Monday, May 15, 2017


note: No photography was allowed at the Prado.  I've tried to patch in links that show the paintings I am discussing.  I don't want to violate copyright either.

47 years ago, visiting the Prado was a common outing, especially when it was free on Sunday. I even remember pushing Frank in a stroller there in the museum.

I doubt it made an impression. He was just a few weeks old.

I also remember walking through the Prado with a French girl named Christine, who I had met while helping her carry luggage along the street to the school where she was staying. She and I and her friend Maria and a boyfriend named I think Jose shared iced cream once too. At that time Margot was still at college waiting to come over.

This was Christine's favorite.
I was not able to see it as it was out in an exhibition.

My mother was a bit shocked when a perfumed letter came to the Goembel house. She did not know what to do, but finally just gave it to my then wife Margot.

Oh, I know about Christine,” Margot told her and that was that.

I wrote to Christine, and she wrote back until Margot wrote to her in French suggesting we visit with our new little Volkswagon as we were driving up through France.

I never heard from her again. Perhaps that was too modern for her.

It seemed odd to me.  It was the 60's and all we had done was walk together.  We had not been lovers.
The Prado and the memory of being there 47 years ago is part of what drew me to Madrid.
It was the first Art Museum that I visited in any regular fashion.

The Prado on the day I went was not free, but it was crowded. I waited in line a long while.
However, the line wove through trees with birds. It was almost like sitting in a park. I could people watch. And near the end a fellow with a guitar played for us.
I might have bought a "skip the line pass" but I saved a good bit of money by not doing that.  I just did not feel sure I knew which day I was going, and as it worked out, I went a day earlier than I had planned simply because I slept in until 9:30 and knew I'd be rested for a long day of art.
I think two fellows cut into line ahead of me. They spoke English, but were German or Swiss. I think they thought they were pretty sharp to cut in. At first I was annoyed, but then I didn't care. No one else questioned them.
I saw them later trying to get into the Metro with expensive tickets that had expired just 50 minutes from their desire to enter. They were not so smart in this place, were they. 
So perhaps there is Karma.
When I lived in Spain, Goya became viewed and reviewed, and I've had an interest in him, and in other Spanish painters, ever since. Many of the paintings are like old friends. Others seemed very new to me.
I always liked best the earlier, light hearted cartones para tapices, many of which were commissioned to be hung in  San Lorenzo de El Escorial and El Pardo palaces by Charles III and Charles IV
Many seemed to repeat a particular face of a pretty woman.
Included in these sort of paintings was the one with the parasol that was out on exhibition, but they all have the same flavor.
I saw many more in that style in a rather hard to access part of the museum, the Villanueva Building.
Here is a critical essay on those pieces:

I was excited to see so many Goya pieces. I think there may be many more than there were 47 years ago.
Some include young boys playing games, picking fruit, climbing trees and they remind me in theme of Winslow Homer's paintings of young people.
Boys Picking Fruit

Because they included one boy being on the back of another, they reminded me of the death of Frank's Uncle Jesus who after such a game spent his life in what they called a "box" with a broken back.

Children Blowing up a balloon

There were quite a few hunting paintings that included guns and dogs. Some of them included fishing as well.

"Line Fishing" showed a boy with his line and bobber fishing while his friends stood above with some birds attached to their belts.

Boys with Hunting Dogs at Palace of Pardo

Blind Man's Bluff - Aristocracy had decided to dress as peasants and play the game in a circle, holding hands while one person is in the middle with a blindfold and a long wooden ladle. He tries to tap one of the people in the circle with the ladle and they try to avoid him. Perhaps there are rules I don't know.

As well as fishing, the theme of card playing came in a couple paintings. In one, called "The Card Players," the players are gathered around a table and holding their cards.

One fellow had most of the money in his hat. It was clear he was winning because he was cheating.  People behind the two other players would signal him as to what was in his opponents hands. 
One in particular is very sly. With his right hand he seems to be offering advice to a player, but actually he is directing the player's attention to the hand, so he is not seen signaling the contents with his left hand.

"A Fight at the Venta Nueva," is over a card game, but most of the painting is the action of a fight with the game off to the right.

Saturn was told that one of his children would steal his power, so he ate them. Jupiter escaped when his mother substituted a rock wrapped in a towel.

I saw the other painting too at the Prado that is depicted in this summary.

