Primus Circumdedistum

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On the last day of this year I want to tell you about something first ever. Or rather, someone who was the first one ever.

Juan Sebastián Elcano was the first man, and a Spanish one at that, who ever made the complete circumnavigation of the globe. Of course, the world thinks that it was Portuguese-born naval commander and navigator Hernando Magellan (Portuguese: Fernão de Magalhães) to claim such a feat, but one tends to overlook that Magellan was killed during a fight with natives in the Philippine Islands, half way through the circumference. Hence, Magellan attempted, but never completed the full circuit. 

Once Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498, it became urgent for Spain to find a new commercial route to Asia and the Spice Islands. The Treaty of Tordesillas (see my entry dated  April 6th, 2007) reserved for Portugal the sea routes that went around Africa. The Spanish Crown therefore decided to send out exploratory expeditions in order to find a way to Asia, travelling westwards. 

Magellan had tried, but had failed to convince Manuel, the 14th King of Portugal and the Algarves, of such an endeavour. However, he was more successful in convincing the Spanish King Carlos V of his proposition. 

Magellan set out from Sevilla, Spain, in 1519 in service of the Spanish Crown with an expeditionary fleet of five vessels and a total of 265 men, including 40 from the Basque land (amongst which Juan Elcano from Getaria, Guipúzcoa). After Magellan’s death, it was Juan Elcano who brought the only surviving of Magellan’s original five ships, the Victoria, back to Sevilla with a handful of survivors, in September 1522, after a journey lasting three years and one month.

An adventurer, Elcano fought under orders of Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba in Italy and, in 1509, he joined the expedition organized by Cardinal Cisneros against Algiers. Later, he settled himself in Sevilla and became a merchant ship captain.

After violating Castilian law by surrendering a ship of his to Genoan bankers in repayment of a debt, he sought a pardon from the Spanish King, by signing on, as a subordinate officer, to Hernando Magellan’s expedition to open a westward route to the Spice Islands (Molucca Islands). He was spared from execution by Magellan after taking part in a failed mutiny in Patagonia and, after five months of hard labour in chains, Elcano was made captain of the Concepción, one of the five vessels.

Elcano went on to take command of the fleet when Magellan was killed in the battle of Mactan, the Philippines, on April 27th, 1521. Only three ships of the original fleet survived by then, but there were insufficient hands to man them, so Elcano set the Concepción on fire and continued the voyage with the Trinidad and the Victoria.

Confused as to what direction to take, they sailed west towards Borneo, where they contacted the Sultan of Brunei. After a conflict with the Sultan’s men, they sailed back eastward and then southeast towards the Spice Islands.

After arriving in the Molucca Islands November 8th, 1521, and loading the ships with spices, he divided the fleet: the Trinidad was to sail back through the Pacific Ocean, while the Victoria, captained by Elcano himself, would risk the passage of the Indian Ocean, a Portuguese controlled area. The Trinidad was left behind for repairs and was later stripped by the Portuguese and destroyed in a squall.

 

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In order to avoid conflict with the Portuguese, Elcano sailed directly from Timor through the Indian Ocean without approaching the coast. They reached Cape of Good Hope on May 6th, 1522.

After two months without re-supplying, in July 1522, the Victoria, without enough water or other necessary supplies, arrived at the Cabo Verde Islands, a Portuguese base in the Atlantic coast of Africa. Elcano lied to the Portuguese authorities pretending that he was sailing from the Castilian territories in America. Yet one of the sailors eventually revealed the fabrication and Elcano had to part hastily from Cabo Verde.

On September 6th, 1522, Elcano sailed into Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, aboard the Victoria, after a 78,000 km trip around the world, along with 17 other survivors of the 265 men who originally had embarked on the expedition. The profits resulting from the spices they carried made them suitably rich.

For completing the first world circumnavigation in History and the unprecedented final sailing from the Philippines to Spain, King Carlos V awarded Juan Elcano a coat of arms with the words Primus circumdedisti me (‘You went around me first’) surrounding a world globe, plus an annual pension.

