Museo de Bellas Artes

This weekend I learned so much that my head hurts! This past Friday, Raquel and I went to the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes’ or ‘The Museum of Fine Arts’.  This is a beautiful museum that was originally home to a convent and its collections are predominately assets confiscated from the church. Sevilla is the 4th largest city in Spain and this is the 2nd biggest art gallery in all of Spain.

Raquel enlightened me on everything from Gothic architecture to what signifies Baroque in paintings. The building is organized around three courtyards and we walked from room to room talking for hours. This picture was taken in the former church of the ‘Convent of La Merced’. This room is the grand backdrop for displaying the 17th century Sevillian School of painting. Bartolome Esteban Murillo was the biggest player of this period. In the 17th and 18th century, Murillo was one of the most famous artists in all of Europe and his paintings considered to be the truimph of the Spanish Baroque. His paintings were considered to be so valuable that at one point the king forbade their export. Murillo was a deeply religious man and almost all of his paintings are religious in nature. He earned Spain’s top accolades throughout the 1660’s and 1670’s. Than in 1680, while Murillo was painting the main alterpiece for Capuchins Church in Cádiz he fell from the scaffolding. He died a few months later and was buried in front of his favorite painting in the Cathedral of Sevilla.

We continued to walk and talk discussing everything from ‘Claroscuro technique’ to ‘Santa Justa and Santa Rufina by Murillo’. Saints Justa and Rufina were sisters venerated as martyers in the 3rd century. Their legend states that they lived in Triana. Trianna is the barrio in Sevilla where I am currently living. These sisters made and sold pottery with which they supported themselves and many of the city’s poor.  It is said that one day during a pagan festival (defining pagan is problematic for me), these sisters refused to sell their pottery. The locals broke all of their dishes and in turn they retaliated by smashing an image of Venus. The sisters were imprisoned for this and asked to renounce their faith. They refused and were tortured, beaten, burned on coals, deprived food and water, thrown to lions and finally strangled and beheaded. And, than Murillo painted them.

We continued to walk and discuss ‘Vanitas’ and this lead to the subject of ‘vanity’. This is a good thing because there is a lot to say on the subject of ‘Vanitas’. It is here that I learn that vanity comes from the Latin word vanitas, meaning everything must die. Interesting, I think and then we start to wonder why there are so many paintings of Virgins and moons. In researching this, I learn that the moon was a symbol of purity and that the Virgin Mary was often portrayed in paintings on top of a perfectly smooth moon during this era. Por ejemplo, Murillo’s ‘Immaculate Conception’ which the Vatican later named the ‘Assumption of the Virgin’.

I left the visit to the ‘Museo de Bellas Artes’ with even an understanding of Gustavio Adolfo Becquer, a post romanticist poet! As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Raquel is the perfect tour guide and I really hit the jackpot!! The list of things I’ve come to know from the visit is really endless and I could go on and on. And, for all of this, I feel very blessed!

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