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Treasures of the Hispanic Society of America Friday, March 31, 2017

Beginning April 4, the Museo del Prado, with the exclusive support of  Fundación BBVA, offers to the public the exceptional opportunity of enjoying more than two hundred works of art from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library founded to promote the art and culture of the Hispanic world in The United States.

The Hispanic Society holds the most important collection of Hispanic art outside of our borders. With more than 18,000 works of art that spans from the Paleolithic Age to the 20th century, an extraordinary research library with more than 250,000 manuscripts and 35,000 rare books, which includes 250 incunables. There is no other institution in the world, even in Spain, that alone can offer such a complete vision of our history, art and culture.

Archaeological artifacts, Roman sculpture, ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, silverworks, medieval and Islamic works of art, masterworks from the Golden Age, colonial and 19th century Latin American art and Spanish painting from the 19th and 20th centuries are arranged chronologically and thematically. Their Spanish paintings, including The Duchess of Alba by Goya or Gaspar de Guzmán, Conde-Duque de Olivares by Velázquez, are in conversation with those of the Museo del Prado.

Treasures of the Hispanic Society of America

Miguel Falomir,  Director of the Museo Nacional del Prado; Mitchell A. Codding, Director of The Hispanic Society of America, and Rafael Pardo, director of the BBVA Foundation. Photo ©Museo Nacional del Prado

Through September 10, the Museo del Prado will, in galleries A, B and C of the Jerónimos building, house the treasures of the museum and library of the Hispanic Society, an institution located in Upper Manhattan in New York, founded in 1904 by Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), one of America’s greatest philanthropists. He created an institution that reflected an appreciation of Spanish culture and the study of the literature and art of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

“Treasures of Hispanic Society of America. Visions of the Hispanic World” brings together more than two hundred works of art including paintings, drawings, and sculpture; archaeological artifacts and decorative arts, liturgical vestments, furniture and manuscripts from the library, creating a fascinating chronological and thematic experience of the highlights of their vast collections.

With this exhibition, which occupies all of the temporary exhibition galleries in the new extension, the Museo del Prado – as they did for the exhibition “The Hermitage in the Prado” in 2012 – offers its visitors the privilege of enjoying a museum within another. In this case, the renovation of the Hispanic Society’s galleries has allowed the treasures of their collections of Spanish and Latin American art, along with rare books and manuscripts, to travel to Spain.

Many of the works of art that will be shown have not previously been exhibited or were unknown, such as the reliquary busts of Santa Marta and Santa María Magdalena by Juan de Juni, and the Fates of Man, by Manuel Chili, known as Caspicara; and others have recently been identified such as the Map of Tequaltiche, which was thought to be lost. Besides the individual value of each work of art, this exceptional grouping gives context to the magnitude of the rich history of Hispanic culture in the Iberian Peninsula, America and Philippines that spans more than 3,000 years, shows a quality of art works that no museum outside of Spain can compete with, and demonstrates the passion of the unique collector who put his resources and knowledge towards the vision of creating a Spanish museum in America.

The extraordinary selection of paintings includes master works such as Portrait of a Little Girl, Camillo Astalli and Gaspar de Guzmán, Conde-Duque de Olivares by Velázquez, Pieta by El Greco, The Prodigal Son by Murillo, Santa Emerenciana by Zurbarán and the emblematic Duchess of Alba by Goya, especially conserved for this occasion at the Museo del Prado with the collaboration of Fundación Iberdrola. Also represented are paintings by post-impressionist and modern artists, such as Zuloaga, Sorolla and Santiago Rusiñol.

The selection of sculpture includes, among others, the Efigie of  Mencía Enríquez de Toledo from the Workshop of Gil de Siloé, the terracota, The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine, by Luisa Roldán, and Fates of Man, the group of polychromed wood sculptures by Manuel Chili, known as Caspicara.

The exhibition also includes a selection of important archaeological artifacts, among them Celtiberian jewelry, Bell-Beaker vessels and a Visigothic belt buckle. Completing the survey, is a significant selection of decorative arts, with Renaissance and Baroque metalwork, ceramics from Manises, Talavera and Alcora, and an exquisite Pyxis made of ivory with gold plated hinges. Alongside these objects are textiles including a Fragment of the tunic of Prince Felipe de Castilla and a Nazrid silk textile.

An innovative mounting technique will allow the important holdings of the library of the Hispanic Society to be displayed in such a way that it can be appreciated in all its splendor, relevant works include A grant (Privilegio) issued by Alfonso VII, king of Castile and León, Biblia sacra iuxta versionem vulgata. Bible in Latin; unique letters such as Holograph instructions for his son Philip, and the Letter to Phillip II of Spain from Elizabeth I, Queen of England and the Holograph letter, signed "Diego de Silva Velazquez” to Damián Gotiens, and various examples of maps including Portolan Atlas, by Battista Agnese and the Mapamundi by Juan Vespucci.

