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Showing posts from August, 2015

Casas Colgadas, Cuenca

Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses)
The Casas Colgadas are the iconic symbols of Cuenca. Hanging precariously on a cliff above the deep gorge of the Huécar river, they defy gravity. There used to be more hanging houses in Cuenca but only three have survived to this day. The Museo de Arte Abstracto Español occupies two of these houses. To get a good perspective of their hairy perch, walk downhill to the Puente de San Pablo which straddles the gorge. 
Hanging Houses from Puente de San Pablo
The footbridge of San Pablo is a good vantage point for a sweeping view of this fortress town. Look down and you'll appreciate the depth of the gorge. Look up and you'll see how the balconies of the Casas Colgadas seem suspended in the air. Look behind you for a panoramic view of the highest section of the old hill town. And across the bridge is the Parador de Cuenca, a former monastery from the 16th century which has been converted into a government-run hotel.
View of the gorge of Huécar and Pa…

Museo de Arte Abstracto Español, Cuenca

"What you have done in Cuenca is surely one of the most admirable, indeed brilliant, works of art.... a remarkable balance of painting, sculpture, and architecture." Alfred H. Barr in a letter to Fernando bel
Jardin Seco, Fernando Zóbel, 1969
Manila born Fernando Zóbel conceived the idea of a museum for abstract art in Spain while contemplating on a proper home for his significant collection of Spanish contemporary art from the 1950s to the 1960s. Together with Gustavo Torner, they found a venue in the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses) in Cuenca. The Museum of Spanish Abstract Art opened in 1966 with forty works of art on display from Zóbel's collection. His fellow artists and friends -- Torner, Gerardo Rueda, Antonio Lorenzo and Eusebio Sempere assisted him in various capacities as co-director and curators of the museum. 
Zóbel became concerned with how best to insure the survival of the museum beyond his lifetime. He decided to donate his collection to the Fundación Jua…

Cuenca, Spain

Cuenca
The Moors built this fortress town around 711-714 on a ridge between two gorges of the Júcar and Huécar rivers. Alphonso VIII of Castile captured this citadel, known then as Kunka, in the 12th century and renamed it Cuenca. A Christian town was born and spread down the hill. The old hill town or "upper city" became the seat of religious institutions while the lower town hosted a booming textile industry until the 16th century. 
Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In its Justification of Inscription, the World Heritage Committee describes Cuenca thus: "It is also exceptional because the walled town blends into and enhances the fine rural and natural landscape within which it is situated".
Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is the gathering place for festivals like the nine processions preceding Easter and the concurrent celebration of Religious Festival Week. The Camino del Calvario, (Road to Calvary) procession with religious pasos (statues or images set on a float…

Museo del Greco

A Repentant St. Peter c. 1600
Domenikos Theotokópoulos or El Greco was born in Crete in 1541. He moved to Toledo in 1577 after years of apprenticeship in Venice and Rome. El Greco's paintings have raised many questions as to why his subjects are elongated. Some theorists believe this is a result of an impaired vision. Others advanced that El Greco was merely using his own painting fundamentals to create what he envisioned as natural beauty. Nonetheless, El Greco left an enduring body of works. Many of the paintings on view at the Museo del Greco belong to the later period in his career including the Apostolate series. He died in Toledo in 1614.
In the painting above, a repentant St. Peter is portrayed with tears in his eyes. St. Peter is begging for forgiveness after denying Jesus Christ three times.  The theme of repentance was common in the late 16th century. 
St. James the Greater (Zebedee) Oil on canvas, 1608-1604
"It is only after years of struggle and deprivation that t…

Toledo

Alcázar
Though I've traveled extensively, once in awhile I will do things without preparation. So I find myself in unfavorable situations and there's no one else to blame but me. Now I know never to walk around the walled city of Toledo without a map unless my plan is to happily get lost along its narrow and winding cobblestone streets. The Castilla region was also experiencing an extraordinary heat wave during my visit. So there I was walking in circles when the temperature was roaring past the 100° F mark. 
Calle Commercio
A friendly cashier at the Burger King on Plaza Zocodover* informed me that the El Greco Museum is past the Cathedral but that it was quite a distance away. Armed with my cold drink, I followed the main street to the spire of the Cathedral of Toledo in hopes of finding the museum. (*What's in a name? Zocodover means place of animals and originates from the Arab word, suq ad-wadābb.)
Tympanum of the Puerta del Reloj Cathedral of Toledo
I easily made it t…