A Welcome for Foreigners

Peter Burke

  • The Golden Age of Painting in Spain by Jonathan Brown
    Yale, 330 pp, £39.95, January 1991, ISBN 0 300 04760 6
  • Spanish Paintings of the 15th through 19th Centuries by Jonathan Brown and Richard Mann
    National Gallery of Art, Washington/Cambridge, 165 pp, £50.00, April 1991, ISBN 0 521 40107 0

‘I Judge that Spain is a pious mother to foreigners and a very cruel stepmother to her own native sons,’ complained the 17th-century painter Jusepe de Ribera, a Valencian who spent most of his career working in Naples. This variation on the theme of the prophet without honour in his own country will doubtless strike a chord for many writers and artists today, from Australia to Brazil. It also sums up the central argument of Jonathan Brown’s new book The Golden Age of Painting in Spain, which emphasises Spain’s cultural dependence on foreigners. The author claims that even in its so-called ‘Golden Age’, here defined as the period 1480-1700, Spain remained ‘on the periphery of European art’. Brown therefore refuses to write a history of Spanish painting, a category he demolishes in a few incisive introductory pages entitled ‘The Frontiers of Spanish Art’.

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