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Claudie Ressort (1933-2021)

Claudie Ressort, who died in Paris on 9th February 2021 at the age of eighty-seven, was for many years in charge of Spanish Paintings in the Louvre Museum. During her career spent entirely in that institution, she worked endlessly to defend the cause of Spanish Art and the place it should have in such a museum, beyond the exceptional masterpieces of Spain’s most renowned artists.

After her studies at the École du Louvre and a few years in the Educational Service of the museum, Claudie moved in 1969 to the Department of Paintings where she worked first both with Michel Laclotte, the head of Department, mainly on early renaissance painting, and with Jeannine Baticle (1920-2014) then chief curator of Spanish Paintings. She discreetly but very efficiently assisted Baticle in her series of important exhibitions – Goya (with A.B. De Vries, Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris; Mauristhuis, The Hague, 1970), La Galerie espagnole de Louis-Philippe (Louvre, 1981), Zurbarán (Paris, Grand Palais; New York, Metropolitan Museum, 1987-1988). From their close collaboration on another exhibition, then quite pioneering, Eugenio Lucas et les satellites de Goya (Lille and Castres museums, 1972) for which she established most of the challenging catalogue, she kept an interest in nineteenth-century Spanish painting that she liked to collect. Her first “solo exhibition”, Mariano Fortuny et ses amis français (Castres, 1974) that commemorated the centenary of the painter’s death also confronted a field then totally unclear.

In 1983, she took full responsibility for a seemingly modest exhibition, Murillo dans les musées français in the Louvre series “dossiers du département des peintures”. The catalog, one of the first to seriously tackle Murillo’s provenances, is still a mine of references today with its in-depth study of the masterpieces preserved in France and of the French taste for Murillo since the eighteenth century. She further deepened our knowledge of the exceptional collection of Murillo’s drawings held in the Louvre Cabinet des Dessins in Spanish Drawings: Masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries exhibition catalogue (Louvre, 1991, with Lizzie Boubli and Alfonso Pérez Sánchez).

Claudie’s preferred area of research was the Spanish painting of the 14th and 15th centuries, notably Catalan and Valencian works with their many contacts with Italy, but also those from Castille and Aragon. At the time of her death, she was working on the history of the Altarpiece of St George in the Victoria and Albert Museum, trying to resolve the enigma of its arrival in France around 1864. Her interest in the researches of the Louvre Research Laboratory and her exceptional ability to work in collaboration resulted in more than a dozen of important articles among them several written with Mathieu Hériard-Dubreuil on Valencian painting (1978, 1979 and 1994). Her death will be keenly felt among the specialists of this period who greatly respected her work and judgments.

A committed curator, Claudie was always looking for works to be acquired by the Louvre Museum or the Musée Goya in Castres. Jean-Louis Augé, who has just retired from his long curatorship in the latter museum, paid tribute to the help she gave him in his active acquisition policy, among them Herrera the elder’s Multiplication of loaves and a panel by Juan Rexach as well as in writing the catalogue raisonné of Castres paintings and sculptures of the 14th and 15th centuries (Cahiers du Musée Goya, n° 3, 2000). Once she took over the responsibility for Spanish Paintings after Jeannine Baticle’s retirement in 1988, she tried, in a difficult context, to obtain new paintings for the Louvre. She managed to acquire a Pieta by Morales, the splendid panel of Juan de Borgoña of The Virgin, Saint John, two holy women and St Dominique of Guzmán and three panels by the Maestro de Alcobacer. She was also always determined to study these new acquisitions as well as to help colleagues from “musées de province” with their Spanish works. She knew all these museums very well and started enthusiastically, some years ago, to contribute to a new project of inventorying the Spanish works kept in French public collections (RETIB) travelling to Burgundy, Franche-Comté or Aquitaine.

Claudie Ressort, was extremely attached to the scholarly tradition of museums, and keen to consummate her professional career by producing the catalogue raisonné of Spanish and Portuguese paintings at the Louvre, in a department that, apart from another curator, largely ignored this kind of task. The Musée du Louvre, Département des peintures, catalogue, Écoles espagnole et portugaise, Paris, Réunion des Musées nationaux 2002, to which she kindly associated me, is, with her 1982 catalogue of Murillo dans les musées français, her greatest legacy to the museum where she spent all her working life.

Almost ten years ago Claudie, still indefatigable, undertook the enormous task – and associated me again in this enterprise –of inventorying Spanish works that had passed through France between 1800 and 1914, and of studying their collectors. Her starting point was really to pay homage to the work of the bibliographer and bookseller Louis Soullié (1860-1940) whose manuscript of his never published Relevé détaillé des tableaux et dessins de l’École espagnole ayant passé dans les ventes de collection depuis 1801 is in the Library of the Prado museum. Claudie was able to complete most of her chapters and hopefully the finished work will be online in 2022.