In July, 1525, Elcano sailed again from Spain, in a second expedition under command of Garcia Loaiza, and, after making some explorations on the eastern coast of South America, passed again through Magellan’s Strait, in May 1526. Loaiza died in July of that year and Elcano succeeded him, but did not survive him for very long. The voyage eventually led to the second circumnavigation of the globe, but without Elcano completing the full circuit the second time round.

The Basque people in Spain are particularly proud of Juan Sebastián Elcano for being a native of the País Vasco. The first circumnavigation of the globe was the greatest single journey ever made, by far exceeding Cristobal Colom’s discovery of the West Indies. By comparison, all subsequent journeys have been increments on the known.

On the day the leaking Victoria returned home, Elcano wrote to his King and Emperor ‘we have given practical proof that the earth is a sphere’, adding ‘having sailed round it, coming from the west, we have come back through the east’.

There has not been any event in the history of exploration which provoked among the general population such a sense of the miraculous.

Juan Sebastián Elcano’s statue (see main photo above) is erected in Getaria, Guipúzcoa, in the País Vasco. Say hello for me if you ever make it there.

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Imagine All the People Living Life in Peace…

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Twenty-seven years ago today, Mark David Chapman put a vicious end to the life of John Lennon (1940 – 1980). Lennon was the outstanding English songwriter, musician, singer, artist, author and peace activist who became famous worldwide as the founder of the Sixties pop group, The Beatles.

John Winston Lennon was perhaps the more intrepid part of the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Lennon/McCartney partnership, writing songs for The Beatles as well as other artists. Lennon, with his cynical edge, knack for introspection and, at times, wicked humour, and McCartney, with his story-telling optimism and gift for melody, complemented each other unlike any other songwriter duo. In his solo career, Lennon wrote and recorded songs such as “Beautiful Boy”, “Give Peace a Chance”, “Imagine”, “Mother”, “Woman” and “Working Class Hero”.

Lennon revealed his rebellious nature and flippant wit on television, in films such as A Hard Day’s Night (1964), in books such as In His Own Write as well as A Spaniard in the Works, in press conferences, interviews and through his peace actions, such as the bed-ins in Amsterdam and Montreal. He channelled his fame and penchant for controversy into his work as a peace activist, artist and author.

John Lennon had two sons, Julian, with his first wife Cynthia, and Sean, with his second wife, Japanese avant-garde artist Yoko Ono. Both sons have tried their hand at performing. Lennon was murdered in cold blood by Chapman in New York City on December 8th, 1980, as he and Ono returned home from a recording session.

The photo (above) shows John Lennon performing onstage at Madison Square Garden in New York City with Elton John, as a result of having lost a wager that his song “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night” (which Elton John also played and sang on) would hit No. 1 on the pop chart (on November 11th). This event turned into Lennon’s last concert appearance ever (November 28th, 1974).

 

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A film about John Lennon’s assassination, The Killing of John Lennon, directed by Andrew Piddington, premiered in Lennon’s birthplace Liverpool (UK) five days ago.

 

Lennon’s utopian dream of people living life in peace continues to be shared by many.

 

Five Michelin Stars for One Catalan Lady

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One lucky lady has good reason to be cheerful. She is the only chef in the world, male or female, to be given an accolade of five Michelin stars. Her name is Carme Ruscalleda.

Carme Ruscalleda is a Catalan lady, who was already proud about her three star Michelin rating for her ‘Restaurante Sant Pau’, in Sant Pol de Mar, some 35 minutes east of Barcelona. The restaurant is set in a villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea. But now, she has also been given two more Michelin stars for her relatively new venture, the ‘Restaurante Sant Pau de Tokio’, opened in 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. Mrs. Ruscalleda admitts that she had hoped for a one star rating for her Tokyo restaurant. She says that she was surprised but delighted to have been handed two stars.

 

Ferran Adrià, eat your heart out. 

