Marble statue of a discus thrower. Second century A.D. copy
of a fifth century B.C. Greek original. Said to have been found
in Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli. The Emperor Hadrian had quite a
thing for beautiful young athletes. His favorite youth, Antinous,
was immortalized in numerous statues. Antinous didn’t have
those awesome deltoids, though.
It’s autumn, and that means here in Madrid the summer art shows are wrapping up and the autumn exhibitions are upon us. Madrid has several fine galleries and world-class museums to choose from, and the line-up this year is looking pretty good. Stay tuned for some fun shows here on Black Gate.
In the meantime, one of the last of the summer shows to finish is Agon! Competition in Ancient Greece at the Caixa Forum, a private gallery owned by one of the big Spanish banks. The show brings together dozens of objects from the British Museum in London, some of which are usually on permanent display there and others that I’ve never seen before.
Madrid is famous for its vast collection of art and antiquities, and the biggest museum news from Spain’s capital this year is the reopening of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. It was closed for refurbishment for several years and madrileños were beginning to wonder if they were ever going to get their archaeological museum back.
Earlier this year, it finally reopened and having just moved back to Madrid I made a beeline to go see it.
It was worth the wait. The old museum, with its poor lighting and antiquated displays, is no more, replaced by a more open, modern floor plan that reminds me of the 2009 redesign of the Ashmolean in Oxford. The signage has improved, with detailed texts in both Spanish and English, and the arrangement of the artifacts is easier on the eye.
When the Romans marched into the Iberian Peninsula 218 BC, they found it to be a patchwork of small Celtic kingdoms and tribes, each with its distinct local traditions, but sharing the same overall culture.
Like with the other Celtic peoples they faced, the Romans met fierce resistance, and didn’t fully conquer the peninsula for 200 years. The last holdouts were the mountain tribes of northern Spain–the Cantabri, the Astures, and the Gallaeci. They have left their names as three of Spain’s northern provinces–Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. In a bitter war from 29 to 19 BC, the Emperor Augustus brought these tribes to heel and took their land for the empire.
“Cantabri” means “mountain people.” They were an isolated and independent-minded culture living a mostly pastoral lifestyle. Several of their villages and cemeteries have been excavated and the regional government has also built a reconstructed Cantabrian village. The Poblado Cántabro at Cabezón de la Sal, an hour’s train ride from the regional capital Santander, gives the visitor an insight into the lives of these ancient people.