Many scholars of Spanish art, Spaniards, British, American etc, older or even still quite young, will remember Claudie’s wonderful generosity and warm kindness: she was always ready to help them in their work, to guide them in the complicated network of libraries and archives, to share her immense knowledge of Spain but also, and these may be the most precious memories, to welcome them, as real friends, in her Parisian flat or her charming country house in the Chevreuse valley.

A list of Claudie Ressort’s publications can be found here.

Obituary and Bibliography written by Veronique Gerard-Powell.

CANCELLED : 6.00 PM ARTES/ Zurbarán Centre seminar – Roberto Conduru : Magic, crime and art in early 20th century Afro-Brazilian religions (17/2/21)

Unfortunately tonight’s seminar by Professor Roberto Conduru is cancelled due to the power cuts in Dallas where the speaker is based.

We hope to re-schedule the seminar at a later date. We will post updates here on the ARTES site when we have more information.

A tribute to Ian Robertson, by Susan Wilson

Susan Wilson’s copy of Robertson’s Blue Guide to Spain

Susan Wilson writes:

I have a dog eared copy of Robertson’s Blue Guide to Spain which I bought in 1977. I had hitchhiked around Spain in 1976 for three months curious to see what was happening to the country-after the death of Franco. I was 25 and interested in politics.

Many journeys followed, always with the Blue Guide. I would read it aloud to my companions, in a tent in Toledo or a pension, at night, in simple plain rooms devoid of tv, radio, or devices! We would laugh at hilarious, indignant passages where he expressed himself in trenchant terms. Here he is, noting that ‘although Spain no longer admits to being a police state, the police are still very much in evidence…’

‘In the countryside, where they now serve little purpose, the ubiquitous olive green uniformed Guardia Civil, always patrolling in pairs (and known familiarly as “La Pareja”, the couple) wearing incongruous but distinctive patent leather tricorn hats. Formed in 1844, members of this strong but singularly ineffective arm of the law, raised originally to combat rural banditry and who have since regularly intimidated rural peasantry, are seldom-officious, but are not invariably civil.’ He continues, ‘In addition…when students, Basques, crowds, demonstrations, or “Manifestations” may, in their opinion require “Supervision”… the autocratic police, recently designated “Policia Nacional”…in the process of changing from a grey uniform (when they were familiarly know as “grises”) to a brown (and already called “chocolate con porras”- the latter being a truncheon shaped fritter!). They also guard embassies, ministries, ministers, nervous capitalists, stations banks, etc. Some of them have met with violent death in recent anti-authoritarian disturbances.’ (p. 93 Blue Guide to Spain).

There is a wealth of excellent quotes from Richard Ford. Some years later I was given the three volume Handbook to Spain by Sir Brinsley Ford as part of The Richard Ford Award to Spain, but took Ian Robertson’s guide with me on the several journeys I made.

Mine is underlined, my routes marked on maps, as I followed the Guide along roads, hills and in unbearably slow forever stopping overnight trains. One, from Atocha to Granada one spring, where passengers in a compartment with eight seats told funny stories, mimed silly antics, and shared food and wine with us.

I wandered alone and with various companions to obscure churches and towns in Extremadura … and over bridges (the Alcantara bridge, Roman, still in use, was one).

Informative, scholarly and amusing, it remains a definitive guide although I am afraid that it is no longer in print and that publishers of guide books began to underestimate their readers’ appetite to see and understand a culture. Robertson made a huge contribution to the travellers’ understanding of Spain.

If you can find a copy, don’t part with it. Reading this in the pandemic is strongly recommended!

by Susan Wilson

Ian Robertson – Hispanophile and Richard Ford Scholar

Ian Robertson, who has died aged 92, embarked on a lifetime’s scholarship on Spain and a prodigious production of travel guides inspired by an unlikely combination of the Duke of Wellington’s campaigns in the Peninsular War and Richard Ford’s accounts of his Spanish journeys. He became a leading authority on both.

His Spanish interests led to a commission to write the Blue Guide to Spain. A succession of further Blue Guides followed on France, Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus, Austria and Switzerland, but his work on Spain, and especially Ford, remained his abiding passion and his crowning achievement.

In addition to several titles on Wellington’s campaigns, Robertson’s seminal work was the authoritative Los Curiosos Impertinentes about English travellers in Spain in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was published in Spanish in Madrid in 1977. Richard Ford, a major biography, was published in London in 2004. Along the way, he edited Ford’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Spain and Gatherings from Spain.

Richard Ford both inspired and informed him. “Time has not dimmed the scintillating perspicacity of Ford’s observations,” Robertson wrote.

