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Nine Madrid museums loan a selection of 28 works from their collections for exhibition
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fränzi in front of Carved Chair, 1910. Oil on canvas, 71 x 49,5 cm. Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. / Fang sculpture. Nigeria. Wood. 31 x 9 x 13 cm. Museo Nacional de Antropología, Madrid.

MADRID.- To bring its anniversary commemorations to a close, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza has invited nine Madrid museums to take part in the celebrations by lending a selection of 28 works from their collections. These pieces are displayed in the galleries housing the permanent collection in order to engage in dialogue with some of the paintings normally on show there.

Some of the works establish contrasts between periods, media and styles, drawing attention to different interpretations of the same theme; others are objects related to the accompanying paintings and enable visitors to view the pieces from a new perspective.

The selection includes paintings, sculptures, reliefs, objects and furniture ranging from a figurine from the 5th century BC to paintings by Pablo Picasso and Antonio Saura, and including a model of a seventeenth-century galleon, a nineteenth-century pack of cards and a Nasrid tile. They have all been lent by the Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Museo de Artes Decorativas, Museo Naval, Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Museo de América, Museo Nacional de Antropología and Museo del Romanticismo.

The tour begins in the galleries of the Netherlandish primitives and Italian Quattrocento, which are hosting two works from the second half of the fifteenth century: a triptych by the Master of Ávila (c. 1467‒1500) depicting several episodes relating to the birth of Jesus and a relief by Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino (c. 1480‒1490) of the enthroned Virgin and Child. The first, an example of Hispano-Flemish painting, displays evident parallels with the Flemish works in terms of style, handling and iconographic details, and the second establishes a dialogue with another image of the Virgin and Child: a panel painting by Lorenzo Costa (c. 1495) with a very similar composition from a period in which scenes of this kind became very popular.

Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar (1939), displayed alongside the great Renaissance portraits by Ghirlandaio, Holbein and Antonello da Messina in room 5, attests to the same interest in capturing and expressing the sitter’s psychology. Like his predecessors, Picasso makes her the sole protagonist of the painting, using vivid, contrasting colours and an absolutely cubist language.

In rooms 6 and 16, two sculptures from the Greco-Roman period are paired with seventeenthcentury canvases: the mythological episode of the abduction of Europa is depicted in a Greek terracotta (475 BC‒425 BC) and in the work of the French artist Simon Vouet (c. 1640) owned by the museum; and a marble carving of the god Pan (first half of the 1st century), who is associated with shepherds and flocks, fertility and male sexuality, accompanies Sebastiano Ricci’s portrayal of the wedding celebrations of Bacchus and Ariadne (c.1691‒94).

The tour continues with a series of objects from different periods which are displayed together with canvases from the permanent collection featuring similar pieces: a deck of cards (c. 1816) that was owned by the Romantic writer Mariano José de Larra; a mirror adorned with a cornucopia (c. 1765) crafted by the Royal Glass Manufactory of La Granja; a fire screen (c.1850‒1900) decorated with floral motifs with Filipino influence, and a cheval or psyche mirror. These objects are shown, respectively, with Lucas van Leyden’s Card Players (c.1520) (room 10), Pietro Longhi’s The Tickle (c.1755) (room 18), François Boucher’s La Toilette (1742) (room 28) and Berthe Morisot’s Psyche Mirror (1876) (room 33).

Room 19, devoted to seventeenth-century Flemish painting, displays Antonio Saura’s Lady (1958), a female figure composed from vigorous black and white strokes, in dialogue with Rubens’s Portrait of a Young Woman with a Rosary (1609‒10), who is also outlined in black. The same room contrasts two different ways of conveying an image of power: a Peruvian anthropomorphic vessel (100–700 BC) belonging to the Moche culture and Anthonis Mor’s Portrait of Giovanni Battista di Castaldo (c. 1550).

The galleries containing seventeenth-century Dutch painting (20, 24 and 26) are enriched with several guest pieces: a geocentric armillary sphere (17th century) used to calculate the celestial coordinates of the planets, which is depicted together with a globe and atlas in Corner of a Library (1711) by Jan Jansz. van der Heyden; the model of a seventeenth-century galleon (1990) similar to those painted by Willem van de Velde II in The Dutch Fleet in the Goeree Roads (c. 1672‒73); and Nacho Criado’s sculpture Moon (1969), which is paired with Moonlit Landscape with a Road beside a Canal (c. 1645‒50), by Aert van der Neer.

