Tag Archives: Las Meninas

New Online Platform: The Arts Society Connected, launching tomorrow, 11am, with an inaugural lecture on Las Meninas by Jacqueline Cockburn

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656, Museo Nacional del Prado

The Arts Society Connected (formerly NADFAS, the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies) is a new digital platform being launched on 7th April by The Arts Society, the UK’s leading arts education charity. 
Free to both The Arts Society’s 90,000 Members as well as the general public, The Arts Society Connected will host a series of fortnightly lectures by the UK’s leading art historians, as well as film screenings, live author Q&As and a community forum for anyone using the platform. 
The aim of the platform is to help older Members of the population stay connected, educated, entertained and informed over the next three months. The core aims of the charity are to create a better, healthier and more connected society through the power of the arts to nourish and empower. The platform will create a welcoming community for both existing Members as well as the general public.

The Arts Society has moved quickly in response to the COVID-19 crisis to create this digital platform as a large proportion of Members are aged 70 and above and will be forced to isolate over the coming months. The Arts Society consists of 380 individual Membership groups, who organise regular lectures and educational trips to museums and galleries throughout the year. With the inability of Members to meet in person, The Arts Society Connected will ensure that Members are able to stay connected online even while they remain in isolation. 
The Arts Society is working with its directory of Accredited Lecturers to create exclusive video lectures for the new platform. Lectures will be uploaded every other Tuesday at 11am. Members will be encouraged to take part in a community moment, when anyone planning on watching the talk can make a cup of tea at home and join the community forums online for a chat before and after the lecture. The lecturer will also be available to answer questions in the community forums following their lecture.

The platform features an inaugural lectureon Las Meninas by Velázquez by Arts Society Accredited Lecturer, art historian and linguist, Jacqueline Cockburn.

 

Michael Jacobs, 1952-2014

Michael JacobsThe Hispanic world has lost one of its greats.  Michael Jacobs, who died from cancer on 9 January 2014  aged 61, was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable writer with an endearing personality, in the  tradition of George Borrow, Richard Ford and Gerald Brenan.

Michael had an extraordinary ability to connect, and both his art historical and his travel books are full of fresh, lively and entertaining insights.  He had a lifelong passion for Spain, and settled in the  village of Frailes in the Provincía de Jaen in 1999,  and there he soaked up and observed the people, atmosphere, sights and food of Andalucía, and wrote about them. Frailes later became his base when he travelled further afield to South and Central America.

He was born on 15 October 1952 in Genoa, Italy, to an Anglo-Irish father, and an Italian mother, who had acted with a Sicilian theatre company in the last years of the Second World War, and from whom Michael developed a passion for food.  He was educated at  Westminster School, and went to the Courtauld Institute, which was then in Portman Square and under the Directorship of Anthony Blunt, to study for his BA and later his PhD in the early 1970s.

Michael was an encyclopaedic scholar but never a conventional one.  A career spent in the confines of a museum or an art history department was not for him (though he was a Senior Honorary Research Fellow of Glasgow University); but he was the author of 24 books. His restless curiosity led him to write early guides to art and artists of the British Isles, and artist colonies in Europe and America, before moving on to travel books about places as varied as Provence, Czechoslovakia, Budapest, Romania, Barcelona, Madrid, Andalucía, the Alhambra and the Camino de Santiago. He translated Golden Age plays, and began to write more personal books on Spain beginning with Between Hopes and Memories (1994), which caused the newspaper ABC to call him ‘the George Borrow of the High-Speed Train Era’. El País praised him for ‘going beyond the clichés and giving a portrait of the real country’.  The Factory of Light (2003) a picaresque memoir written in and about the small village of Frailes, established him as a local celebrity in Andalucia. He participated in conferences, radio interviews, lectured on specialist tours, and took part in the Alhambra Hay Festivals and he made many local and international friends among writers, photographers and gastronomers.

In 2006, Michael’s interest was ignited by letters from his Jewish grandfather from Hull, who worked in Chile and Bolivia with the Andean railways, to his grandmother. Michael followed his grandfather Bethel’s footsteps, and wrote Ghost Train through the Andes.  In a major journey in 2010, Michael intertwined geography, history and 19th and scary 21st century revolutionaries together in The Andes. His last book, The Robber of Memories (2013), was a skilful and poignant travelogue down the Magdalena river in Colombia, woven in with the experience of his parents’ loss of memory from dementia and Alzheimers, and also the similar plight of his literary hero, Gabríel García Márquez.

He loved cooking and entertaining, and was a member of the Andalucían Academy of Gastronomy, and was the first foreigner to be made a knight of The Very Noble and Illustrious Order of the Wooden Spoon.  He once commented that the food of Spain was the story of Spain.  Several of his book launches were held at the restaurant, Moro, in Exmouth Market whose owners, Sam and Sam Clark, were good friends.

