Postcard from Burgos, Spain: A powerful abbess and underfoot devils

Above: Monastery of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas

It’s not easy to reign over a contested kingdom when you ascend to the throne at age two. Think of the royal intrigue that would trigger – all the scheming regents and relatives trying to unseat you before you can toddle down a hallway on your own.

But Alfonso VIII (1155-1214), King of Castile and Toledo, managed to ward off a legion of enemies to hold onto his throne – not without assistance and numerous defeats and victories on the battlefield along the way. And crusades against the Alamohads. To consolidate his power and secure a powerful ally while still a teenager, Alfonso gained the hand of 12-year-old Eleanor (Leonora) of England (1161-1214), a daughter of the contentious couple King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

At Leonora’s behest, the young royals founded the Monastery of Santa Maria la Real de las Huelgas in 1187. She bore 11 children before dying less than a month after her husband. The couple and numerous of their children were buried in elaborately decorated chapels within the expansive monastery. Royal weddings held there included that of Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290) to King Edward I of England (1239-1307) while Eleanor was 12 and Edward still a duke.

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Postcard from Merida, Mexico: Incorrigible cats and other fine ‘arte popular’

arte popular merida

Okay, the blog obviously has left Italy. Am diving you straight into Merida in the Yucatan for a dose of fine contemporary folk art from throughout Central and South America, but primarily Mexico, from the collection of Fomento Cultural Banamex, Citibanamex. Click HERE to see additional photos and read the entire post.

Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: A peak at treasures inside the Art Nouveau jewelbox

Transferring some antiques from the Hungarian National Museum, the Hungarian Parliament founded the Museum of Applied Arts in 1872 in recognition of the importance of decorative arts and design. Acquisitions increased with purchases at major world fairs, including those in Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878 and 1889, and gifts from Herend Porcelain Manufactory, Zolsnay, which has been producing luxury hand-painted and gilded porcelain for close to 200 years.

With the growth of the museum’s collection, a new building (see prior post) was required. The grand opening of the Art Nouveau palace in 1896 was attended by Emperor Franz Josef.

War and political changes contributed to the treasures held by the museum from the 1940s to 1960s as items were “rescued” from large houses and palaces by the Ministerial Commission for Endangered Private Collections. The Soviet takeover in 1948 led to the nationalization of numerous independent collections.

Parts of the museum were closed off when we were there this spring, as the building is being both restored and expanded following an international design competition. Renderings of the new wing can be viewed by clicking here.