This fancy Tokyo branch of Carme Ruscalleda’s famous restaurant serves some serious Catalan cuisine. The tasting menu is ¥21,000, whilst main dishes are around ¥7,000 each. The lunchtime “Bento menu” is ¥8,000. There’s a more informal wine bar downstairs, with some 350 varieties of mostly Spanish wines and a menu of light tapas.

Senyora Ruscalleda was raised in a family of farmers and began cooking as a young girl. Later she studied Charcuterie technics. After marrying a grocery shop owner in 1975, she convinced her husband to open a restaurant. The ‘Restaurante Sant Pau’ opened in 1988. Just over two years after its inauguration, ‘Sant Pau’ won one Michelin star. In 1996, Carme Ruscalleda was given a two-star rating by the Michelin critics. She finally obtained a third Michelin Guide star in 2006.

Carme Ruscalleda is one of Spain’s top and most international women chefs. She is best known in Spain for having been chosen in 2004 as the chef for the wedding celebrations of Principe Felipe and Letizia Ortiz. Her restaurant ‘San Pau’ in Sant Pol de Mar is a convincing example of how to create unique dishes by combining a sense of imagination with traditional Catalán ingredients.

If you want to test Mrs. Ruscalleda’s fine art of cooking yourself, or if you have a wedding celebration coming up, here are her details:

Restaurante Sant Pau

08395 Sant Pol de Mar (Catalunya)

Tel.: +34.93.760.0662

Restaurante Sant Pau de Tokio

Coredo Nihonbashi Annex 1/2F

1-6-1 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku

Tokyo (Japan)

Tel.: +81.03.3517.5700

 

If you enjoy eating out you probably know that Spanish gastronomy as a whole is highly esteemed by the gurus of le Guide Michelin, especially so if chefs from the Basque country and from Catalunya are involved in the cooking. 

Guide Michelin rated a total of 134 Spanish restaurants with either one, two or three stars, in their new Guide Michelin Hotels & Restaurants for Spain 2008

Six restaurants (three Basque and three Catalán) were confirmed for 2008 for their high food standard. These restaurants are those of chefs, Juan Mari Arzak (restaurant ‘Arzak’, San Sebastián); Santi Santamaría (‘Can Fabes’, Sant Celoni, Barcelona); Ferran Adrià (‘El Bulli’, Roses, Girona); Martín Berasategui (‘Martín Berasategui’, Lasarte, Guipúzcoa); Pedro Subijana (‘Akelarre’, San Sebastián) and Carme Ruscalleda (‘Sant Pau’, Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona), mentioned above. Well done, and congratulations to all. There was no change to the 2007 compilation. Against all expectations, no additional Spanish restaurant was rated highly enough to rise to the top accolade of three stars.

These are the current two Michelin star restaurants in Spain: ‘Tristán’, in Portals Nous (Mallorca, Baleares); ‘Atrio’, in Cáceres; ‘El Poblet’, in Dènia; ‘Mugaritz’, in Rentería; ‘El Celler de Can Roca’, in Girona; ‘La Broche’ and ‘Santceloni’, in Madrid; ‘Zuberoa’, in Oiartzun, and ‘La Alquería de Hacienda Benazuza’, in Sanlúcar la Mayor (Sevilla), as well as now, for the first time, ‘Abac’, in Barcelona.

There are fifteen new one star eateries in Spain, according to the Michelin opinion, bringing the total of one star rated restaurants in Spain to a stunning 119. Ten previous one star bearers have lost their star rating.

The new one star rated restaurants are ‘Comerç 24’ and ‘Lluçanés’, in Barcelona; ‘Yayo Daporta’, in Cambados (Pontevedra); ‘Kokotxa’ and ‘Kursaal’, in San Sebastián; ‘Arrop’, in Gandía; ‘Massana’, in Girona; ‘Azurmendi’, in Larrabetzu (Vizcaya); ‘El Club Allard’, in Madrid; ‘Calima’, in Marbella; ‘Els Casals’, in Sagás (Barcelona); ‘Retiro da Costiña’, in Santa Comba (La Coruña); ‘Villena’, in Segovia; ‘El Molino de Urdaitz’, in Urdaitz (Navarra), and ‘Ramiro’s’, in Valladolid.