Self Portrait
Goya was very concerned about his looks.  He did a number of self portraits.  This is one of them.


Note the horns being played called dulzaina

Clothed Maji

Naked Maji

Goya was almost in big trouble with the Inquisition over the Naked Maji.  Luckily, he got off.

There is a great controversy over who is the model. It may have been one of Goya's mistresses.
Since coming home I have read a book describing the relationship between Goya and the Dutchess of Alba.
She may have been the model for these two famous paintings.
They definitely had an affair, as she did with a few other men as well.  She was married young and probably never really loved his husband.  She had no children, but was very generous in her will to her staff.
She died early, before she turned 40.  Sad.  She was quite a character.

The Third of May

I was visiting on the Second of May. This is famous, but not my favorite.

Walk in the Park in Andalucia

The Wedding

A more serious scene is one that Frank remembered. It is called "The Wedding" and depicts a very ugly man who is marrying a very beautiful woman much less his age. His face is just the opposite of the faces in many of the Goya paintings. The crowd around him have various reactions.

They chuckle or look on with some disfavor. Frank remembered one old man on the right with a cane who remains oblivious to everything and just walks on and away.

The painting was in part inspired by a popular play that criticised old rich men marrying young women interested in their money. "The Maiden's Consent" it was called.

One of the things that sets Costa Rica apart from this sort of culture is that they seem to accept relationships of different ages, especially young women and older men. It is not as criticised as it is here or as awkward as it can be in the States.

While these relationships and marriages might be exploitive from either side or both, I think they also might be loving in spite of age.

George Burns lived with a young girl for quite a while and wrote about it in one of his books. John Barth married a student. I was at a party of odd people one night. In came a professor much older than I am now with a young girl who was perhaps twenty. Folks said there that she had fallen for his mind. 

Old People Eating

A young man and his father were looking at this one and the kid was laughing.  He had better hope he never gets old.

I have seen other paintings that depicted the four seasons by using a person and changing the scene. I always thought it an interesting theme.

Goya has such a group of paintings.

I remembered "Winter" very well except for the slaughtered pig draped over the horse. That would be appropriate for the time of slaughter. I remembered the three fellow with their heads covered to ward off the cold wind and snow, the very winter feeling colors, and the little black and white dog.

SPRING escapes me.

SUMMER is a very large scene, filled with hay that is in the process of being harvested. The workers are taking a break. The children are climbing the piled hay. One worker has wine poured into a glass from a wine skin. There is laughter and the faces are clearly much different than those of the upper class.

AUTUMN features one of those pretty faced girls with grapes in a basket on her head. An upscale dandy is taking grapes and offering them to another beautiful woman while holding them just high enough that a young child cannot reach them.

Another such set I saw was painted by Mariano Salvador Maella

Here the seasons include the same peasant woman for two of them, and perhaps she is in winter as well but aged. In winter two peasants hover around a fire to keep warm. 

In Autumn a Bacchus like character raises a glass of wine. 

The Drinker

I don't quite understand the "disotto insu perspective" but it was mentioned with "The Drinker" which was inspired by a novel Lazarillodo (Lazarillade) Tormes which I also cannot find.

Flying the Kite

"The picnic" where there is a grand party and one of the party participants toasts the orange seller, again a good looking girl.


I enjoyed the absence of crowds in the Nuevavilla section of the museum. 

Others I saw included:
The Blind Guitarist
with a black water carrier being part of the audience and a guy ignoring him and fishing on the left.


Goya's darker works were collected in a section devoted to those paintings. I can't say I like them because they are nothing to delight in. I can't believe they were painted to be displayed in his house.  I would not like to be sitting or eating and see Saturn devouring one of his children.
It was painted for a new house for Goya and so he felt free to paint outside convention.
I remembered them well.
"the Collosus" is very familar. 
The Colosus

This is said to be a prophesy of the coming of Napoleon, but can be interpreted to present any large tragedy.

A huge giant of a man emerges in a storm and is seen against the sky. He is painted only from his waist up. At the level of his waist are all the people on the land. They are terrified and fleeing. It is suggested that he represents the coming of Napoleon. However, it is a painting predicting destruction and as such it seems very appropriate for modern times.
This was always thought to be a painting by Goya, but now art scholars think it was painted by one of his assisstants.

"The Great He Goat" is famous and I well remembered it. A man with a goat's head addresses a circle of amazed and frightened people.

