Press Release  August 6, 2020

Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society

Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1911. Oil on canvas. The Hispanic Society of America.

HOUSTON — The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library. The international traveling exhibition marks the first time a comprehensive selection of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library’s collection has been exhibited. The MFAH presentation will be on view at the re-opened museum through January 3, 2021.

Unparalleled outside of Spain, the collections of the New York-based Hispanic Society Museum & Library focus on the art and culture of Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and the Philippines, from antiquity up until the early 20th century. This exhibition presents some 200 objects—paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, maps, textiles, porcelains and ceramics, and metalwork and jewelry—spanning more than 4,000 years of Hispanic art and culture.

Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Fray Alonso López de Herrera, O.P., Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, 1640. Oil on copper. The Hispanic Society of America.

“The Museum is delighted to showcase these important works from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library to our audiences in Houston,” said Gary Tinterow, director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “We are grateful to our partners at the Society for lending us this spectacular show.”

Exhibition Overview
The exhibition is organized into six sections: Antiquity in Spain, Medieval Spain, Golden Age Spain, Viceregal and 19th-Century Latin America, Enlightenment in Spain, and Modern Spain.

Antiquity in Spain
The Society’s antiquities collection, the largest outside of Spain, extensively illustrates the ancient history of the Iberian Peninsula. The exhibition begins with an impressive group of metalwork from the Celtiberian culture (c. 150–72 BC), including silver bracelets, torques, and fibula. Beginning in the 3rd century BC, the Romans made their way into Spain, eventually controlling the entire Iberian Peninsula for 500 years, until the 5th century AD The Society holds a large collection of Roman works including marble sculptures, small bronze sculptures and implements, mosaics, silver, ceramics, and glass.

Medieval Spain
As the Roman Empire declined, Sueves, Vandals, and Visigoths occupied the Iberian Peninsula, with the Visigoths ultimately dominating and establishing their capital in Toledo in the 5th century. Under the rule of the Christianized Visigoths, art in the form of metalwork, mostly jewelry and buckles, and stone reliefs, provides a glimpse into the culture of this originally Germanic people, who kept themselves largely separate from their Iberian subjects. Some two centuries later the Visigoths were themselves displaced by Muslims who moved from North Africa. The ascendancy of Islam is documented through remarkable sculpture, ivories, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork.

Golden Age Spain
The largest section of the exhibition is devoted to the Spanish Golden Age, a period of approximately 150 years from the mid-16th to the late-17th century that witnessed the expansion of Spain’s empire to the New World and the flourishing of Spanish art under the patronage of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty and the Spanish Empire. It was during this period that such masters as Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and Jusepe de Ribera painted their celebrated works—many of which are seen in this exhibition—including Velázquez’s late masterpiece Camillo Astalli, Known as Cardinal Pamphili, c. 1650–51. Artists from beyond the Iberian Peninsula were also commissioned, among them the Italian-trained Greek painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. His Holy Family, c. 1585, evokes the deep spirituality of the artist’s religious imagery at a time of reform and renewal in the Catholic Church.

Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes), The Duchess of Alba, 1797. Oil on canvas. The Hispanic Society of America.

Viceregal and 19th-Century Latin America
Following the colonization of New Spain in 1521, which included territories in North America, South America, Asia, and Oceania, many Spanish artists immigrated to Latin America, part of the new empire, between the 17th and 19th century. Among the most exceptional was the Andalusian Mannerist artist Alonso Vázquez, who arrived in Mexico in 1603 as the official painter to the newly appointed viceroy, Juan de Mendoza y Luna, third Marquis of Montesclaros. Despite his limited time in New Spain, as he died in c. 1608, Vázquez exerted a significant influence on Mexican artists through the mid-17th century. The earliest known of his paintings, Saint Sebastian, c. 1605, is on view in this section.

Works from the late 18th century include a newly discovered masterwork by José Campeche, Puerto Rico’s foremost artist of the Colonial era; and an exceptional map of Mexico City by the architect and surveyor Ignacio Castera, who undertook the creation of the map in 1778. The final product, Plano ignográfico de la nobilissima ciudad de México, is the most accurate map of the viceregal capital produced up to that date. Among the Society’s 19th-century Latin American paintings is El Costeño (The Young Man from the Coast), c. 1843, by José Agustín Arrieta, one of Mexico’s most popular artists of the era.

Enlightenment in Spain
As Spain’s artists began to travel and train abroad in the 18th and eventually the 19th century in Paris and Rome, their work became influenced by the major movements of these periods: Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, and Impressionism. The Society’s most celebrated painting, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes’s portrait of The Duchess of Alba, María de Pilar Teresa Cayetana de Silva Álvarez de Toledo, 1797, is one of the two major paintings the artist completed of the duchess.

Modern Spain
The work of Goya, represented in the Society’s collections by paintings, drawings, and nearly all of his engravings, here establishes a context for the paintings of later, modern artists, including Federico de Madrazo y Kuntz, Eugenio Lucas Velázquez, Joaquín de Sorolla y Bastida, and Ignacio Zuloaga, represented in this exhibition. The works reveal their experimentation with avant-garde styles applied to distinctly Spanish subject matter.

This exhibition is organized by the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, New York with generous funding provided by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Houston presentation of this exhibition is curated by James Anno, Associate Curator, European Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Subscribe to our free e-letter!


Latest News

A Look Into Paul Pfeiffer’s Digital Icons At MOCA

Filipino-American artist Paul Pfeiffer has been asking…

The Return of The Portal, Connecting New York And Dublin

Last Monday saw the return of The Portal, a large live-streaming video…

Five Female-Driven Films That Celebrate Women in the Arts

While audiences have always loved a good biopic, finding the…

Christie’s, Sotheby's, and Phillips: Auction Highlights and Record Breaks

Despite the market’s slight lull in comparison to the last few years…