Wednesday, April the 15
Before my Bon Bon breakfast, I consolidated the interior floor maps I’ve used at the Prado. Marking them with colored highlighters and writing notes in the margins turns them into treasure maps, with more than one X marking the spot. I scribble names of painters in the margins that I want to Google up later, along with the locations of paintings I want to revisit.
There were a few gaps signifying unseen rooms, though I feel as if I have poked my nose into every corner.Turns out I’d missed an entire room of Titians. The standouts were two versions of Venus reclining on her bed while a man leers over his shoulder at her and plays an organ *wink wink nudge nudge*.
Next, I spent some time with one of Rembrandt’s many paeans to his Saskia. Then I devoted my attention to Velásquez, starting with the portraits he did of the dwarfs at court. They weren’t rendered as purely grotesque court entertainers or buffoons but as individualized characters. Far from mocking or cruel, I found them ambiguous and compassionate.
Having looked up several accounts of the life of Infanta Margarite Teresa, the golden child at the center of Las Meninas, I took another, longer look at that incomparable work. More on that at the end of this post.
Around three I meandered over to Álbora for my lunch. http://www.restaurantealbora.com/ It was very nice indeed. The wait staff recalled me from my single prior visit. Between courses we chatted about our respective visits to Edinburgh and the pleasures of viewing art. This meal featured an artichoke and asparagus salad and croquetas of ham and potato. My favorite, a sort of Spanish taco of braised oxtail on a puree of potatoes streaked with gravy and a heap of grilled, caramelized onion. Mm’mm.
And here’s a shot of their restroom doors. Not my usual area of visual interest, but I found this exceptionally direct. No manikin/skirt icon for this hip joint. The men’s room image is reflected in a glass partition.
Thus fortified, I walked back to the Cibeles Palacio for the pleasure of seeing those magnificent brass mail slots for various regions of Spain, to mail my next batch of postcards, and to buy more stamps. This time, I got the ticket from the machine first.
For the standard political and dynastic reasons (power, wealth) Infanta Margarite Teresa was betrothed as a child to her uncle and cousin, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor. One courtly bow away from incest if you ask me, and it didn’t do their gene pool any favors, but he was in Austria, she was in Spain. It was all on paper, so no harm, no foul.
Margarite Teresa’s father, King Felipe IV, who called her ‘his joy’ in his private letters, died in1665 when she was only fourteen.
By Easter of the following year the grieving Infanta was shipped off to Austria and married to the twenty-six-year-old Leopold She continued to call him Uncle, he called her Gretl. But it could still work out, right? By all reports they had shared interests in music and theater.
But instead, she was treated like a puppy mill bitch, a battery chicken. She gave birth to four children and had at least two miscarriages. Only one of her children survived past infancy. Margarite Teresa died in childbirth at the age of 21.
Do the math.
A pregnancy a year for seven years, punctuated by painful and debilitating miscarriage after miscarriage. Three funerals, not counting her own and that last baby. A man wouldn’t breed a valuable horse that young and that often for fear of spoiling a mare’s health.
What a bleak and desperate end. One that could have been averted with a modicum of patience. A little restraint and she might have lived. Unlike, say, death by disease or misadventure, it was entirely preventable. A tragedy.
To end this post on a more upbeat note, here’s a video of a couturier’s collection inspired by the master.