Peter Burke, 7 November 1991
‘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’.