Archer Milton Huntington. Founder of The Hispanic Society of America

Archer Milton Huntington, only son of one of the wealthiest families in The United States, from a young age possessed a profound interest in the Hispanic world. His education and numerous trips to Europe inspired an interest in collecting, always with the idea of creating a museum.

In less than forty years, Huntington created a library and museum designed to elevate the study of Hispanic art through unparalleled collections in both scope and quality. At the same time, he published various facsimiles of important rare books and manuscripts. Huntington, in an effort to not deprive Spain of its artistic treasures, acquired most of his collection outside of the country. One can confirm, as did Jonathan Brown, that Huntington saw the Hispanic Society as an encyclopedic depository of Spanish art and literature.

Huntington was one of the first Hispanists in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. For this reason he was awarded by numerous American universities. He was an active member of various Spanish museums and was invested as member of the Spanish Royal Academies.

This exhibition pays homage to Huntington’s lifelong work for The Hispanic Society Museum & Library in the diffusion and study of Spanish culture in The United States of America.

The Exhibition

The first part of the exhibition (Galleries A and B) is organized chronologically and thematically by period in Spain and Latin America, and comprises archaeological artifacts from sites on the Iberian Peninsula, Roman sculpture, magnificent ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, silverworks and Islamic and Medieval treasures as well as those from the Golden Age. Of particular relevance are Spanish painting, in dialogue with the collections of the Prado, and colonial art closely related to the peninsula’s artistic legacy. Also included is a section dedicated to the library at the Hispanic Society, one of the most important in the world, showing us the resources this unique library offers.

Gallery C offers a broad selection of the best Spanish painting from the 19th century through the early 20th century, including an exceptional collection of portraits of the leading Spanish scholars of that period, who worked closely with Huntington. After the First World War, Archer Huntington halted aquisitions, but maintained a close relationship with Spanish art and culture through his friendship with various painters, principally Joaquín Sorolla, who was comissioned to paint the famous series of large scale canvases depicting the regions of Spain for the Hispanic Society.

Accompanying the exhibition, is a documentary projected in Gallery D, directed by Francesco Jodice, which transports the visitor to New York in the beginning of the twentieth century and narrates the history of the Hispanic Society and the passion of its founder, the philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington.

Museo del Prado and BBVA Foundation: over ten years bringing the best art to the visiting public

Visions of the Hispanic World is the latest chapter in the decade-long collaboration between the Museo del Prado and the BBVA Foundation, involving the annual organization of a major exhibition event. This partnership has made possible such celebrated exhibitions as Passion for Renoir, The Hermitage in the Prado, El Greco and Modern Painting and Bosch: The 5th Centenary Exhibition. Thanks to the Prado’s select network of relations with public and private lenders, these shows are the opportunity for an international public to view works that might otherwise never be seen under one roof. The exhibitions presented by the Prado and BBVA Foundation have met with an extraordinary response. In particular, those devoted to the Hermitage and Bosch successively broke the record of visits to the Madrid museum’s temporary exhibits, with over 580,000 spectators each.

Sections of the exhibition

The American philanthropist, Hispanist and collector Archer Milton Huntington (1870‒1955) realised his long-time dream of creating a “Spanish Museum” in 1908, when he opened the Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York. It embodied his love of Spain and its language – in which he even wrote poetry – at a time when the country’s image was at its lowest ebb in the United States after the war of 1898.

The newly opened Hispanic Society was novel in many aspects, though chiefly in its aim of presenting an overall view of Spanish history. This explains its dual nature as both museum and library, and its endeavour to become an active centre for research and dissemination of Spanish culture. The result was spectacular, as no other institution in or outside Spain provides such a complete view of the Hispanic world in terms of geographical scope, as it includes the Americas, Portugal and the Philippines, or covers such as long time span, from the Copper Age to the early 20th century.

Despite the Hispanic Society’s broad scope, it should be remembered that it began with a contemporary outlook. Huntington struck up friendships with the foremost Spanish intellectuals of his day, whose portraits he collected, and commissioned works from avant-garde artists like Zuloaga and especially Sorolla, promoting them in the United States.

Documentary film.  Gallery D

The exhibition “Treasures of the Hispanic Society of America. Visions of the Hispanic World” is accompanied by a documentary film in Gallery D, produced by the Prado Museum and sponsored by Fundación BBVA.  Under the artistic direction of Francesco Jodice, the film transports the visitor to early twentieth century New York, the key time and place for the early history of the Hispanic Society.

The documentary film contextualizes the origins of the early collecting practices of Archer Milton Huntington; the construction and inauguration of the headquarters of the Hispanic Society; his collections and the fantastic holdings of the library; his relationship with Spain through Alfonso XII and the great Spanish intellectuals of the era; his friendship with Sorolla in New York; and the philanthropy of this great patron who wanted to remain anonymous during his entire life.  The story is told by the Director, Mitchell Codding, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Philippe de Montebello, and the curators.

The film, which runs for approximately 20 minutes, was filmed in New York and at the Prado Museum and is in English with Spanish subtitles.

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