Thursday, November 01, 2012

Spain's greatness

Today was Toledo day. But when I got to Puerta de Atocha the next available train wasn't for two hours, so I had a chance to go the Reina Sofia museum where, surrounded by an amazing exhibit on the art of the 1930s, I got to see Picasso's "Guernica" - my first time, I think. It's staggering, devastating, necessary. The scale of it is that of the history paintings of the 19th century, which draw you into their space and higher time, but all is frozen by the grisaille as in a black and white photo, and by its silent screams. I was transfixed by the tangle of hands (and feet) of the woman at the left of the painting, and not only because I was thinking of the hands of Ribera's God at the Prado.

I have to admit this left me with diminished capacity for Toledo, crown jewel of monarchic Spain's church militant. Though Toledo's now celebrated for its Jewish-Christian-Muslim heritage, every choirstall in the cathedral is backed with a battle scene from the Reconquista. A difficult past.

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