Sunday, November 16, 2014

Museum Meanders 2

After several large museums we needed a palate cleanser. We headed out to a small museum called the Museo Cerralbo. This museum used to be the home of the Marquise de Cerralbo (1845-1922) who was an inveterate collector of many objects including a wide range of paintings. While the collection included an El Greco, Tintoretto and Zubaran, the salon style did not lend itself to easy viewing of art. It was more interesting as a perspective on how the wealthy of that period lived as the home still reflects the way in which they lived in it. Periodically I would glance out the window at the busy street and feel wrested from a turn of the century world.

An hour later we were on the street by the Parque del Oeste, near the Royal Palace of Madrid. Within the park is the Temple de Debod, an Egyptian temple from 2BC which was a gift from Egypt to Spain. The temple is open and free to visitors and is an unexpected surprise in a Madrid park.

We walked to the end of the park, down steep steps, along a road that bordered the railroad tracks and across a railroad bridge filled with striking graffiti to arrive at the Pantheon de Goya. The chapel of San Antonio de la Florida contains Goya's tomb as well as his artwork. His frescos decorate the cupola and ceiling. Mirrors assist you in viewing the frescos on the ceiling. An identical chapel was built next door to allow this building to be devoted to a Goya Museum.

After leaving the chapel we discovered the Cafe Mingo, the oldest cider house in Madrid.  Since 1888 it has been serving roasted chicken and homemade cider. We were charmed and a bit intimidated, faced with finding vegetarian items for my husband. I was delighted when the "chicken man" consented to my request for a photo.

A short walk took us to the Palace Real and its park and gardens which presented beautiful vistas while a peacock strutted over his domain.

The next day we were ready once again for a foray to a big museum, the Prado.  We had been to the Prado twice before and I don't think we've ever "finished" it, though not for lack of trying.  We did a focused visit with an emphasis on the Spanish artists that one often does not see elsewhere -Velasquez, Goya, Ribera, El Greco and Zuberan with additional visits to Bosch and Rembrandt.  Seven hours later we limped out of the museum.  Bested once again.  Unfortunately they don't allow photos so it is all a pleasant mush in my head.

The following day we decided to go to Toledo. We had been there once before, but many things had been closed. This year is the four hundred year anniversary of El Greco's death and they are showcasing his many works in Toledo where he lived for much of his life.  Toledo is also the home to two of the three remaining synagogues in Spain. We took a train from the nearby Atocha station and then caught a bus up the steep hill to Toledo.  When we exited the bus we were faced with a warren of narrow streets leading downhill.  Street names change frequently so it took some time to get oriented.  Banners announced El Greco sites, many of which are church altarpieces that he painted. We found our way to the El Greco museum which houses his paintings of the apostles and is recreated in the style of his time.

It is located in the former Jewish district so almost next door was the synagogue I was seeking. The Synagogue of El Transito felt mosque-like in its design, ornate and intricate, but there embedded in carvings was Hebrew text, 522 years after the Jews were expelled from Spain.  It was built with the support of the King and his treasurer Samuel Levi.  It later became a church when the Jews were expelled.

Madre by Sorolla
Today was our last day in Madrid and a very satisfying one.  We had two small museums on our list, the Sorolla Museum and the Lazaro Galdiano.  The Sorolla Museum is the former home of Joaquin Sorolla who painted around the turn of the century.  He was quite successful in his own time and is known for his striking use of light.  His home was beautiful and we got a flavor for how he lived as well as enjoying his artwork. I especially loved a painting he did upon the birth of his third child.

San Diego de Alcala by Zubaran
Nearby was the Lazaro Galdiano museum, the former home of Galdiano.  Galdiano was a wealthy publisher and had an amazing art collection that holds extensive Goyas, several paintings by Bosch and my favorite Zubaran.

And on our way to the metro stop, one last museum, an outdoor one of sculpture, the Museo de Escultura al Aire Libre de la Castellana.

So concludes our travels in Portugal and Spain. And that art museum list we keep of those we've visited; we're up to 145.

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