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Report on visit to the exhibition "Identidades Partilhadas" at the MNAA in Lisbon


The Society’s visits and talks often deliberately stray away from Anglo-Portuguese themes in the interest of variety and members’ tastes. So, on Saturday 24 February we organized a visit to the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (MNAA) in the Santos-o-Velho area of Lisbon to see the exhibition Identidades Partilhadas (Shared Identities) - Pintura Espanhola em Portugal, which brought together in one exhibition the best of Spanish painting from Portuguese collections.


It was a pleasant change for our members to be able to appreciate cultural exchange and mutual influences which linked the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, rather than political conflict and war between the two countries. The exhibition showed significant works commissioned from Spanish painters such as Luís de Morales, Vicente Carducho and Zurbaran, as well as Portuguese artists who trained or worked in Spain, including Vasco Pereira and Baltazar Gomes Pereira.


The catastrophic Lisbon earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of the collections belonging to the Portuguese nobility, not to mention the royal collection, particularly rich in portraits, in the Ribeira Palace which was located in what is today Praça de Comércio. So Portuguese collections of Spanish painting now tend to date from the 19th century, focusing, as per the taste of the time, on contemporary romantic or academic masters, a significant section of which were on display. Some paintings originate from the convents which were abolished in 1834. And families living in the Alentejo, especially around Evora and Portalegre, acquired works from artists based in Badajoz.


Our knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, Marta, concentrated on explaining the provenance and merits of a selection of the paintings on display. King D. Luis, born 1838 died 1889, acquired several outstanding works for the Ajuda Palace, including the only El Greco in Portugal, the Santa Face de Cristo which is usually in the palace chapel of his wife, D. Maria Pia.


The prolific painter, Vasco Pereira Lusitano (1535-1609), born in Evora but who worked in Sevilla, was represented by A Coroação da Virgem, of 1605, ordered by the Igreja de Todos os Santos, in Ponta Delgada, the Azores. This work is normally displayed in a museum of sacred art in Ponta Delgada.


Other works which especially attracted attention were Murillo’s Casamento Mistico de Santa Catarina, given by the Spanish Queen Isabella II to King D. Luis at the time of her visit to Portugal in 1865, part of the MNAA collection and Antonio de Grain’s Otelo e Desdemona, normally on display at MNAC, Lisbon.


Finally, many members enjoyed lunch at the museum’s cafeteria. Unfortunately, it was too cold to lunch in the pleasant gardens which have a splendid view over the Tagus. Perhaps this will be possible if we visit another exhibition later in the year.


Edward Godfrey