as well as interdisciplinary subjects. He has previously taught at Bath Spa University and the University of Malawi, among others. His publications include Post-Colonial Identity in Wole Soyinka (2007), Wole Soyinka (1998), Writing and Africa (1997) and The Quiet Chameleon: A Study of Poetry from Central Africa (1992) and the most recent chapter ‘Divine Ways of Cognition: the Burden of the Poet-Seer in Soyinka’s Idanre,’ in The Soyinka Impulse, eds Duro Oni and Bisi Adigun. He is a member of the Caine Prize Advisory Board, the Council of the British Institute in Eastern Africa as well as the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern African Studies.
Victoria Burgher is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives and works in East London. She studied at Goldsmiths College (MA) and her politically engaged practice ranges from sculptural installations and site-specific interventions to collaborative community projects. She is interested in art’s ability to challenge histories and a fascination with materials and process inform her approach to making. Current work uses colonial commodities to decolonise the nostalgic narrative of Empire. She exhibits regularly in the UK and Europe.
Alfonso X ‘the Learned’ of Castile (1252–1284) was praised in his lifetime as a king who devoted himself to discovering all worldly and divine knowledge. He commissioned chronicles and law codes and composed poems to the Virgin Mary, he gathered together Jewish scholars to translate works of Arab astrology and astronomy, and he founded a university of Latin and Arabic studies at Seville. Moreover, according to his nephew Juan Manuel, Alfonso was careful to ensure that ‘he had leisure to look into things he wanted for himself’. The level of his personal involvement in this literary activity marks him out as an exceptional patron in any period. However, Alfonso’s relationship with the arts also had much in common with that of other thirteenth-century European royal patrons, among them his first cousin, Louis IX of France. Like his contemporaries, he relentlessly used literary works as a vehicle to promote his royal status and advance his claim to the imperial crown. His motivation for the foundation of the university at Seville was arguably political rather than educational, and instead of promoting institutional learning during his reign, Alfonso preferred to direct the messages about his kingship in the lavish manuscripts he patronized to a restricted, courtly audience. Yet such was the interest of the works he commissioned, that those who could obtain copies did so, even if these were still incomplete drafts. Three codices traditionally held to have been copied for Alfonso in fact show how this learning reserved for the few began to filter out beyond the Learned King’s immediate circle.
Kirstin Kennedy is a curator of metalwork (specializing in silver) at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She previously held a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship at King’s College London, in the Department of Spanish and Spanish American Studies (2000–2003).
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In ‘Black but Human’ Carmen Fracchia, Reader in Hispanic Art History at Birkbeck, explores the emergence of the slave and freed slave subjects in the visual form of Imperial Spain. The book considers the links between visual regimes and early modern Spanish discourses on slavery and human diversity that are the historic roots of contemporary racism in the Hispanic world.
‘Black but Human’ is the first study to focus on the visual representations of African slaves and ex-slaves in Spain during the Hapsburg dynasty. The Afro-Hispanic proverb ‘Black but Human’ is the main thread of the six chapters and serves as a lens through which to explore how a certain visual representation of slavery both embodies and reproduces hegemonic visions of enslaved and liberated Africans, and at the same time provides material for critical and emancipatory practices by Afro-Hispanics themselves.
The African presence in the Iberian Peninsula between the late fifteenth century and the end of the seventeenth century was as a result of the institutionalization of the local and transatlantic slave trades. In addition to the Moors, Berbers and Turks born as slaves, there were approximately two million enslaved people in the kingdoms of Castile, Aragón and Portugal. The ‘Black but Human’ topos that emerges from the African work songs and poems written by Afro-Hispanics encodes the multi-layered processes through which a black emancipatory subject emerges and a ‘black nation’ forges a collective resistance. It is visually articulated by Afro-Hispanic and Spanish artists in religious paintings and in the genres of self-portraiture and portraiture. This extraordinary imagery coexists with the stereotypical representations of African slaves and ex-slaves by Spanish sculptors, engravers, jewellers, and painters mainly in the religious visual form and by European draftsmen and miniaturists, in their landscape drawings and sketches for costume books.
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VALENTÍN CARDERERA Y SOLANO (Huesca, 1796 – Madrid, 1880) was a painter, scholar, communicator, collector and traveller. His life was marked by his efforts to safeguard Spain’s historical heritage and he journeyed around much of the Spanish mainland to bear witness in his drawings and watercolours to significant monuments, many at risk of disappearance as a result of the modernising drive ushered in by the new liberal order. Member of the Romantic generation and friends with the Madrazo family, Carderera was also in contact with some other figures like Richard Ford and Prosper Mérimée, with whom he shared the same nostalgia for the past and the need to define his position in the complex debate between tradition and progress.
The exhibition—featuring more than a hundred pieces including paintings, drawings, engravings, manuscripts, books, maps and objects—pays tribute to Carderera’s work and the significant legacy he left in the Biblioteca Nacional de España. In 1867 the Spanish State adquired his collection of drawings and prints: more than 45.000 pieces which enriched the department of Fine Arts with engravings of Mantegna, Dürer and Rembrandt, among others, along with one of the very few drawings attributed to Velázquez. Click here for more information.
