Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Perusing 2,000 years of art

“Dying Moments: Kicking a Man When He’s Down,” Bernardo Ferrandiz y Badenes (1835-1885), 1881

From Museum of Malaga label: This allegorical composition alludes to an episode in the artist’s life. A man of choleric temperament, he had a run-in with a fellow Academy member… which resulted in Ferrandiz being tried and sent to prison. Deeply shaken by this event, which led to his removal from the post of director of the San Telmo Fine Art School and social and personal disgrace, the once-haughty artist depicted himself as the skeleton of a cat. Only then, when the feline is “down,” so to speak, does the weakest of its sworn enemies, the mouse, dare to scurry among its remains.

Pondered how to pick a piece of art to represent a museum’s enormous collection…. Not sure why this painting by the man regarded as a founder of the Malaga School of painting was nominated, except Day of the Dead has been on my mind.

The Mister spied the painting first, perhaps drawn by the unusual printing painted directly on the frame. Somewhat illiterate in Spanish (understatement), I am label dependent. But what a great personal story – a tale of the politics of art – lurks within that frame.

The Museum of Malaga occupies the Palacio de la Aduana. The former customs house was commissioned by King Charles III (1716-1788) in 1787 in recognition of Malaga’s major role as a maritime trading center.

Two collections, one of fine arts and one of archaeology, were merged to become the Malaga Museum of Art and moved into the almost 200,000 square-foot neoclassical building in 2016. A lot to wander through and absorb, but here’s an abbreviated armchair tour.

Loved the horse “volunteering” his serum to inoculate a child in the 1900 painting by Enrique Borras. But my particular favorite is Enrique Simonet’s 1890 painting of an autopsy – “Anatomy of the Heart: And She Had a Heart.” Alas, now she has none. Seems a screen-shot from a macabre film.

Postcard from Segovia, Spain: Castilian castle commands bluff despite those painful pointy-toed shoes

There was a lot of fighting going on in what we now call Spain, Portugal and the rest of Europe in the old days. Boundaries constantly were changing; kingdoms were proclaimed and reclaimed over and over.

My feet were never meant for pointy-toed shoes, but what were those medieval designers thinking? I mean, Jimmy Choo’s highest spiked heels are so much kinder to women’s feet than the armor those soldiers were forced to endure.

Realize one would want every body part protected during battle, but how could one move without assistance in such absurdly curved and pointed shoes? And, with every finger armored, how could one wield a sword? I guess the more the protection inhibited movement, the more protection one would need?

Fortunately for the rulers ensconced at Alcazar, geography played a role in preventing mobile-impaired soldiers from having to maneuver more than possible.

The castle seems so familiar, so, well, Disney-like. But Alcazar definitely came first, its turrets and spires serving as inspiration for Walt centuries later.

Ruins of an ancient Roman fortress became the base for a Moorish post, which in turn was the foundation for a monumental stone compound, the primary home for Spanish royalty and its parliament.

King Alfonso VIII (1155–1214) began the first permanent construction of Alcazar, with Juan II (1405-1454) adding the major tower during his reign. Felipe II (1527-1598) updated things to keep up with the latest European architectural whims of royals by adding the slate-covered pointy spires.

Things went south from that point. King Felipe II moved the seat of government to Madrid, and the former home of royalty suffered the indignity of serving as a prison for two centuries.

King Carlos III (1716-1788) repurposed it into the Royal Artillery School. But that meant storage of highly explosive materials within the fortress walls, which added to the spectacular fireworks display when a fire broke out in 1862.

Royalty briefly was out in Spain, but, when reestablished (a major oversimplification of history), Alfonso XII (1857-1885) began restoration of this monument to Spain’s past. Although the young monarch died of complications from tuberculosis and dysentery at age 28, Alcazar still reigns over Segovia and the surrounding countryside.