Archive for June 23rd, 2020

June 23, 2020

Some news from Spain XCII

And back at you with my now regular series, Some news from Spain. The places we love are slowly getting back on even if painful losses are incur and many remained almost empty. Let me bring you the latest tidbits from my beloved Spain.

Something going on all over now, but an old tragedy that seems not to go away. However, the looting, destruction,and defacing of monument dear to many is not right. No cause will win by it to the contrary more differences. My five cents on the matter. Cervantes and Fray Junípero have nothing to do, much less Voltaire and Roosevelt. The wave of vandalism against statues in public spaces (and the removal of some sculptures and murals in institutions) in the context of protests against racial discrimination and the imprint of slavery, only responds to a simplistic and reductive logic. The attack against Cervantes ,a slave himself when he was held captive in Algiers  carried out in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco has been the last straw, and has caused the rejection of institutions and personalities in the media and networks. The Royal Academy of History and the Fine Arts of San Fernando will address this issue in their next meetings.

And another serious matter, not to be taken lighly in my Spain. Bullfighters and fans crowd the Las Ventas esplanade in defense of bullfighting reading the manifesto the bullfighter and director of the Bullfighting Center of the Community of Madrid, bullfighting is the industry that reports the most money in fiscal terms to the State in terms of ticket sales, around 500 million euros in the last decade. One out of every ten Spaniards goes to a bullring every year, the same period in which more than 15,000 popular celebrations are celebrated in the streets and towns of our country. The act, in which a minute of silence has been observed, has concluded with the reading of the manifesto that has been common in the other thirty Spanish cities. During the march, numerous bullfighters have been seen such as Diego Urdiales, Emilio de Justo, Fernando Robleño, Julio Aparicio, Frascuelo, David Luguillano, Alberto Lamelas, Uceda Leal, El Fundi, Ortega Cano, Curro Vázquez, Adrien Salenc, Joaquín Galdós , Sergio Aguilar, Agustín Serrano, Chapurra, Rafael de Julia, Ignacio Olmos, Villita, Amor Rodríguez or the rejoneador Leonardo Hernández, among others. All attendees have put the finishing touch to the march by going around the Las Ventas arena, on the outside, and claiming for the last time, as the banner said, “Bullfighting is culture”. In Spain it is ,your choice to go see it or not as in any free country.

And now a new book on one that definitively enjoyed all Latin cultures even if not one.A new book is out 2020 ,and I got it, not read it all yet but fascinating. I will start with the title first, «Hemingway en otoño» or Hemingway in Autumn/Fall by Andrea Di Robilant ; essay and translation by Susana Carrale. Editor: Hatari! Books, 319 pages retail for 36 euros in Spain. Been so intricate related to the history of countries all dear to me and in which I carry a passport, Spain, Cuba, USA, and France. The Nobel Prize came to him in 1954, when many thought he was a finished writer. But the publication of The Old Man and the Sea (1953 from Cojimar Havana ,Cuba) stirred the old lion and returned to the lists of the best-selling books and to the columns of the most demanding literary critics, even, sometimes even rigorous, since a year later he was awarded what, even today, is considered by Andrea Di Robilant’s book the highest literary award . The book is published in an edition exquisitely cared for by Hatari! Books, with an excellent translation by Susana Carral and illustrated with a series of complementary photographs of the events that are narrated, is a moving story of the years that elapsed between 1948, the trip he undertook to Venice with his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, and 1961, the year the author of Paris is a Moveable Feast   committed suicide. Meanwhile he entertains himself, with trips to Paris, stays at the Ritz; Venice, and its wonderful Gritti hotel, hours and hours at the Venetian Harry’s Bar, witty dinners and unbeatable wines, mornings of eternal crazy conversation, duck hunts, the fights between Einaudi and Mondadori to acquire the rights to their editions in Italian, then return to Finca Vigía (his farm near Havana, Cuba now nationalised) , items sold for thousands of dollars, safaris in Africa (and serious injuries that will have fatal consequences), return to Pamplona, encounter with Dominguín and Ordóñez, and the running of the bulls, and with Ava Gardner in Madrid, his curious relationship of deep friendship with Marlene Dietrich. The roster of characters is endless stories forking. They all know him, they all chase him. Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir visit Havana and pay homage to him. Whatever the reader’s opinion about Hemingway’s excess and the value, or not, that he grants to his literary and journalistic work, Di Robilant has written one of the most exciting and definitive portraits of an author from the first half of the 20C, a faithful reflection of his time, his miseries and his greatness, that one can read without, in the end, understanding that a good part of a time of wine, roses and literature was melancholy left behind. Indeed a wonderful book on an icon of our times, Ernest Hemingway!