"Two Old Men Eating" was there. A teenager from France was laughing at some aspect of this. I thought that when he got old, he would laugh less about the ugliness of these old men.

Near this painting was a small one that tickled me. "The Duchess of Alba and La Berta" shows the Duchess as a feisty young girl (dutchess) with lovely, long black hair who is scaring her maid. The maid backs away from her and raises a cross to defend herself.

There were quite a few portaits of Charles III, an enlightened king who did much good for the people of Spain. 
He is an odd looking fellow with a big nose. He looks fine as a child, but the later pictures show his unusual

At the Clark, just 45 minutes from home, I saw these two Goya pieces.
This first is an early, rough painting of what would become what I saw in the Prado and a tapestry.

 Then this Goya was there as well.  Not perhaps the best of his portraits, but another to add to my experience.

I did not see the Saint Jerome I visted 47 years ago, but perhaps I just missed it. I saw many others by various artists.
I was interested in these because Jerome was a hermit who went into a cave to live away from all earthly delights. 
He generally is depicted with a skull reminding us of death and perhaps with a Bible. While I missed the one I used to see, I did see others and saw similar kinds of pictures.
Antonio de Pereda has one in which Gabriel's trumpet grabs his attention. There too is a cross(wooden) and skull.
And there were others of similar theme.
Saint Anthony and Saint Paul by Velazquez 1634 shows them being fed by a raven as it the case of the hermit in Francisco Collentes "Saint Ohuphris"

In Antonio Capi's version San jeronimo is better dressed. There is the book and skull, but there is also a lion lying on the floor like a pet dog.

Similar in theme was Joachhim Patinir's "Temptation of Saint Anthony" There are a few parts of this painting but they are all about resisting temptation. Some of the smaller may have been filled in by other painters.
The major scene on the left front is of Saint Anthony being tempted by three beautiful women who offer him various things, including an apple. An ugly old woman has her breast out and she laughs at the temptation. A money also pulls on his coat.
In the right he is in a woods and tempted by a near naked woman in a small boat.

Yet another painting is "Landscape with Saint Jerome" in which there is a small cave in a larger landscape of mountains and a lake. He is taking a thorn from the paw of a lion.

The painter Joachim Patinir is one of the first landscape painters, one of the first to make nature the main part of the painting and people secondary.

Temptations of Saint Anthony by Bosch also develop that theme.

This is much more weird, however, as Bosch is. Here there is a naked whore in a doorway. Overhead is a huge judgemental woman's head built into the small building and above her birds and bees. In the air is a man riding a flying fish and demon like lizards. Near Jerome an apple sits on a table.  This is the classic symbol of temptation.

The famous Bosch "The Garden of Earthly Delights" was packed with viewers, so it took me a while to get up close. I remember it well. Years ago it seemed like such a contrast to the rest of the museum paintings, especially since the themes are dedicated to religious Madonnas with child.
This is a religious painting too.
It is a triptisch with three panels and a different aspect on each. On the left is Paradise where everything is fine. God is there, looking like Jesus rather than an old man, and presenting eve to Adam. There are animals and trees and everything is without sin.
In the middle panel all sin breaks loose, especially lust. There are plenty of naked scenes, one it a pool like a hot tub. A couple are in a glass bubble which reflects an old saying

Here is a detail discussed.

In the third panel people are punished in hell for their sin. Here a miser must shit coins, a pig like nun represents the church at its worst,

I did see the famous Velazquez where the painter is in the painting.
Las Meninas

The various perspectives, room to room, fascinates me.  I have a bit of that from my bedroom looking out at the kitchen and dining area. 

I was fascinated by a still life in a collage style by Charles Joseph Flipart.
The still life paintings of Luis Egidio Melendez attracted my attention.
One was of pigeons ready for plucking.

One was of a piece of salmon that was so realistic it made me hungry.

And how could I not enjoy the fish?

Here is a good source of his paintings.
Egidio Melendez
There were of course many religious paintings, expecially of Mary and Jesus.  Here is one I liked.  I admire Joseph.  He was so kind and patient and caring in the story.

The Holy Family with Lamb

I enjoyed this portrait by Vicente Lopez of this musician.  Such a character.


A variant of the famous sculpture Sleeping Ariadne is in the Prado and quite enticing.  The one usually noted is the one in the Vatican


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