The following restaurants lost their single star, ‘La Posada de la Casa del Abad’, in Ampudia; ‘Aldebarán’, in Badajoz; ‘Jean Luc Figueras’, in Barcelona; ‘Gallery Paladares’, in Gijón; ‘Carballeira’, in Lleida; ‘Casa d’a Troya’, in Madrid; ‘Mesana’, in Marbella, ‘Chez Víctor’, in Salamanca, ‘Lluçanès’, in Prats de Lluçanès, and ‘Koldo Royo’, in Palma de Mallorca, where I live. Oh, well. It has to be Marc Fosh then, at Read’s, in Santa Maria, I suppose. About him, some other time, soon.

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Funnily enough, Tokyo was rated with a surprising total of 191 Michelin stars, a record, given that Parisian restaurants were only awarded a total of 94 stars (New York has a total of 54 Michelin stars, just for the record). Japan is a new departure for le Guide Michelin but, no doubt, food lovers will flock there soon to try out the culinary delights, of eastern as well as western inclination, of the great gastronomic treats of Japan. Some connoisseurs consider some restaurant food in Tokyo as amongst the best cuisine in the world.

 

Others, of course, take objection to a European venture daring to consider themselves capable of judging traditional Japanese cooking.  

 

According to Restaurant Magazine (not related to le Guide Michelin), Spain has four establishments in the top eleven restaurants in the world, with the unique ‘El Bulli’, in Roses (Girona) being rated the world’s best restaurant for two years running. I have not eaten there myself, as yet, I must admit, but I do give the highest of my own ratings to Ferran Adrià’s lavishly edited El Bulli books. Always a sensual delight. Mouthwatering, again and again. 

 

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Some volumes are available in English language editions for your convenience (as well as in Spanish, German, French and Catalán).

 

The Forgotten Spanish War of Ifni

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Not many of today’s school children in Spain have been taught about a war that their country was embroiled in fifty years ago, in 1957, the War of Ifni. Many Spaniards, young or adult, don’t even know what Ifni is or where it is situated.

Ifni, or rather: Sidi Ifni, is a Moroccan town of about 15,000 inhabitants, situated in the south of the country, just south of Agadir, at the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ifni had been brought under Spanish rule in 1476, a few years before the capture of Melilla. Ifni, but not Melilla, was re-claimed by the Moroccan Saadien rulers in 1524.

The Treaty of Tangier of 1860 allowed the Moroccan cities of Sidi Ifni and Telata, as well as what later was known as Spanish Sahara, to be incorporated into the Spanish colonial empire. In 1946, Spain’s various coastal and inland colonies in Morocco were consolidated as Spanish West Africa.

France, having earlier been accorded protectorate status by the Sultan of Morocco, was at that time in control of all of the northern part of Morocco, plus all of Algeria.

When Morocco gained independence from France in 1956, the country expressed their keen interest in all of Spain’s possessions in Morocco, claiming that it was historically and geographically all part of Moroccan territory. Sultan Mohammed V encouraged efforts to re-capture the land and personally funded anti-Spanish conspirators, Moroccan insurgents and indigenous Sahrawi rebels to claim Ifni back for Morocco.

Violent demonstrations against foreign rule erupted in Ifni in April 1957, followed by civil strife and the widespread murder of those loyal to Spain. In response, Generalissimo Franco, then still very much in charge of a dictatorially controlled Spain, dispatched two battalions of the Spanish Legion, Spain’s elite fighting force, to El Aaiún in southern Morocco, in June 1957.

The Ifni War, sometimes called the Forgotten War (La Guerra Olvidada) in Spain, began in earnest on November 23rd, fifty years ago today. The Moroccan Liberation Army was now no longer tied down in conflicts with the French, and could thus commit a significant portion of its resources and manpower to the capture of Spanish possessions. The Spanish Legion repulsed the Moroccan drive easily, but two Spanish outposts were abandoned in the face of enemy attacks. Many others remained under heavy siege.

