Self-deprecation is worth its weight in smoldering phoenix-ashes and baby unicorn tears.
Published on April 17, 2008 By SanChonino In Blogging

Another big, fat one.  Sorry, CB.  Hate me for it.  I dare ya.  Plus, I took a long time getting all the hyperlinks to (hopefully) work - each piece of art I mention should pop up in its own browser window/tab, depending on your settings.  So get to know some of the art I got to see.


09 Apr 2008.  8:37pm.

A few weeks ago a friend in one of my classes told me about a trip that her class was going on to Madrid, and explained that the teacher had extended the invitation to any Erasmus students who wanted to go, regardless of whether or not they were in the class.  Of course I was more than willing, since I wasn't sure when I'd ever have the chance to go to the capital again.  However, Andrea had an accident and hurt her back, so I haven't seen her for a while.  Finally, last Thursday I got caught by another friend who told me I needed to go talk to the professor.

I did so, and she proceeded to tell me the trip was the following week.  So I threw together my stuff, found a hostel, bought train tickets, and was ready to go.  The train left late last night, dropping me in Madrid at seven-thirty this morning.

I'm filled with a bit of trepidation as I step off the train.  I don't have a map, direction, anything - just an address and a general idea of where I need to eventually end up.

I finally find my way to the subway station, buy a 10-ride ticket, and jump on.  It dumps me off at the Puerta del Sol, the center of the city, more or less.  I pick a direction and start walking, until I find a newsstand where I can purchase a map.

I'm going to El Prado.

After a decent walk, I arrive.  It's a long, imposing building, and I'm almost apprehensive as I approach the doors.  I know what's inside El Prado - something I've been waiting my whole life to see.

Being in the museum is an ultimately overwhelming experience.  Seeing a great work of art is a treat.  Seeing many is amazing.

Seeing thousands in one morning is almost too much.

I cautiously work my way from one room to another, in total art-information overload.  My eyes devour Botticelli angels, Raphael Christs, gentlemen painted by El Greco.

I arrive in a small room and I'm confronted by El triunfo de la muerte by Brueghel.  The morbidness of the painting's subject matter does nothing to deter from its superlative power.  Death, riding his horse at the head of legions of the damned, goes about his grotesque task - collecting those dying from the Black Plague.  The misery in the painting is almost palpable.

I continue my journey, past masterpieces by El Bosco and Durero, until I make it to the large section devoted to Francico Goya, one of Spain's golden painters.  I sense the agony in Saturno, I feel the stirrings of rebellion as I gaze at the perfectly crafted El 3 de mayo de 1808.

I make my way upstairs, purposely passing the Velázquez rooms to go through others.  I venture through room after room of Italian, Flemish, and German baroque art, until I can avoid it no longer - I enter the salas of Velázquez.

I wind past portraits of the king, his family, his servants, each more tightly constructed than the last.  I stumble into a small sala and am confronted by Velázquez's Crucifixión, the very painting that inspired Unamuno's masterful poem-book, El cristo de Velázquez.

I can't turn away.  It's the most amazing representation of the crucifixion of Christ that I've ever seen and I can't pry my eyes away from it.  I start to weep a little bit, taken by the beauty of it.

Finally I come into the last room, and there it is, in all its glory - Las meninas, the greatest piece of art the world has yet to see.  I stand, captivated, transfixed, trapped in the world that the Master portrays for me.

The tears come in earnest this time.  I sob quietly to myself.  The school children give me strange looks - I couldn't care less.

After an hour spent contemplating the culmination of all art, I make my way out, pausing briefly to enjoy Sorolla's Niños en la playa before stepping out into the street.

Yet another one of the 'Things I must see/do before I can die' has been moved off the list.  Most of the things on there are only jokes, pipedreams that will probably never come to pass.

But Spain was a pipedream, too.

Seeing Las meninas with my own two eyes was a pipedream.

The list is getting shorter.  That reality sobers me.

After finishing my sobbing session in El Prado, I make my way to the hostel.  It's near the big, busy parts of Madrid without being too busy itself.  And the price was right - 25 Euros a night is nothing to complain about.

I wind up the tight, uneven wooden stairs to the office on the second floor.  The clerk is nothing if not gracious, and I'm quickly set up in my room.

It's nothing special, but it's clean and bright, with my own small desk, a sink, a humble chest of drawers, and my own little balcony looking out on the little plaza it's situated on.

After the long midnight train ride and the draining experience in the museum, rest calls my name.  I quickly toss off my clothes, hop into the rickety bed, and sleep.

I dream of baroque princesses.

on Apr 17, 2008
In honor of seeing my favorite painting of all time, I figured it would be fitting to share my favorite song of all time.

on Apr 17, 2008
Not a super recording of it, but it'll do.
on Apr 17, 2008
Eric Whitacre, huh? Cool.

Those paintings are pretty cool, bro, but...the greatest painting of all time? You'll have to explain that one to me. I don't get it.
on Apr 17, 2008

Envidio tu experiencia.

It sounds fascinating.


on Apr 17, 2008

sounds like you are building memories that will last a lifetime!

on Apr 17, 2008
the greatest painting of all time? You'll have to explain that one to me. I don't get it.

I don't know if I can explain it, per se. It's something that just speaks to me. Look at it. There are more questions than answers, more things left unpainted than things put on the canvas, and there's an entire novel sitting there, a 1000-page epic, in one large painting.

on Apr 17, 2008

Wow, what an experience, mate.  I think I would be moved to tears too, seeing some of these amazing pieces.  The delightful innocence of Ninos en la playa, for instance, is so elegantly captured.  What a beautiful, humbling experience.  Thanks for sharing.