Shortly before his death Michael married his long time partner, and first reader of his books, Jackie Rae, and he was working on a book on Velázquez’ Las Meninas for Granta.

A measure of how much he was admired and loved in Spain, was that within two days of his death, obituaries were published in El Pais, and in the Granada newspaper Granada Hoy,  praising him as an intellectual full of life, with passion reminiscent of Don Quijote and the good humour of Sancho Panza.

Michael Jacobs will be missed by friends and Hispanophiles everywhere for his energy, love of life and adventure, for his knowledge and learning lightly worn, and for his hospitality, friendship and modesty.

Gail Turner Mooney

Velázquez portraits exhibition at the Prado

Velazquez, Juan Martínez Montañés, Prado

Velazquez, Juan Martínez Montañés, Prado

Tues 8 Oct 2013 – Sat 9 Feb 2014, The Prado, Madrid. Velázquez y la familia de Felipe IV 1650-1680 (the English catalogue is titled, Velázquez, Las Meninas and the Late Royal Portraits).  Jerónimos Building, Room C, El Museo del Prado, Ruiz de Alarcón, 23, 28014 Madrid. www.museodelprado.es . Curated by Javier Portús, Chief Curator of Spanish Painting at the Museo del Prado.

In chronological terms, the exhibition opens in 1650 during Velázquez’s second period in Rome, at which date he had already spent more than a year outside Spain. In Rome, the artist painted around a dozen portraits of individuals associated with the papal court, of which four of the surviving six are included in the exhibition.

They constitute a separate chapter within the artist’s oeuvre and one in which he markedly extended his expressive registers in order to brilliantly convey the personalities and concerns of these sitters.

Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Portrait of Pope Innocent X

The exhibition opens with the Portrait of Innocent X from Apsley House, London. A version of the celebrated portrait in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Velázquez brought it back with him to Madrid. It will now be exhibited in Spain for the first time.

Also on display in this gallery are the portraits of Cardinal Camillo Massimo (The Bankes Collection, National Trust, UK), Cardinal Camillo Astalli Pamphilj (Hispanic Society of America, New York), and Ferdinando Brandani (Museo del Prado), chief clerk to the papal secretariat, the latter a new identification of a work previously known as “the Pope’s Barber”.

While Velázquez was in Rome, Mariana of Austria had married Philip IV and the city welcomed the arrival of the new Queen in late 1649. The second section in the exhibition focuses on the artist’s return to the capital in 1651 after much insisting on the King’s part. It presents comparisons between some of the Roman portraits and those Velázquez executed for the court after his return. Philip IV (Museo del Prado), The Infanta María Teresa (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Queen Mariana of Austria (Museo del Prado) reveal how the painter once again deployed the hieratic distance evident in his earlier royal portraits as opposed to the expressivity of the Roman period.

This return to the court constitutes the core of the exhibition, comprising the royal portraits that Velázquez produced from his arrival in Madrid until his death in 1660. Together they form a separate chapter in his career due to their technical and iconographic uniqueness and exceptionally high quality.

The Infanta Margarita in blue and gold

The Infanta Margarita in blue and gold

At this period the world of women and children makes its appearance in the artist’s work and is the subject of the third room, which includes The Infanta María Teresa, Prince Felipe Próspero and The Infanta Margarita in blue and gold, all loaned from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. During this period Velázquez’s colour became denser and more rich and varied, while the compositions included spatial references arising from the settings. Particularly outstanding within this group is Las Meninas, which will not be hung in the exhibition (remaining in its habitual location in the Museum) but which is a key element in this group given that it represents a remarkable defence of the genre of portrait painting. Its complexity makes its comparable to the most erudite type of “history painting” and it can be seen as the finest example of the level of sophistication achieved by the Spanish court at a high point of cultural creativity. In addition, Las Meninas also represents a profound exercise of social and professional affirmation on Velázquez’s part through the inclusion of his self-portrait.

The demand for images following the new Queen’s arrival and the birth of infants and princes meant that Velázquez was obliged to produce more portraits, to which he responded by setting up an active studio that is represented in this exhibition by various studio versions of originals by the artist, created under his supervision. They include The Infanta Margarita and Queen Mariana of Austria (both Musée du Louvre, Paris). The exhibition concludes with examples of court portraiture by Velázquez’s successors Martínez del Mazo and Carreño. Both artists looked to their predecessor’s solutions in order to move royal iconography towards a more complex, Baroque style and to create a particularly Spanish typology for the court portrait that differs from other European schools in its inclusion of particular rooms in the royal palaces as the settings for these works.

The catalogue

The accompanying catalogue –Spanish and English editions – includes three essays: the principal one by the exhibition’s curator Javier Portús; another on painting at the Spanish court after the death of Velázquez by Miguel Morán Turina of the Universidad Complutense, Madrid; and a third that analyses aspects of the court in Vienna by Andrea Sommer-Mathis of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.