Factum Arte

We celebrated my birthday with a dinner in the courtyard of Factum Arte in a remote suburb of Madrid.   It began with a tour of the work they are undertaking:  a reproduction of the Assyrian winged lions from the British Museum;  a faded replica of Leonardo’s Last Supper;  a reproduction of Graham Sutherland’s portrait of Winston Churchill.   What they do mainly is make works for artists which require some particular specialist skill.   Then, they also do detailed digital reproduction of works of art at risk, as well as works which have for some reason been destroyed.   It’s a factory of ideas – three quarters craft and one quarter technology:-

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Madrid (1)

I slipped out of the hotel last night to buy a charger (one of many essentials lost in our luggage) and now realise that I was in the heart of Los Literatos, the area which was dominated in the nineteenth century by the cafés and theatres of liberal writers and intellectuals, opponents to the rigid censorship of Ferdinand VII.   Opposite the old Palace Hotel, opened in 1910, was the tourist office, under wraps and awaiting renovation:-

Nearby, on the Calle del León is the discrete entrance to the Ataneo Artistico, Cientifico y Literario, the Spanish equivalent of the Royal Society and British Academy, with a Lecture Theatre and Library which I couldn’t see:-

Before returning to the hotel, I saw another grand nineteenth-century building on the Carrera de San Jerónimo, also covered in netting:-

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Hispanic Society of America

I have been pleased to catch the big exhibition of Treasures of the Hispanic Society at the Prado, having long loved its rather gloomy headquarters on 155th. Street.   Inevitably in a big, celebratory exhibition, it shows what the Society owns to better effect, beginning with antiquities, including an amazing bronze lamp, a Visigothic belt buckle and Umayyad pyxis.   Wonderful pieces of medieval metalwork, all acquired unprovenanced from Lionel Harris, a London antique dealer, in 1906.   Huntington collected medieval books and manuscripts fanatically as well, from a German dealer called Karl Hiersemann.   Then the great paintings for which the collection is best known – El Grecos, Zurbarán, Ecce Homo by Luis de Morales, two wonderful Velázquez portraits, and Goya’s Duchess of Alva. Upstairs is a collection of portraits of grand Spaniards of his day.   An exhibition particularly, and unexpectedly, rich in sculpture and decorative arts.

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British Airways (1)

I suppose we didn’t need the crashing of the British Airways IT system to demonstrate our total dependency on computerisation.   We arrived at Heathrow for a flight to Madrid.   Long queues.   No indication as to what had happened.   Eventually we were checked in.   We were told that our flight hadn’t yet left Madrid, so we had breakfast and went shopping.   Then, Romilly luckily spotted the last call for our flight.   We rushed to the Gate.   We’ve made it to Madrid, but our luggage hasn’t.   The only compensation was the sight of Richard Rogers’s beautifully elegant, curved and coloured roof to Madrid Airport, part of the great programme of public works by the Spanish government in the 1990s (opened in 2006):-

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St. George’s, Hanover Square

The last of the great eighteenth-century churches I passed last night was St. George’s, Hanover Square, another of the Commissioners’ Churches, designed by John James, who was himself one of the two surveyors to the Commission, with Hawksmoor, as well as joint Clerk of Works at Greenwich.   He’s always regarded as a bit dull as an architect, but I don’t think that either the massing or the detailing of St. George’s is dull:-

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St. Anne, Soho

This is one of the more esoteric views of London because it is nearly impossible to appreciate the façade, let alone, the interior of St. Anne, Soho, because it is protected from the street by very high curved fencing.   But passing it this evening, I noticed that someone was cleaning the churchyard of rubbish and guessed – correctly – that the door from the street might be unlocked.   So, this is a view of the church tower, added in 1800 by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, the surveyor to the Bishop of London, to the body of a church said to have been designed in 1677 by either Talman or Wren:-

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Somerset House

I have often posted photographs of the courtyard of Somerset House, where the Royal Academy used to be, occupying the rooms which are now the Courtauld Institute gallery;  but I don’t think that I have ever previously photographed William Chambers’s grand, monumental, neoclassical entrance façade, announcing his project built for the government off the busy highway of the Strand and with keystones representing the rivers of England:-

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