Robertson’s own observations were equally masterful – combining waspish wit, artistic detail and encyclopedic knowledge – and even today it is a challenge to find a cloister or remote chapel that he had not visited and written about in his Blue Guide. The same is broadly true of all of his guides.

Robertson died in hospital from heart failure on 7 December 2020 in Arles which had been his home for the last 20 years.

Written by Gail Turner

María del Carmen Garrido Pérez, former Prado conservator, 1947-2020

María del Carmen Garrido Pérez was one of Spain’s leading conservators who specialised in the technical research and conservation of Spanish paintings from the 15th through to the 20th century. Having studied Art History at the Autonomous University of Madrid, where she was awarded her doctorate in 1979 with a thesis on the physical and chemical analysis of Hispano-Flemish paintings of the Renaissance, she went on to work from 1980 until 2015 at the Prado Museum’s Technical Documentation Office, which she headed from 1982. The result of her research and technical studies are the numerous books, articles and monographs, including: a technical study of Picasso’s Guernica (1981, in collaboration with María José Cabrera), and one of many technical publications on Velazquez in 1999. Over the years she also contributed to and collaborated with others in many exhibitions and participated in many associated conferences. In 2006 she collaborated with Gabriele Finaldi (now Director of the National Gallery in London) in the Prado’s exhibition El trazo oculto. Underlying drawings in 15th and 16th century paintings.

Text courtesy of Xanthe Brooke


Christmas in Puebla – a new album of 17th-century Mexican music

Please click here to buy the album, listen to a preview, or for more information

By the early 1620s – when Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla migrated from Cádiz to New Spain (modernday Mexico) in search of new horizons as a music director, composer and instrument-maker – the colony was an important and wealthy outpost of the Habsburg Empire, keen to maintain the religious and musical customs of its mother country. The cathedral of the young, thriving city of Puebla de los Ángeles was still a magnificent work in progress, but its music provision could already rival its European counterparts. Padilla stayed there for forty years, composing prolifically right up to his death in 1664, and had at his disposal a sizeable body of men and boys who not only sang but also played instruments – including guitars, sackbut, dulcian, and simple percussion such as the cajón.

Siglo de Oro’s programme explores the rich soundworld of this time and place: a sonic landscape ultimately quite different from the one Padilla had left behind in Europe. Evoking a Mass at Christmas Eve affords the opportunity to include a number of villancicos – energetic, dance-like pieces whose captivating mixture of Mexican, Afro-Hispanic and Portuguese influences would have invigorated even the most sober churchgoer.

The Maius Masterclass with Professor Susan Boynton, 31 July 2020, 4pm on Zoom

For the final event in the Maius Masterclass series, on Friday 31 July at 4pm, they are delighted to welcome Professor Susan Boynton (Columbia University). Susan’s research has focused on such topics as music in the Iberian peninsula, liturgy, manuscript studies, and intersections between music and the visual arts.

Please click here to register for the Zoom Webinar.

The series is kindly supported by a Hispanex Grant from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and SPAIN Arts & Culture/Embassy of Spain in London.

Museum Reopening Update: The Prado

Watch the installation of Reunited (6/6/20 – 13/9/20), as the Prado’s director, Miguel Falomir, discusses the exhibition on the museum’s Youtube channel

The Prado has reopened a quarter of its gallery space with Reunited, a new display of nearly 200 paintings from its permanent collection. The exhibition will run until 13 September 2020. The museum’s masterpieces are displayed in novel juxtapositions, offering a new perspective on the permanent collection. For example, for the first time Rubens’ 17th-century “Saturn Devouring His Son” will be adjacent to Francisco Goya’s depiction of the same subject, painted nearly 200 years later. See the Prado’s website for more details on the works included, the new pairings, and additional videos on the exhibition.

The Prado has reopened with a limited capacity of only 1,800 people per day, compared to 15,000 on peak days last year. Visitors will have to book at least 24 hours in advance, have their temperatures checked at the entrance, wear masks throughout the visit, and there will be markings on the floor to indicate safe distances. The museum’s finances remain a concern despite reopening. Ticket prices will be halved until September 13th, and as the museum receives approximately half its funding from ticket sales. Furthermore, foreign tourists usually represent 70-80% of its visitors. The director of the Prado, Miguel Falomir, plans to showcase the museum’s permanent collection, which will help lower costs. Like many in the art world, he is concerned about the sustainability of the expensive ‘blockbuster exhibition’ model, which relies on loans from international collections and includes high insurance costs. However, in an interview with AFP, Falomir ended on a positive note, stating ‘It will take a while, but tourists will once again fill up the museums’.

Information for this post was taken from AFP Relax News, Hoy es arte, and El Museo Nacional del Prado.