In the space of two weeks, the Moroccans and their tribal allies had asserted control over most of Ifni, isolating inland Spanish units from their South-Moroccan capital. Simultaneous attacks had been launched throughout Spanish Sahara, overrunning garrisons and ambushing convoys and patrols.

The siege of Ifni lasted until June 1958; it was uneventful and relatively bloodless, as Spain and Morocco both concentrated resources on Saharan theatres.

In January 1958, Morocco redoubled its commitment to the Spanish campaign, reorganizing all army units in Spanish territory as the Saharan Liberation Army.

In February 1958, Spanish troops, helped by French corps, launched a major offensive that successively dismantled the Moroccan Liberation Army. For the first time, massively superior European air power was brought to bear as France and Spain deployed a joint air fleet of 150 planes.

On April 2nd 1958, the governments of Spain and Morocco signed the Treaty of Angra de Cintra. Morocco obtained the region of Tarfaya (colony of Cabo Juby), between the river Draa and the parallel 27º 40′, excluding Sidi Ifni and the Spanish Sahara. Spain had won the Ifni War at the cost of 300 lives and more than 500 wounded, but very soon saw fit to slowly retreat from its Moroccan possessions. On Franco’s orders, the war was excluded from Spanish pupils’ curriculum. It was as if the war never had happened.

 

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Spain retained possession of Ifni until 1969, when it returned the territory to Morocco.

Spain kept control of Western Sahara until the Green March of 1975 prompted a withdrawal, thus creating a power vacuum that was filled with brutal force by Morocco in the north and by Mauritania in the south. When Mauritania withdrew in August 1979, Morocco overran the remainder of the territory with great haste and eagerness.

A Saharan rebel group, the Polisario Front, has fought against Morocco since 1976 for the independence of Western Sahara on behalf of the indigenous Saharawis. Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed in September 1991 to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, which was contingent on a referendum regarding independence. For the past 15 years or so, however, Morocco has opposed such a referendum. In 2002, Morocco’s present King, Mohammed VI reasserted that he “will not renounce an inch” of Western Sahara. Abundant phosphate reserves appear to be the true reason for Morocco’s unauthorized land claims.

Last week, King Mohammed VI offered a status of autonomy to Western Sahara. There is no further mention of independence of Western Sahara. And no referendum either, which is a blatant breach of the United Nations cease-fire agreement.

 

Over to Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General.

 

Many Winners And Too Many Losers

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November 20th is a significant date for Spain.

 

Thirty-two years ago yesterday, Spain’s Fascist era came to an end with the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, victor of the Spanish Civil War and head of state since 1939. Franco declared himself President for Life in 1947. His regime has been deeply reactionary, with political parties and trade unions banned, and with artists, intellectuals and sociological as well as ethnic minorities repressed. 

Franco ensured the Royalist succession by nominating, in 1969, Don Juan Carlos Borbon y Borbon as his “heir”. Juan Carlos became the first occupant of the Spanish throne since his grandfather Alfonso XIII had abdicated in 1931. 

Franco, also known as the Generalissimo, was buried in the mountainside mausoleum Abadía Benedictina de la Santa Cruz de el Valle de los Caídos (“Benedictine Abbey of the Valley of the Fallen”), a giant necropolis to the south of Madrid built under Franco’s auspices to house the Nationalist men who died under his command during the Civil War. 

Only a few weeks ago, the Spanish parliament passed a law (Ley de la Memoria Histórica de España) condemning General Franco’s regime, a law which provoked painful memories in Spain, three decades after his death. Up to one million Spaniards lost their lives during Franco’s Civil War between 1936 and 1939, which was supported by Hitler’s Germany and Italy under Mussolini. Many in Spain – the Military, the Church, the Bourgeoisie – had come out victorious, whilst many others found themselves on the losing side – artists, intellectuals, Republicans, and other democratically inclined citizens.

A mass was held yesterday at the cathedral in Granada, Spain, in Franco’s memory. Anti-Fascist demonstrators rallied in the streets of Granada to protest against this blatant demonstration of right-winged nationalism, against old-style Fascists and Franco-supporters, as well as against the role that the Catholic church played during the 39 years, condoning Franco’s tyranny. A dozen protesters were arrested; four of them were detained overnight.