The exhibition opens on 27 September in the Biblioteca Nacional de España’s Sala Hipóstila. It was curated by José María Lanzarote Guiral and organised by the Biblioteca Nacional de España and Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica.
It is accompanied by a an exhibition catalogue which reconstructs Carderera’s intense life in six thematic sections, published by CEEH. Until 25 September, the catalogue can be purchased from the CEEH website at special discount price. Click here for more information.
Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture is a quarterly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to publishing the most current international research on the visual culture of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, as well as that created in diaspora. A defining focus of the journal is its concentration of current scholarship on both Latin American and Latinx visual culture in a single publication. The journal aims to approach ancient, colonial, modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx visual culture from a range of interdisciplinary methodologies and perspectives. The journal was first published in January 2019, and three issues are now available on the journal’s website.
The Metropolitan Museum Journal presents richly illustrated studies of works in the Museum’s collection, including prominent as well as lesser known pieces, and relating them to works in other collections. The journal’s editorial board has recently announced that starting with volume 55, authors who publish in the Metropolitan Museum Journal (MMJ) will no longer be responsible to provide or pay for high-resolution images. The editorial office at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will acquire all high-resolution images and obtain English-language, world publication rights for print and electronic editions of MMJ. Journal authors will no longer need to spend time and effort on securing images. Click here for more information on this innovative policy.
El camarín del desengaño. Juan de Espina, coleccionista y curioso del siglo XVII, by Pedro Reula Baquero, 2019
Juan de Espina Velasco (1583−1642), a nobleman of Madrid and cleric of minor orders, has gone down in history – initially as the unwitting protagonist of two eighteenth-century magical plays by the dramatist José de Cañizares and subsequently, in the twentieth century, as the enigmatic and jealous owner of the Leonoardo da Vinci manuscripts now in the Biblioteca Nacional de España. His early fame as a necromancer comes from rumours that circulated in his own day about the entertaining scientific activities he organised in his home in the form of natural magic shows, where, making use of a certain amount of technology, he put the audience’s credulity to the test. He also set out to bring back the lost genre of enharmonic music, which ordered the music scale perfectly and mathematically and with which the ancient musicians were said to work wonders on men’s nature and state of mind. In addition to the Leonardo codices, his home housed an exquisite collection of books, paintings, precious metalwork and ivory pieces – objects classified as naturalia and artificialia, which made up what we would now call a cabinet of curiosities, commonly known in Spain as a camarín.
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Nacer en palacio. El ritual del nacimiento en la corte de los Austrias by María Cruz de Carlos Varona, 2018
Motherhood, which stands at a disciplinary crossroads, has become a historiographic subject in its own right. It has gone from being viewed as an exclusively biological circumstance to being considered a key social factor in shaping the historical identity of the queens of Spain. This book analyses the ‘ritual’ surrounding the birth of royal offspring at the Spanish court between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the role played by queens, ladies-in-waiting and midwives in a cultural system based on a series of rites performed before and after childbirth.
El coleccionismo de pintura en Madrid durante el siglo XIX by Pedro J. Martínez Plaza, 2018
This book examines the private collecting of painting in Madrid during the nineteenth century and the mercantile structure that underpinned it. The author analyses more than 140 private collections and studies the presence, development and running of shops, fairs, markets, estate sales, antique dealers and art galleries, many of them hitherto unknown, as well as surveying the role of the foreign collectors and artists and restorers who acted as advisors, intermediaries, sellers, promoters and agents.
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Luis Paret y Alcázar (Madrid, 1746‒1799) has been hailed as a ‘spontaneous and joyful’ painter who allowed himself to be ‘overly’ influenced by French art. Labelled as the ‘Spanish Watteau’ and the most genuine representative of Rococo painting in the
country, he has long been considered the second most important painter of his day after Goya.
However, these considerations are a direct consequence of a historiographical discourse more concerned with contrasting the two artists than with attributing Paret’s heterodoxy (he was a pupil of La Traverse and court painter to the Infante Don Luis) to his eventful life, his artistic interests and his background.
The above factors provide a backdrop to Dibujos de Luis Paret (1746-1799). Open until 16 September, the exhibition is curated by Alejandro Martínez Pérez, a historian well versed in the Paret’s life and career who sets out to clarify the historiographical lacunae by examining the artist’s main instrument – his drawings – reconstructing his personal library and analysing his relationships with his patrons.
The show – featuring a total of 188 pieces including drawings (84), paintings, prints, books and manuscripts – has been made possible by the collaboration and loans of important private collections and institutions, both Spanish and foreign, such as the Museo Nacional del Prado, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Real Academia
de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the Rijksmuseum, the Real Academia Española, the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano and the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas.
Organised by the BNE and the CEEH, the exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue raisonné of Luis Paret’s drawings, which is set to become a reference work for studies on the artist. Published by CEEH, the catalogue can be purchased here. Until 15 June, our readers can benefit from a 10% discount.