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Hermitage History.part 6

Oct - 22 - 2013
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Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage collection of Spanish art is one of the largest beyond the borders of Spain. It comprises the Works of 4O artists, among them all the most eminent painters of the period when Spanish art achieved its climax in the XVII century.

Of the few Works of the XVI century,  the 1st place owns by the “Apostles Peter and Paul” (plate 20) by Domenico Theotokopuli (1541-1614) called El- Greco (i. e. a Greek). Having attained completion in Spain, his art still retained

some features of Byzantinism, originating in an earlier period of his life spent in the workshops of the icon-painters of his native Crete, as well as Venetian colourism he acquired during the years of painting in Titian’s studio. Sunk into a world of visions and spiritual experience, El Greco, nevertheless, has a quick eye of an artist and Wonderful skill enabling him to paint human figures of profound inner vitality. The selfconcentrated art of El Greco was a rare phenomenon in Spanish art which was based on st rong realistic traditions, which in the first half of the XVII century achieved as powerful new stage of development in the works of Ribera, Zurbaran, and Velazquez.

The Hermitage possesses one of Zurbaran’s (1598-1664) masterpieces, painted in the prime of his creative life, namely “St. Laurentius” (plate 22). Burnt, according to legend, on an iron grating, the holy deacon is depicted holding the instruments of torture in his hands; his sturdy square figure and homely, rather rough countenance is an image of manly, strong and simple-hearted faith. The solid manner of painting combined with a limited scale of colouring shows to perfection the material quality of objects.

The art of Velazquez (l599-1660), the greatest genius of Spanish art of the XVII century, is represented in the album by two paintings: the “Breakfast” (plate 24) is one of the early genrepaintings with scenes of humble living that he painted in the beginning of his artistic career. The invariable high truthfulness so very characteristic of the artist is peculiar to that picture. Everything in it, especially the objects on the table, are most convincing. The heavy and dense paint, the precise, sharp modelling of the brightly lit faces and objects, are peculiar features of his early artistic manner, so distinct from the technique of his maturity. One can judge of the great skill of characterizing, which Velazquez possessed, by his other work “Portrait of Count Olivares” (plate 25), exhibiting the superior, cunning and artful minister of Philipp IV. Officially holding the post of court-painter at the Spanish court Velazquez was, in fact, an absolute stranger to court flattery, so typical for the majority of court portrait-painters. Disclosing with merciless bitterness the negative aspects of the character, he succeeded at the same time in expressing not only the stiff pomposity peculiar to his sitter’s nature, but also his importance as a great statesman.

Of pictures by Murillo (1618-1682), the last of the great masters of Spanish art of the XVII century, the album includes one. In his creations the tendency to idealization and exterior prittiness is well-marked, realistic features being most pronounced in his earlier genre-paintings depicting children in the street; to the best specimens of Which belongs The “Boy with a Dog” (plate 26).

V.F. Levinsol – Lessing

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