 

A number of books have been published recently in Spain, giving an, as yet, untold insight into the darker aspects of Spain’s atrocious years of Civil War. One interesting example, albeit in Spanish only, at the moment, is Habíamos ganado la guerra, by Esther Tusquets (Editorial Bruguera, Barcelona).

 

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Also, a number of filmmakers have begun to focus on the, as yet, untold stories of the victims on either side. One remarkable new movie is Las 13 Rosas, by Emilio Martínez Lázaro. You may have seen his work El otro lado de la cama.

 

If you live in Spain and are not afraid of the spoken Spanish word, this is a film that might help to look back not in anger, but in hope. The film is one of three Spanish entries for an Oscar nomination next year, for films in a foreign language, but let’s not get too excited. After all, Hollywood is Hollywood.

 

‘I Do Not Seek. I Find.’

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Spanish painter, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso, to us simply known as Picasso, does not stop making headlines, even almost 35 years after his death in 1973.

 

Earlier this week, his 1941 bronze sculpture ‘Tête de femme (Dora Maar)’ sold for $ 29,200,000, the highest price for any sculpture created by Picasso, ever. His 1968 painting, ‘Homme à la pipe’, sold for $ 16,800,000. Both auction results were achieved by Sotheby’s, New York. Picasso’s 1931 painting ‘La lampe’ received an offer of $ 21,000,000 but was not sold, as the amount offered was apparently deemed below Sotheby’s stipulated reserve. Christie’s, also in New York, sold Picasso’s exceptional 1955 painting ‘Femme accroupie au costume turc (Jacqueline)’ for $30,000,000, a week earlier.

 

Picasso’s 125th anniversary of his 1881 birthday was celebrated last year in Spain with two super-size exhibitions in Madrid, at the MNACRS and the Prado.

If you are more interested in the artist’s life and person rather than his value in a still buoyant art market, you will be pleased to hear that A Life of Pablo Picasso, Volume III: The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, has just been published, painstakingly researched and breathtakingly written by John Richardson, the British art historian. The biography is published in the USA by Random House, and in the UK by Cape.

 

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The earlier volumes of this outstanding biography, I (The Prodigy, 1881-1906) and II (The Cubist Rebel, 1907-1916) had already been published in 1991 and 1997, respectively. Both volumes are now also published in paperback editions. All three volumes make extremely good reading on the genius of this great Spanish artist; the latest volume is no exception.

Although one cannot think of Picasso without his Spanish roots and formative years, it is no secret that his talent really came into its fullest expression after he moved to Paris, France, in 1904, not long before western art headed for the modern era. 

No wonder the French consider Picasso as one of theirs; after all, he lived in France for near enough 70 years. 

Those of us living in Spain can view plenty of original works of art by the exceptional Monsieur Picasso in the two Spanish museums baring the artist’s name, the Museo Picasso in Barcelona and the relatively new Museo Picasso in Málaga. In addition to these, we also have his Casa Natal (birth place), in Málaga, and the Reina Sofía MNACRS museum in Madrid, which has accumulated a vast collection of Picassos mainly in lieu of inheritance tax, plus the spectacular, gigantic 349 × 776 cm canvas, Guernica, Picasso’s masterpiece painting in response to the German air attack during the Spanish Civil War.

Picasso’s best output, however, seems to have found its home in France, in Paris to be precise. The Musée National Picasso in Paris proudly presents over 200 paintings, 158 sculptures, 88 ceramic pieces, some 1,500 drawings and over 1,600 etchings, amongst other treassures. A large proportion of the museum’s holdings were left to the French nation after Picasso’s last wife, Jacqueline Roque, died in 1986. The photo above, by David Douglas Duncan, shows her and Picasso on a canvas-signing day at Villa La Californie, dated ‘circa early 1960s’.

