Friday, May 25, 2018

La Feria de Abril: Seville Annual Spring Fair

Spring in Seville has a special atmosphere, garlanded with the sweet scent of orange blossom and jasmine, and a frisson of excitement, as the city's two most important events take place: Semana Santa and then the Spring Fair, the Feria, which takes place in Los Remedio in the south-west of the city, next to the river. Seville's April Fair, one of Andalucía's most famous fiestas which begins two weeks after the Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week, is an opportunity for locals to dress in their best flamenco costumes and be seen strolling along the wonderfully decorated streets. Begun in 1847 as a cattle trading fair, it took only one year before an air of festivity began to transform the fair, due mainly to the emergence of the first three casetas, belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, the Town Hall, and the Casino of Seville. During the 1920s, the fair reached its peak and became the spectacle that it is today, a riot of colour, noise, music, dancing and round-the-clock partying, attracting around one million visitors from all over Spain and far flung corners of the globe.

The fair officially begins at midnight on the Monday, and runs six days, ending on the following Sunday. Each day the fiesta begins around noon with the parade of carriages and riders carrying beautifully dressed prominent Sevillians to the bullring, La Real Maestranza, where the bullfighters and breeders meet. For the duration of the fair, the fairgrounds and a vast area on the far bank of the Guadalquivir River are covered in rows of casitas - individual decorated marquee tents which are temporarily built on the fairground. These casetas usually belong to important families of Seville, groups of friends, clubs, trade associations and political parties. From around nine at night until six or seven the following morning, at first in the streets and later only within each caseta, there are crowds partying and dancing sevillanas, drinking Sherry, manzanilla or rebujito, and eating tapas. For tourists and visitors to the city, the Feria is a golden opportunity to wander the grounds and soak in the sheer spectacle of this annual event. 

Hundreds of horse drawn carriages bring lucky invited guests to the Feria, 
but first saunter around the grounds for the 'paseo de caballos'

Elegantly dressed Sevillian couple dressed for the Feria

Couple arriving at the Feria on horseback, with the man wearing a 'traje corto' - short jacket, tight trousers and boots, and a hat called cordobes, and lady with her traje de gitana

Horses wear colourful pom-poms and bells, their manes and tails braided, 
with some beautifully-preserved carriages are pulled by one or more horses

Children are very much a part of the parade, either as occupants of the carriages, 
or even as the carriage driver

Young rider wearing dark colored riding jacket, long skirt and flat brimmed hat
sitting up very straight and confidently holding the reins in her hands

Father and son riding together 

Horses clip-clopping through the streets are one of the wonderful sounds of the Feria

A bandolero carriage driver enjoying the shade on a hot Feria afternoon

Ladies being helped down from the carriage in front of the striped casetas, 
each with its own hand-painted pañoleta

Dressed in ruffled dresses with fringed shawls and silk flowers in their hair,
some final adjustments are needed before arriving at the family caseta

Seville's feria is a celebration of family and friendship

One of only two Public Tents at the Feria, getting a seat at a table is close to impossible

The next best thing is elbowing up to the bar and having a beer and tapas standing up

A hot day at the Feria — a cold beer was just the thing

The menu was not sophisticated but was popular with many who would be drinking all day and night at the Feria, and needing lots of carbs

Fried chicken with patatas fritos

Seafood Paella

Croquettes and more patatas fritos

Chicken Kabobs

Pescado Frito

After a few drinks and too many tapas, our servers become like family

Young and old take to the stage and dance their best flamenco

The flamenco spirit moves in mysterious ways

Groomsman waiting with his horses

Once the carriages have dropped off their guests, they all line up along the cobbled lanes waiting for the revellers to return

Dressed in formal riding wear with top hats and shiny leather boots

A mule in full regalia with yellow and purple pom-poms and 'necklace' of little bells

For one week each year, Seville is transformed into a colourful celebration of flamenco, music and dance, 
horses and bullfighting and of course, food and drink

Flamboyant flamenco dress with the traditional polka dot design - the oldest and most popular

Mothers and daughters often have matching dresses

After a full day at the Feria, we hired a horse drawn carriage to take us back to the Alfonso XIII

Arriving back at the Alfonso XIII with Mateo and Cioccolata

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Museo de Bellas Artes in Seville & Bartolomé Murillo

Housed in the beautiful former Convento de la Merced, Seville's Fine Arts Museum provides an elegant showcase for a comprehensive collection of Spanish and Sevillan paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century, including a choice selection of works by artists from the Golden Age of Sevillian painting during the 17th century, such as Murillo, Zurbarán, Francisco de Herrera the younger, and Valdés Leal. The building itself was built in 1594, but the museum was founded in 1839, after the desamortizacion or shuttering of religious monasteries and convents, collecting works from across the city and region. The convent was built around a series of lovely leafy courtyards which were incorporated into the redesign of the art museum in 1839. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolome Esteban Murillo who was one of the most famous painters from Seville, there is a church at the far end of the museum which today serves as a gallery devoted to some of the artists outstanding works, in addition to a special exhibition entitled 'Murillo y los Capuchinos de Sevilla', a unique gathering of his famed Capuchin altarpiece of five outstanding paintings he created for the Capuchin Convent of Seville.

Claustro de los Bojes, the beautiful Tuscan courtyard that was one of the convent's courtyards incorporated into the redesign of the art museum in 1839

A lush garden of beautiful trees and gurgling fountains, 
the Museo courtyards are a lovely tranquil place to sit and relax

Fragrant orange blossoms

Blooming Natal Lillies

Detail of carved wooden door leading from the convent courtyard

Interior of the Museo de Bellas Artes

There were groups of young children being introduced to art in every museum we went to in Spain, which is an enormously positive trend but a tad noisy

'La Purificación' by Luis de Vargas, 1560

'Immaculada' by Juan de Valdes Leal, 1672

'Virgen con il Nino' by Francisco Pisano, 1529

Entrance to the 'Murillo y los Capuchinos de Sevilla' exhibition in the former convent Mercedario Church

Immaculate Conception of the Choir, 'The Girl', by Murillo 1668

'Ascension of the Virgin' by Murillo, 1634

'Immaculate Conception' by Murillo, 1652

'Immaculada' by Murillo, 1675

The Murillo Exhibition at the Museo

Collection of Murillo paintings in the convent's former church, 
with its impressive soaring vaulted ceiling

18th-century Sevillan Piano by Mirabal

'Retrato de Gustavo Adolfo Becquer' by Valeriano Becquer, 1862

'Pareja de Baile Sevillana' by José Garcia Ramos, 1885

Bilbao Martínez’s career reached its peak in 1915 with the painting Las cigarreras en la Fábrica de Tabacos de Sevilla - “Cigarette Girls at the Seville Tobacco Manufactory”

Detail of 'Las Ciggareros', by Gonzalo Bilbao Martinez, 1915

'Sevillano en su Patio' by Diego Lopez, 1918