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“Old Córdoba” refers to what nowadays are the ruins of the city-palace of Medina Azahara. Already in 1241 when Fernando III ordered the new distribution of land and properties of the recently conquered city of Córdoba he spoke of the “Old Córdoba”, thus, reflecting the ruinous state in which the Christians found Medina Azahara.

Nowadays we use the GPS in our cell phones, apps that give us the better route and take us to our destination. Not long ago there used to be guides and maps and we kept them inside the glove compartment of our cars. But, what was used before that and before before that? How did a Roman citizen travel such a vast Empire without taking the wrong turn? How could the travel be planned in advance?

Spanish History is filled with curious an interesting stories, many of them would make a terrific film script in Hollywood, sadly most of them are unknown to us. That is the case of Juan Latino who was the first black man to be appointed professor at a University in History. But if this fact caught your attention wait until you read the rest of the story.

Hermits in Sierra Morena are a tradition as old as Christian Faith in Spain; some even say that the hermit tradition in Europe started there and then spread. It was the bishop Hosius of Córdoba the one who after meeting Saint Antonio Abad officially introduced this Christian tradition for the first time in Western Europe. However, the 13 small white shrines crowning the mountains of Córdoba come from a more recent past.

The painting style and technique exploited by Julio Romero de Torres has been for decades now the sole painting fashion in Córdoba thus superseding a great deal of excellent painters that as of today are completely unknown to the vast majority of the public. One of them is Antonio Palomino (1655-1726), considered by many the best Spanish mural painter after Goya. This painter is not only known by his wonderful art pieces but also by his extensive and rigorous work as an essayist.

Beyond the famous rivalry between the Córdoba poet Luis de Góngora and Quevedo –widely considered the richest and most prolific rivalry between two writers of the Spanish Golden Age–, which we should also celebrate as it has left us so many poetic gems, there is also a widely interesting yet unknown relationship between Quevedo and the city of Córdoba. It was here, in Córdoba, where the first translation into Spanish of the famous work by Tomas Moro Utopia was accomplished and it was so because of Quevedo.

I have not run into Adolfo Best Maugard’s work until recently and by mere but happy chance. I was researching on Miguel Covarrubias, a self-made designer, anthropologist and archaeologist who lived and worked between New York and Mexico city and was a key figure for the nationalist cultural movement in Mexico during the first half of the XXth century, when I came across this little book by Elena Poniatowska that collected articles and obituaries after the death of this magnetic figure.

We could very well find the true value and quality of any given creation by taking a look at how frequently that particular creation is reproduced and/or imitated throughout time. The Córdoba Mezquita is one of the great architectural heritages the Arabs left in Spain. And this is certainly not by mere chance or accident but instead due to the architectural advances that were implemented in its construction by the Muslims. This turned the Mezquita in much more than a praying place: a monumental source of technical inspiration.

I am a bit of a bookworm and today I got lucky in just the right way. I was glancing through one of my old Art magazines, one of many that were published in the early XXth century, and I discovered another unknown painting of Córdoba by the great Darío de Regoyos.

During the XIXth century Europeans developed a fascination for the Eastern world. The Ottoman Empire, the North of Africa and Egypt were some of the regions that symbolized the romantic tendency towards this unknown sensuality. The far East (Asia) was still too far to travel pleasurable. And Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt had just brought this mysterious lands closer thus opening a world of fantasies that acted as a magnet to wealthy cultivated families as well as many artists.

This year the Bauhaus commemorates its hundred years and I would like to use the opportunity to fill you in an interesting and odd crossbreed between Flamenco and this historical institution. It is odd because, as you may well know, the Bauhaus was officially declared “degenerate art” by the almighty German mustache –of course I mean Hitler–. Needless to say that it did not please our very own Spanish mustache neither.

We would call it fake news nowadays but back then it went by a different name: they were called legends and had the same political effect fake news have these days. And no, Charlemagne never did set foot in Córdoba, although he would have very much liked to. In truth it appears that he tried but failed disastrously.

When entering the main hall of the State Tretyakov Gallery the first thing you might see will be an enormous painting of the famous and unique Christ of the Lanterns of Córdoba. And that well deserves a brief investigation on how and why the Capuchins’ square has such an importance  in this Russian Museum.

Flamenco, that profound and rich Art declared one of the masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, has a complex and not so clear origin, even for those well-versed in the matter. Its genesis comes with a great many hypothesis, myths and false beliefs. That is, in my opinion, what makes it so interesting to study today: Flamenco still has a lot of secrets.

