Monday 27 July 2009

Andalousia, part 3 - Madrid

OK - so Madrid's not in Andalousia, but anyway: Penny's impromptu and brief stand-in for her father on her parents' Andalousian holiday came to an end as she journeyed back to Madrid on the fast train and whiled away a day in the big city before catching a flight back home.

Visiting Madrid

Back in Madrid, I wanted to buy Michael some typical Spanish sweets or cakes as a gift, but I don't know Madrid at all, so I wandered around randomly waiting to find a cake-shop. Eventually I saw one that didn't have anything very travel-proof in the window, but I went inside. On the counter were about 8 huge blocks of different types of sweets of the halva or nougat family, called turrones. They all had ingredients like almonds, figs, pistachios, orange zest and most importantly sugar. A large slice of one of these and another of quince terrine soon doubled the weight of my bag.

I spend the rest of the day in the Prado and since I didn't have much time, I decided to concentrate on the Spanish art sections. It was interesting to see how Spanish art didn't seem to find its way until the later Renaissance. The opposing Italian and Flemish influences seemed to be fighting it out very uncomfortably. I think this is partly due to the small size of the collection. Seville is known for its collection of earlier painting, but I did not have time to see this. The other thing missing from the Prado is a decent collection of works by El Greco. For this, I think you have to go to Toledo. In later art the idealism of Italy and the realism of the Flemish combined to form a specific style. In Spanish painting you get the full impact of the ugliness, suffering or shallowness of the subject without the element of ridicule which often creeps into Flemish painting. This is tragedy, rather than comedy. A large part of the Prado's Spanish section is given over to works by Velazquez or Goya. Getting to stand in front of one of the more famous works requires special powers, due to all the tour groups so I mostly had to just glance at them from afar. The most impressive works were Goya's black paintings. You really get no idea of their size and brutality from the reproductions.

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