Ok, so unremarkable trip from Valencia to Madrid, on to the underground and the first noteworthy thing about the city? On the metre, they have maps of the other lines, not just the one you are on. How crazy is that. It’s like they were having some kind of competition to see how they could most mess with tourists minds and make them think they were on the wrong train. But I rise above their petty scheme.
Get to the hostel, need to get some food. Nearest supermarket is Lidl, which was absolutely packed. Decided to support local small business instead and walked to nearby grocer. Only problem was, the guy who left Lidl ahead of me walked straight in with about 6 carrier bags of fruit from there and handed them over to the shopkeeper. So I’m not 100% convinced of the quality there.
Most places in Madrid shut on Monday, so day of recuperation. Went out in the evening with some people from the hostel for a couple of beers and a meal. It was a diverse group, a young Chilean doctor travelling in Europe for the first time, a middle aged businessman from Tenerife and an investment banker in her twenties. Sure hostels tend to be mainly full of gap year students but its cool that you can get such a range of people hanging out together too.
Tuesday morning and the Prado. Building itself is fine, stately not too grand or showy. Nice location too, pretty church above it, botanical gardens behind. The collection is obviously the main attraction and it is superb. I reckon it could be my favourite gallery. The National Gallery, the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre all have just as many, if not more great paintings, but I think the Prado is more focused, and benefits from that. A huge collection of Goya, obviously loads of good stuff, though it is hard to believe that the same painter can be responsible for both Las floreras o la primavera and Saturn.
Was also impressed with José de Ribera who I hadn’t really encountered before – Ixion, San José y el niño Jesús. There were also sizeable collections from El Greco, (The Adoration of the Shepherds) and Rubens, (St Thomas) too. Plenty of good individual works as well:
Durer, Portrait Of An Unknown Man
Claudio Coello, Santo Domingo de Guzman
Caravaggio, David with the head of Goliath
Murillo, La Virgen del Rosario
Obviously a lot of religious imagery going on and it was a relief occasionally to get the odd painting that deviated from that. For instance despite its title, Joachim Beuckelaer’s Christ In The House of Martha and Mary focuses far more on the food and the servants. It actually works on another level too – as a guide to restaurants in Spain. “We have all this lovely meat for you, ah, soy vegetariano, er… well, we have a cabbage?”
More common is Federico Barocci, Christ On The Cross which is positioned so as to dominate your view when you come into the room. However, the evident attention given to the painting was not replicated in the research. Instead of painstakingly recreating Golgotha, Barocci just painted the view from his window for a backdrop.
Another crucifixion, Francisco de Zurbaran, Christ Crucified With A Donor and this one got me quite worked up. Zurbaran has done this moving picture (admittedly owing something to Velazquez), but then he has to stick in a donor. Firstly the colossal egotism of paying to get yourself a ringside seat at the crucifixion, to advertise your own generosity. But even then, to not even be looking at it, but facing away from Christ so that Francicsco gets your good side? It’s enough to turn anyone Lutheran.