Another day set aside for art in Madrid, and this time it was the big one – the world-class Museo del Prado.
Now you might think that the sensible place to have a ticket counter would be at the main entrance, right? Not so at the Prado. After queueing for a while, and with no informative signposting anywhere, we were asked for our tickets. Er, well, we’d like to buy some, please. No, no, you have to do that at the other end of the building! So off we go, down to the other end, where there are two entirely different queues and again no helpful signs whatsoever, with bewildered folk milling around everywhere around randomly placed disinterested cops. Jesus!
Eventually we gain egress, and immediately forgive the Prado for its arcane and East German-like means of obtaining tickets, since the contents are overwhelming and will occupy us until the late evening.
The highlights for me were seeing my favourite painting of all time – yes, get ready to cringe in horror at my 18 year-old student bedsit tastes – Bosch‘s “Garden of Earthly Delights.”
Now, most folk like to concentrate on the right panel of this venerable triptych from 1500, you know, the bit where bird-headed demons are devouring men with crows flying out of their arses, people are shitting gold coins and oddly futuresque spacemen are groping young damsels.
I like this part too, but I as I approached the painting I sneaked in behind a guided tour and was amazed and enlightened by the exposition of the English-speaking leader.
See, the middle panel, the biggest part, represents the overindulgence of man after Eden, and as such is little more than a thinly-veiled orgy. There are threesomes, interracial couplings, people touching their private areas from which are bursting forth bunches of flowers or birds, and all manner of weird interaction with fantastical animals.
You are left wondering whether Bosch was really just seeking to warn people of the dangers of indulgence, or whether he just got his kicks from his own perverted inventions, a pornographer if you will.
Aside from a few other Bosches, the same room also held Brueghel‘s “The Triumph of Death,” obviously greatly influenced by the former, and likewise revelling in the nastiness of the fantastical scenes it portrays, and a great and powerful work because of it.
Elsewhere I reacquainted myself with Goya, not only the dark images from the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars, but also his celebratedly frank, nay disrespectful portrait of the Spanish royal family, his employers.
In this masterpiece the King looks like a fat pin-headed freak with a big nose, while his wife resembles an ugly barmaid rather than a queen.
Elsewhere, one young lady is portrayed with her face turned completely away, and the royal Granny peers out from the back rows with a gigantic black excrescence on the side of her face, looking like a hideous witch.
Meanwhile, Goya lurks at the back. How on earth did he get away with such a monumental piss-take?
Velazquez – a nightmare to pronounce in lisping Castillian, and largely unknown to me until this trip. A master of capturing accurate facial expressions, his most famous work, prefiguring Goya‘s liberties, chooses to reverse the normal perspective of a portrait, leaving us with Phillip II‘s view of his daughters and court jesters messing around in the artist’s studio, with Velazquez himself in mid flow with the brush.
The King and Queen are reduced to a blurry image in a dirty mirror on the back wall. Revolutionary indeed.
Lunch was again in the gallery restaurant, where a fine tuna pie and rice salad were consumed with gallons of gazpacho and a beer.
Elsewhere in the restaurant we spotted an archetypal Japanese weirdo – a middle-aged man in unfashionable clothes, sitting bolt upright and muttering to himself.
In a satisfying reversal of what goes on in Japan, there was a wide circle of empty seats around him, despite the place being nearly full.
After leaving the Prado we proceeded to join the locals in the relaxing Retiro park, an enormous expanse of green in the city centre, featuring a boating lake in front of an imposing monument to some monarch or other.
I couldn’t resist making use of my zoom lens to capturing the expressions of the folk out in the little boats, but feeling somewhat uneasy at invading their privacy.
So if you notice your silly mug in the any of the shots displayed here, see you in court, baby!
(More images from this trip can be found here)