And something Mr Hemingway would vote for it and so do I!  Spain, is the country with the most bars and restaurants in the world, and have asked to make them a World Heritage Site. The Together for Hospitality platform, made up of the most prominent groups in the sector, requests that these establishments be declared Heritage as Spain is the country with the most bars and restaurants per person in the world: one for every 175 inhabitants, totaling 277,539 gastronomic establishments, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). The business organization Hospitality of Spain, the Association of Manufacturers and Distributors Companies (AECOC) and the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), which represent the main pillars of the country’s hospitality industry, are responsible for the candidacy, as they themselves have expressed in a statement. Spain with 48 tangible and intangible assets recognized so far, such as the Alhambra, the Mediterranean diet, flamenco or the Fallas, is the third country in the world, behind China and Italy, with the highest Heritages. As for cities, Spain has 15 with that title, from Alcalá de Henares to Úbeda, passing through Córdoba, Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela. In addition, they ensure that significant events in the history of Spain have taken place in the counter of a bar, such as the drafting of the Spanish Constitution. On the other hand, many writers, musicians and comedians took their first steps in local restaurants. In short, they are very much ours. Indeed, no questions here, Spain is everything under the Sun!

The Prado Museum reopens last June 6. And the Prado National Museum has implemented a protocol whose consequences will not go unnoticed by visitors, whom they thank in advance for their understanding and collaboration. Those who visit the Prado Museum until September 13 will not be able to visit all its rooms, but those they visit will provide a unique experience. For this, a spectacular installation has been conceived in the Galería Central or central gallery and adjacent rooms, an emblematic space that, due to its architectural characteristics, guarantees compliance with the recommendations of the health authorities and procures a safe visit model for the public and employees. The montage, made up of 249 works, follows a preferably chronological order, from the 15C to the dawn of the 20C, but given its exceptional nature, it dilutes the traditional distribution by national schools and proposes dialogues between authors and paintings separated by geography and weather; associations that tell us about influences, admiration and rivalries and point out the deeply self-referential nature of the Prado Museum collections. Any time is worth seeing the Prado Museum!

Three centuries ago, the first stone of the Sabatini building was placed in that lusterless corner through which the workers with helmet and mask now come and go. Today it houses the Reina Sofía museum, but it opened as a hospital in 1788, shortly after the death of its promoter, king Carlos III. Around that corner, the art center that would change four years later into a national museum also began operating in 1986, based in the imposing illustrated construction that languished for decades after having served the city during the worst of the Spanish Civil War. Thirty years later, work has begun to recover for the public those vaulted spaces, destined since 1992 to easements such as carpentry, reprography or storage of office supplies and the publication service. The Reina Sofia museum’s collection includes around 30,000 works (1,000 of them on display) from the end of the 19C and currently; 1700 sculptures, 3600 drawings, 4100 paintings and 4,230 Photographs. As well as other Installations, decorative arts, architecture, videos and cinema. Th new space at the AO floor has a project that will allow two things: add to the permanent collection 21 new rooms (about 2,000 square meters) and resolve Sabatini’s coexistence with the Jean Nouvel expansion inaugurated in 2005. To go from one building to another, two mastodons separated by more than two centuries that turn their backs with disdain, the visitor now has to climb a floor, which has added during these 15 years more ingredients to the proverbial disorientation that the visitor feels hopelessly in the Reina Sofía Museum. Now you can go directly from the ground level of Nouvel to the -1 of Sabatini, which gives continuity and fluidity to the route. The reception facilities, such as the box office, the luggage room or the information desk, will also be improved. The golden triangle of arts gets better in my Madrid.