A Qing dynasty painted and glazed vase (c. 1690) discovered in 1991 among the remains of a shipwreck is on view in room 27 alongside Balthasar van der Ast’s Chinese Vase with Flowers, Shells and Insects (1628). Objects of this kind, considered luxury items by the Dutch bourgeoisie, were commonly included in still-life paintings of the period.

Room 30 brings together John Singer Sargent and Eduardo Rosales, who show a similar interest in portraying popular figures in Venetian Onion Seller (c. 1880‒82) and Ciociara (c. 1862) respectively. A German beer jug or tankard (c. 1695) accompanies the still lifes of American artists William Michael Harnett and John Frederick Peto, who sought inspiration for their works in seventeenth-century German and Dutch still-life scenes.

The Meal (1972) by Equipo Crónica, a painting clearly influenced by Goya, Miró and Juan Gris, is on show in room 31 paired with Goya’s El tío Paquete (c. 1819‒20). Also in this room a stereoscopic view of the Giessbach waterfall in Switzerland (c. 1870) is contrasted with a work by Gustave Courbet, who began to use images of this kind to enhance the realism of his paintings on account of the sensation of three-dimensionality they create.

The visit continues in rooms 34 and 36, which are devoted to European painting of the first half of the 1900s. A Peruvian zoomorphic mask (1991) and a Fang sculpture from Equatorial Guinea engage in dialogue with James Ensor’s Theatre of Masks (1908) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Fränzi in front of Carved Chair (1910) in an interplay that highlights the presence of masks as a recurring theme in Ensor’s oeuvre and recalls Kirchner’s interest in the African woodcarvings he saw in his country’s ethnographic museums.

The hellish landscape created by Bosch in Moral Fantasy (Visio tondali) (fifteenth century), which repeats the scene of the right-hand panel of the Garden of Earthly Delights, is linked to the apocalyptic vision of modern society portrayed by George Grosz in Metropolis (1916‒17) in room 38.

Continuing with the tour, the double portrait of Magdalena Parrella y Urbieta and Her Daughter, painted by Carlos Luis de Ribera y Fieve in 1850, is displayed alongside that of the Neapolitan actresses Maria and Annunziata ‘From the Harbour’ (1923) by Christian Schad. The Spanish portraitist uses a similar scheme to that of early portrait photographs, with the sitters in a stiff pose and frontal lighting, whereas Schad chooses a closer and more modern viewpoint.

When the architect Gerrit Rietveld designed his Red and Blue Chair in 1918, the wood was not lacquered. He added the colour in 1923, by which time he was a member of the De Stijl group, making it a three-dimensional embodiment of Piet Mondrian’s artistic ideal, as can be seen in Composition in Colours / Composition no. I with Red and Blue (1931), in room 43 on the ground floor of the museum.

The route continues in room 45, where Marc Chagall’s passion for El Greco becomes evident when his Madonna of the Village (1938‒42) is viewed alongside the Mannerist master’s Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1592) with its elongated figures and the marked division between Heaven and Earth.

In room 46, a fifteenth-century Nasrid tile is compared to the leading American practitioner of abstract expressionism, Jackson Pollock, whose canvas Brown and Silver I (c. 1951), executed using the drip painting technique, conveys the same sensation of horror vacui as this large glazed ceramic piece.

Two couples bring the exhibition to a close in room 48: a small sculpture of Aphrodite (200 BC‒150 BC), the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility, who accompanies a modern Venus, Roy Lichtenstein’s Woman in a Bath (1963); and two works from the 1960s, Lucio Fontana’s Venice was All in Gold (1961) and Sitting Gioconda. Homage to Lucio Fontana (1969), a tribute paid by the Spanish artist Darío Villalba to the Argentinean painter not long after the latter’s death. The vertical cut through which the native woman’s face is visible recalls Fontana’s paintings marked by the distinctive gesture of slashing the canvas with a knife.

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