Cartier-Bresson (of whom we have already talked about in this blog) and Robert Capa were not the only souls to have taken pictures in Córdoba. The Austrian photographer Inge Morath also visited the city around the second half of the XXth century; not many pictures from this trip have seen the light, but the few that did cannot go unmentioned here.

When Diego de Velázquez dies in August of 1660, the Córdoba painter Juan de Alfaro is nothing but a teenager, a young man of 17 that had managed to become Velázquez apprentice. However this odd Córdoba character, perhaps dazzled by the greatness of his master, in a short period of time, ended up being something more than just a disciple.

José Ortiz Echagüe (1886–1980) is the great “amateur” Spanish photographer of the XXth century. In 1935 the “American Photography” magazine considered him as one of the top three photographers in the world, he was however a difficult profile to classify. He was a military engineer that in 1923 founded C.A.S.A. (Construcciones Aeronáuticas S.A. or Aeronautic Constructions S.A.), and later, in 1950, he developed one of the first Spanish factories of automobiles, SEAT, which he would run until 1976.

Carlos Villarías was an actor from Córdoba that left a golden mark in Hollywood right when the first sound films were being introduced. He played the leading role of a Spanish version of Dracula at the height of his career. He played the same role of Bela Lugosi in the English version.

Buenos Aires underground or metro (the “subte”, short for “subterráneo” which literary means underground,  for its residents,) was and still is more of an Argentinian ceramic museum. There are murals in every station, and not only ceramic, sculptures, paintings, stained glass, mosaics, etc., too. For instance, D line was long ago declared an Historical National Monument for its murals. And they come in all shapes and themes. There are murals dedicated to Mafalda, Gardel, Maradonna and even Messi.

We have already talked about Pedro de Córdoba and his panel the Annunciation, now exhibited in the Mezquita. In that same article Bartolomé Bermejo was briefly mentioned. He was a painter that worked mainly for the Crown of Aragón in Valencia and Zaragoza. Such was his talent that he even got to be of the main figure of the so called Catroccento in Aragon.

The erotic drama filmed in 1978 starts off with the main character in the famous Potro square copying the paintings of Julio Romero de Torres. The guitar of Manolo Sanlúcar plays flawlessly in the background. The plot of the movie is above all set in the narrows streets of the Jewish quarter and the outsides of a Cortijo at slope of the Sierra Morena mountains.

The poet Muhammad Iqbal in the Mezquita’s Mihrab in 1933.

Muhammad Iqbal (1877, Punjab – 1938, Lahore) is better know fir being the national poet of Pakistan. Iqbal received an excellent education in Europe and India, under the British rule: the British Raj. He graduated from the University of Cambridge and got a Philosophy doctorate from the University of Munich, and then work as a lecturer.

Perhaps it had to do with the fact that both Spain and Russia were the only two Nations capable of facing Napoleon at the peak of his power and defeat him –fighting two fronts at the same time might have also helped–; in any case it seems quite a coincidence that, during the XIXth century, Russian culture would develop such an interest for a relatively small, unknown and far away Nation: Spain.

What lead, in 1905, grand personalities such as Augusto Rodin, Zuloaga, Pío Baroja o Darío de Regoyos to visit Córdoba, back then a decaying and forgotten city? Perhaps they were invited by Inurria the sculptor; or maybe they were looking for the inspiration needed for new books and paintings. It had nothing to do with the previous motives.

I’d like to take this opportunity, now that the world cup trophy is in Russia, to talk about the soviet painters that visited Córdoba. There is little romanticism about it, they were painters coming from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 60’s and 70’s of the past century and, back then, not just anybody could go out of the country, much less artists, all-time suspects to the strict eye of the Soviet regime.

Here once again in Málaga, I’m staying in an apartment at Ferrándiz street, a long street that grows directly from the Victoria square, right from the same spot where Amargura (Bitter) street starts off, and leads directly to the square of Christ of the Epidemics (What a country!).

Let’s start by saying that Sigurd Curman was the great mind behind the restoration of Swedish monuments, similar to what Viollet-le-Duc did in France –he was the man who restored Notre Dame and the Gothic jewel of Sainte-Chappelle in Paris–; or Ruskin in England with his numerous publications on restoration; Aloís Riegl in Vienna, Camilo Boito in Italy or Velázquez Bosco in Spain. 