The Palacio de Liria and the Palacio de las Dueñas reopen June 23 (today) in Madrid and Sevilla respectively. A novelty at the Palacio de Liria. You will be able to admire for the first time the only work by the French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres located in Spain: “Felipe V imposing the Golden Fleece on the Duke of Berwick”. It is a programmatic commission to one of the most important artists of the time, with which the Duke Carlos Miguel wanted to commemorate the most important events and characters in his family: from the Álvarez de Toledo family, with the 3rd Duke Don Fernando, and of Stuart ancestors with the first duke of Berwick. In the Palacio de Liria, it is also preserved with a sketch of the same painting made in 1817. It was a gift that the author himself made in gratitude to Mr. Poublon, attorney for the 14th Duke, who was the intermediary in commissioning the painting. The drawing has an autograph dedication from the artist. It is important to highlight the painting’s own value and its sketch, since it represents a fundamental moment in the History of the House of Alba, when the Marshal of Berwick, ancestor of the current duke, is awarded the Gold Fleece decoration and receives the duchies of Liria and Jérica, where the name of the palace comes from. Indeed gorgeous architecture and history here!

A ‘traviata’ without hugs to reopen the Teatro Real with security measures to resume its functions on July 1, 2020. It was the first rehearsal of La Traviata, Verdi’s opera with which the theater will reopen its doors to the public, after four months of closure. Many workers at the theatre slipped into the orchestra room to witness that little historical moment. When Luisotti raised the baton and the first bars of the play’s most popular overture were heard, few were able to hold back their tears as they hummed the tune. Never before had there been such a long silence in that place. In the absence of scenery, all the limelight will fall on the music and voices of the four different casts that will perform the 27 performances scheduled between July 1 and 29. Five traviatas will alternate (Marina Rebeka, Ruth Iniesta, Ekaterina Bakanova, Lana Kos and Lisette Oropesa) and four alfredos (Michael Fabiano, Ivan Magrì, Matthew Polenzani and Ismael Jordi). Behold, the Royal Theater will be back!

Artemisia Gentileschi, from forgotten painter to feminist icon. The date marked on the calendar was April 4. That day an exhibition, finally postponed by the health crisis, should have opened at the National Gallery in London, dedicated to Artemisia Gentileschi, the 17C Italian painter. Born in a country marked by antiquity by great figures of painting, who do not overshadow her, she has become from the last third of the 20C and to this day a media artist, especially by the feminist trend of art history , who has presented her as a victim of men and whose art would emerge, Freudian, as revenge for the violence against her in her adolescence. She is the only female artist of Western culture that has attracted the interest of novelists and filmmakers, and there have been several works that have dealt with her life, rather than her art, trying to find answers to the mystery that the painter continues to embody in the present.

Since 1630 she lived, with her two living daughters, of the five she had had, in the rich and important Naples, an artistic center where this skillful entrepreneur husband founded a workshop that competed with the best artists in the city, such as Ribera or Stanzione, and co-orders of important employers. Among others, the viceroy of Spain, who had three of her works and commissioned for king Felipe IV “The Birth of Saint John the Baptist “. The painting hangs, for a few days, in the Prado Museum, which has included it in her new exhibition tour, Reunion, until September 13. The artist is certainly in the current times and not only because she is an icon of feminism, but because she died, possibly, according to the latest hypotheses, in the terrible plague epidemic that struck Naples in 1656. More than half of the population disappeared and among the victims were some of the most important artists in the city, such as Bernardo Cavallino or Stanzione, a friend and collaborator of Artemisia. However, there is no news of her, although according to a document from 1654 she was still alive that year. Her name does not appear among the artists killed in the epidemic and perhaps she should be searched among the more than 40,000 skulls that lie in the Neapolitan cemetery of Fontanella. An inscription on the Neapolitan Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, destroyed in WWII, perhaps indicated the location of her tomb: Hei Artemisia or “Here Artemisia”, even though late-century news reported it 18C, surely imagined. To be found!

And last but not least, another memorable building of my youth. I used to come here and walk, play a lot on Plaza de España overlook by this huge building heights higher at the times. Built at a time when Spain was so impoverished (and I lived it at the end) that it did not have enough iron, so isolated that it could not be bought outside and so paid for by itself that it thought that it did not need it, the Edificio España (see post) or Spain building is a monument to the autarchy that was built with only reinforced concrete, the latter characteristic that makes it unique. After its acquisition by the Mallorcan hotel group Riu, which has carried out a complete refurbishment of the entire building, it houses the four-star Hotel Riu Plaza España, with 589 rooms and 17 meeting rooms. The hotel also has a gastrobar in the reception, two restaurants and a skybar distributed over the two upper floors, 26 (covered) and 27, with a large terrace of 500 square meters. The outdoor swimming pool, open only in summer, is on the 21st floor. Indeed an emblematic building of my old Spain, and glad now protected with the hotel.  By Calle de la Princesa overlooking the Plaza de España.

