Archives for posts with tag: Spain

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Earlier, I wrote about the Canadian dime I found on my desk today. While dusting, I also ran across the above card (“Have a sweet dream,” Halong Bay Vietnam) which I found a while back in a book purchased at a used book store. I haven’t seen this card in some time (it was buried under books and papers) — and finding it was a pleasant surprise. (I looked up “Halong Bay” on Wikipedia and learned that the words mean “descending dragon bay” — love it, since this is the Year of the Dragon.) I have a small collection of things I’ve found in used books — but this one is my favorite. Thank you, I will have a sweet dream.

This lovely message brought to mind a favorite bittersweet poem by Antonio Machado (1875-1939) “Last Night As I Was Sleeping.” Here is an excerpt:

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

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Cervantes and Shakespeare occupied almost the same lifespan. In fact, they both died on the same day, April 23, 1616, by the Gregorian calendar. Don Quixote was published in 1605, and the first edition of Hamlet was probably published in 1603 or 1604. It is as if the two men stood back to back, Cervantes looking backward and Shakespeare looking forward. Cervantes pointed his genius backward and illuminated the medieval consciousness that was just ending in Europe…Shakespeare, in Hamlet, looked forward and made a statement about the modern man who was to come.” ROBERT A. JOHNSON, in Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness

Illustration: “Ecce Cervantes” an entry by Brazil‘s Gustavo Berocan in The Cecilia Prize, a contest honoring amateur art restorer Cecilia Gimenez. To date, the contest has received about 4,000 entries. View the gallery here.

ImageNamed “the best literary work of all time” by the World Library, DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) tells the story of a man who envisions himself as a chivalrous knight and begins to view his life as a noble adventure. Published in the author’s native Spain in 1605 to immediate acclaim, a second part appeared a decade later.

Here is an excerpt:

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is noble, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

“Obviously,” replied Don Quixote, “you don’t know much about adventures.” 

NOTE ON THE ABOVE ILLUSTRATION: In 1955, a publication in France (Les Lettres Françaises) commissioned Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) to create a painting for the cover of an edition celebrating the 350th anniversary of Don Quixote. In his brilliantly simple (or simply brilliant) illustration, Picasso captured the novel’s main characters and themes — Don Quixote, his horse Rocinante, his squire Sancho Panza, Sancho’s donkey Dapple, the windmills cited in the above excerpt, as well as the blazing sun of La Mancha.

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We celebrate these masters from Spain — Miguel de Cervantes (from Alcalá de Henares) and Pablo Picasso (from Málaga). They continue to inspire, as evidenced by a recent entry in The Cecilia Prize, a contest established to honor Cecilia Gimenez, an amateur artist from Borja, Spain, whose restoration of a beloved fresco (Ecce Homo) has sparked controversy and conversation around the world. The entry, Ecce Quixote (shown at left), is by Gustavo Berocan of Brazil (Twitter @gugudadanews).

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Unless you’ve sworn off the news during the past few days, you’re familiar with Cecilia Gimenez, the 81-year-old attempting to shave off a few Purgatory points by doing some good works — in this case, restoring a 19th century fresco of Christ on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain.

For the record (and this is why I’m not showing how she ruined the icon), this blog assiduously avoids discussions of religion or politics — that’s not our territory. But I couldn’t resist commenting on this story — there are so many levels and layers to it.

First, it’s a fine example when your children ask, “What does it mean when someone says ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’?”

Second, it shows the value of getting regular eye checkups. I have to wonder if Cecelia Gimenez has cataracts. Before her cataract operation, my mother could not distinguish yellow from white or brown from purple. She had the front door of her house painted a Barney purple, thinking it was “umber” (true story, and I have the photos to prove it!).

Third, I’m wondering if the other parishioners stopped Cecilia Gimenez before she was finished with her work. (You know how messy works-in-progress can look!)

Finally, I feel this story expresses the importance of art education — and why we need to support funding for the arts (hey, that sounds political).

Cecilia Gimenez refuses to repent for her sins (mortal? venial?) and appears belligerent, arrogant, self-satisfied, defiant, and convinced her work is beautiful. Wait a minute. She sounds like most of the artists I know. Welcome to the club, Cecilia!

Articles about this art restoration debacle have swept the Internet — but my favorite is a piece at hyperallergic.com called “Octogenarian Restorer Strikes Again.” The brilliantly written article imagines what Cecilia Gimenez could accomplish if allowed to restore some of the world’s art treasures, including Andy Warhol‘s portrait of Elizabeth Taylor  (below), Munch’s “The Scream,” Van Gogh‘s self-portrait, Vermeer‘s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and Leonardo‘s “Mona Lisa.”

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Happy Moonlight Drive, Jim!

Photo: Zarateman (street art in Portugalete, Spain)