France also holds numerous works by the Málaga born artist at the Musée National Picasso in Vallauris, between Cannes and Antibes on the French Côte d’Azur, where mainly works from his period called La Guerre et la Paix are shown. In Antibes there is also the Musée Picasso d’Antibes at the old Château Grimaldi where Picasso was allowed to install his studio in 1946. 245 paintings are normally on permanent show there, however, the museum is currently closed for renovations. 

 

For more information on the life and work of Monsieur Le Maître, you might want to consult the official Picasso website. 

Seeing Picasso’s works some 50 to 100 years after their creation and reading about the artist’s inspiring life, his women and his antics, one understands the charisma of his personæ, the forceful energy behind his œuvre and the unique, relentless vitæ of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

The voluminous Picasso biography may be in for some unfortunate news. The exceptional biographer, John Richardson, has already spent the best part of the last 25 years dedicating himself to this, A Life of Pablo Picasso, and he has only published the third volume, thus arriving at the year 1932. Picasso was only 51 years old by then. There are still some 41 years remaining.

 

I understand that John Richardson himself is at the ripe old age of 83. It is quite probable that he will not manage to finish his ambitious project.

 

Let’s hope that another talented and dedicated, if not possessed, person will step up to fill in the missing pieces, perhaps in close collaboration with Mr. Richardson. Chances are that he or she may not even have met the man himself which of course might make all the difference. Oh, well.

 

For those of you who would like to see some original works of Picasso, here is a link to information about some upcoming exhibitions of the master’s creations, including places in Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, the USA, Canada and Japan.

The Importance of Being Earnest

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The XVII Cumbre Iberoamericana (Ibero-American Summit) was celebrated in Santiago de Chile over the last few days. Political leaders or their trusted representatives from 19 Latin American nations were united to confer about ‘social cohesion’, as well as Heads of States from Spain, Portugal and Andorra, plus Spain’s King Juan Carlos I.

Spain, or course, has a very special relationship with most of these nations, due to its colonial domination of most of Latin America during the best part of the past 500 years or so.

King Juan Carlos of Spain is usually regarded as a moderate and considerate Monarch, not usually known to be losing his tempers. On Sunday, however, he set a precedent that he may come to regret by telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to shut up (“¡¿Por qué no te callas?!”).

The King’s quite undiplomatic, angry outburst at the Ibero-American summit followed days of criticism by a number of Latin American leaders of Spain’s contemporary political and business influence in former Spanish colonies.

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President Hugo Chávez reminded the summit amongst other calamities that Spain had been responsible for the largest genocide that the history had ever seen, after the Latin American continent had been conquered in 1492, claimed for the Spanish Crown, and colonized thereafter.

Spain’s El Periodico newspaper, representing the Catalonian region where anti-royal sentiment runs high, said on Sunday that Chávez’s behavior had been quite intolerable.

The Spanish national newspaper, EL PAÍS said in an editorial, “Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say but the Monarch’s fit shows just how much the Venezuelan (… President’s …) diatribe upset the Spanish”.

But some observers reacted with unease about the King taking on a more political role when the Monarchy really has a symbolic state function under Spain’s constitution.

Juan Carlos I won the trust of Spaniards by promoting the transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and has always distanced himself from any political role.

One of the few voices in Spain to criticize the King over the attack on Venezuela’s Chávez came from the Izquierda Unida group, which said that King Juan Carlos acted like a 17th century monarch addressing his vassals.

“Telling an elected head of state to shut up is something you can’t do in Spain or abroad”, a spokesman of Izquierda Unida was quoted as saying.

According to the Associated Press news agency, Hugo Chávez responded to the King’s outburst: “I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner”. Hugo Chávez also pointed out that he had been democratically elected three times, whereas he hinted that no-one ever had voted King Juan Carlos into office.

King Juan Carlos already had a controversial time earlier last week when he visited Spain’s disputed North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, sparking protests from Morocco, which claims the territories as theirs.

It looks to me as though it may not be so easy to be a King in this day and age, be that in Spain, in Morocco, or wherever. Perhaps times have changed and not everyone has taken it in, yet.

The world is no longer what it might have been in 1492, or so it would appear.