And there you go folks, another dandy in my dandy Madrid, hope you have enjoy the news……and my Spain.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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June 23, 2020

Fontainebleau, the chimneys!

I am always fascinated by architecture and lucky to have plenty to see here in my belle France. Architecture usually goes hand and hand with history , which I like too. Therefore, what better combination than to visit Fontainebleau in Seine et Marne dept 77 of the Ïle de France region. And only about 57 km (about 35 miles) from Paris.

I like to have memories and nowdays even more. I remember Fontainebleau castle as it was the property in Seine et Marne dept 77 that my late wife Martine, took me first to show me her department/region back in 1990. We have come here ever since,and it is one of my favorite castles been friend of the association that helps protect its heritage (see post).  And once in town head for the castle and check out its chimneys, lovely things so richly done and in some of the most beautiful rooms of the Château de Fontainebleau. I like to tell you a bit on the chimneys.

The Salle Saint-Louis and its chimney. There are two rooms maintain, by their very name, the memory of the most famous sovereign of the Middle Ages: Louis IX, known as Saint Louis. It is indeed in the second room housed in the thickness of the old wall of the keep that was installed, since the Middle Ages, the King’s bedroom. When the room changed location in the 17C, this room was demoted to an antechamber, that is to say a clear and spacious room, furnished with benches, where one waits to be introduced to the sovereign . On the other side of the arcade, the marble equestrian figure of King Henri IV , a vestige of a monumental fireplace from the end of the 16C, was installed at the entrance to the King’s apartment ,the most loved of kings; Louis IX.


The Salon François I chimney. This living room was, in the 16C, the bedroom of Queen Eleanor of Austria, wife of François I. When the queen’s bedroom was moved in the 17C, it became the second antechamber of the queen. It is here that the courtiers waited to be able to access the room in order to witness the great rising and great sleeping of the sovereign. During the Renaissance, this illustrious piece was decorated by Primatice. Of all its decoration of stucco and frescoes, only the chimney remains, a heavy massive square whose central motif, on the hood, forms a painted medallion representing the loves of Venus and Adonis. The fireplace forced admiration for the centuries that followed and gave the room a Renaissance tone. In 1865, under the reign of Napoleon III, the living room was indeed completed by the installation of five tapestries of the Gobelins, executed at the end of the 17C after a Flemish Renaissance; “ Les chasses de l’Empereur Maximilien” or the hunts of the Emperor Maximilian, grandfather of the former occupant of these places, Queen Éléonore.


Salon des Officiers chimney  or Officers’ Lounge. This reception room is decorated with Gobelins tapestries representing “L’Évanouissement d’Esther” or the fainting of Esther , and Joseph and his brothers after cartoons by Mignard, dated 1687. Above the door, two paintings representing muses: Clio , Calliope, Érato, Euterpe and Terpsichore. The furniture consists of a set from the 17C to which are added copies of the 19C in the Louis XIV and Louis XV style. On the fireplace is a Louis XVI style pendulum.


Bureau de l’Empereur (first part and chimney) or Imperial Office of the Emperor .This room is located on the site of the former baths of François Ier, and half of the dining room of Louis XVI. The Louis XVI style cornice was completed under the Empire, while the chimneys were laid in 1862, date on which several paintings are embedded in the wall: Concert d’oiseaux par Frans Snyders (birds concert), Oiseaux de proie s’abattant sur des canards sauvages dans un marais par Jan Fyt (birds of pray killing wild ducks in a swamp), Oiseaux et deux lièvres anonym (birds and two hares anonymous), Perroquet, faisan blanc et spatule anonyme or parrot,white pheasant and spatule anonymous), and twelve anonymous paintings representing pigeons and ten anonymous paintings representing hawks, as well as two studies: Canards et Aigles or ducks and eagles. The furniture consists in particular of a mahogany chair, a cylinder desk 1806 ,and sconces with a branch of 1808.


The salon des Tapisseries or the tapestry room . This room was the former Queen’s Guard Room before becoming an ante-room itself. With the lightening of the label in the 19C, the old anterooms of the apartment lost their sobriety to become rich and comfortable reception rooms. The Tapestry Room was indeed completely redesigned in 1835 under the reign of the last king of Fontainebleau, Louis Philippe I, and received a superb carpentry ceiling with octagonal boxes. The new lounge was furnished, by Louis-Philippe, with family tables around which the King, the Queen and the princesses gathered. Louis-Philippe took pleasure in seeing his family gathered around him and savoring the beauty of ancient works. Passionate about history, he collected historical furniture to his taste, such as luxurious Boulle marquetry pieces from the 17C or old tapestries enhanced with gold from the beginning of the 17C, representing the main episodes in the history of Psyche.


And there you go some magnificent chimneys or fireplaces that needs to be in my blog and on my beloved Château de Fontainebleau, a must to see while in France. Hope you enjoy this most architecturally and historical post.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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June 23, 2020

Le Parnasse Français ,Palace of Versailles!!!

And I have to come back to my beloved Versailles and the wonderful magnificent Palace/museum of Versailles. I have given you so many articles on it and so many stories, general and personal ,that I rather go straight to the matter on this post.

As a friend of the Domaine de Versailles I walk around, in and out. However, my most vivid memories are the walking and jogging in the gardens and especially stopping by the Petit Trianon. Nevertheless, there are many curiosities anecdotes especially in the Palace of Versailles. I like to tell you about the French Parnassus! or Le Parnasse Français!!! I like to describe it from personal brochures.

Le Parnasse Français or the French Parnassus in the apotheosis of the poets and musicians of king Louis XIV. a bronze and wood model, completed in 1718 is kept at the Palace of Versailles in the aile du nord or north wing, ground floor (1fl US). Its measures are: 260 cm high, 235 cm wide and 235 cm deep.


The monument was to be a personification of Mount Parnassus with ornaments of laurels, myrtles, palm trees, surrounding and emphasizing the climb to the summit where a statue of Louis XIV was to triumph, in Apollo at the lyre. On the floor immediately below, the three graces embodied by Antoinette Deshoulières, Henriette de la Suze, and Madeleine de Scudéry, the best known of the three. Still below, on a sort of terrace crossing the mountain, Pierre Corneille surrounded by   Molière,Racine and Lully who wears a medallion. La Fontaine, Boileau, and other lesser-known characters completing the empty spaces of the muses. In various places were to be hung on the laurels medallions of poets and less famous musicians.

All is on a formidable wooden base, very worked with its marked rocks, its waterfalls from which the water flows and its many plant species easily recognizable by a good gardener, appears bronze with its swarming of various characters. They are all of very fine carving, well taken up. On the upper level you see a young Apollo enthroned at the lyre, behind him are a child blowing in his trumpet and a winged horse about to fly away. At her feet, three women wear long garlands of flowers, preparing to crown the god as soon as he stops playing. Beside them, little loves wear medallions where the heads of very chiselled men are seen. On the level below the previous one are many standing figures, standing or seated, in costumes and wig hairstyles typical of the Sun King era. Going down, the mound widens and, still below, you see some effigies, located at the corners, of men known to the time.

In the second plan, in height, an energetic olives branch, with reinforced masculinity, indicates to the serious Monsieur Pertinent and to the crowned Lion the direction that the small troop should take. Just behind them, the ruffle great step, master of fantasy and the joy of living in dreams, the land of all happiness. Above the trees with massive trunks in the midst of which the scarecrow of the olive branch took place. Set back, at the level of olive and relevant master, the tamer, the chimney sweep, the dwarf with the wheelbarrow containing an Easter egg, the dancer in tutu, the gendarme, the animated bell, etc. All members of the brilliant community of Hallucinaville. They are looking for their way out. Oh yeah those feerie artists of my belle France!

 All this beautiful world is situated on the sides of a mound of green grass, with blooming flowers of all colors, the top of which is crowned by two grandiose trees in which small birds fly. In the background, hills on the right, one of which carries a fairytale castle with a floating banner. Everywhere else a wonderful azure blue sky without the slightest cloud. The perfection of the illustration is total, the painting is a masterpiece of a unique balance between drawing and colors, truly a moment of classic eternity.

This is not in the official public Domaine of Versailles webpage nor the tourist office of Versailles. You can read up my post on the Italian musicians of Louis XIV on their former house in Versailles and their performances back them as the closest to what this statue represent. Hope you enjoy the novelty Le Parnasse Français of Versailles!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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