Even though this video became trending topic when the Córdoba film production company “12 frames” released it to the public, the truth is that it barely reached 15,000 views during this long period of time. Therefore it is very likely that you haven’t seen the video yet.

The festivities of May in Córdoba come to an end with the Fair of la Salud (Our Lady of Health) and the announcing poster is very important, a true tradition. These posters have evolved in design, adjusting throughout time to the particular fashion of every period of history, as well as in format. The first ones –as of today genuine gems for collectors– were made in a big format that would easily reached 2 meters in height, following in the footsteps of bullfighting posters, with which they had to compete, and were usually made in lithographs. Those are specially valuable for collectors as they are of great beauty.

Jan Banning, the dutch photographer, is known worldwide by his series of pictures of workers and his excellent portraits. One of his most famous series, “RED UTOPIA”, portraits offices of the communist party all over the world; a propaganda search of the remains of communism, 100 years past the Russian Revolution.

This forgotten Córdoba artist constituted the key to the renaissance of Talavera ceramic in the beginning of the XXth century. He founded the School of Ceramic of Madrid, directed it and taught there. He is responsible for one of the capital’s distinguishing features: its commercial tiles.

Well, you’ve made it inside and have taken a picture of the forest of columns, now you are ready to begin with the Mezquita. Soon enough, with a quick Google search, you will discover that your picture grows in the Internet by the thousands and, worse, many will be very similar, you might even doubt the authenticity of your own effort. It is, however, something you simply must do to kill the itch. Don’t be shy! Take as many pictures as you want, though you ought to know that they won’t be the best photos you can take of the Mezquita.

Up until now, as noted by José María Báez in “Images and visions of Córdoba” (2012), there were only two known paintings of Regoyos during his stay, alongside with Pío Baroja, in Córdoba. However, it seems there was an other painting. I found out about it by mere chance while surfing the net. Regoyos is considered the best paintor of the 98 generation, also one the most famous Spanish impresionists.

The progressive lost of sight Borges’s father had took the family to an European pilgrimage. They first went to Geneva, where his illness would be treated, and stayed there throughout the Great War. The family will later establish in Mallorca and from there the inseparable Borges brothers went on to live in Seville for almost a year. While in Seville, Norah Borges and his brother Jorge Luis, engage actively in the Ultraist movement. It was then that his first works started to be published by magazines such as Grecia, Ultra y Reflector. In August of 1919, they would visit Córdoba. Their agenda included a rendezvous with the famous Córdoba painter Julio Romero de Torres.

There is no knowing for sure if ever the arcs of the north facade of the Mezquita were open to the Patio de los Naranjos. It was Ambrosio de Morales the first to note the issue around the XVIth century. Although, later, the Arab chronicles of the building confirmed it. The truth is that the mere thought of it comes with a poetic and monumental vision. For a long time there has been many who have tried to keep the left spans of the Mezquita from holding new chapels, so they could be cleared away towards the Patio de los Naranjos.

This is the only picture taken in Córdoba by the best photographer of the XXth century:  Henri Cartier-Bresson, L’oeil du siècle.

Vu Magazine sent Cartier to cover the Spanish elections of 1933. However, once in Spain, the photographer noticed social phenomena beyond politics that needed to be seen and captured by the camera: poverty, prostitution, abandoned buildings, abandoned human beings sleeping in public places just like those he captured in France, Italy, Mexico and the USA. 

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, known as “Le Corbusier”, architect, theoretician, designer and crucial artist of the XXth century, also felt compelled by the Mezquita, by its structure and clear spaces. We could even speculate, on account of the signs he left us, that the Mezquita would have strongly influenced the way he thought of architecture. Le Corbusier visited Spain in several occasions. First in 1928, invited by the Students Residence in Madrid to give two conferences: “Architecture, Furniture and Works of Art” and “A House-a Palace”. He did not travel further south that time. It was not until 1930, during a tour of the Mediterranean coast along with Fernand Léger (the painter) his brother Albert and his cousin (and also partner at the time) Pierre Jeanneret, that he got to know Andalusia.

It is not a surrealist manifesto, it is only a photograph and probably one of my biggest headaches. I had a good time though, and I learned plenty about my city. It was taken by the famous photographer J. Laurent, a Frenchman that settled in Spain around 1855 to whom we owe the photographic feature of the entire peninsula before the XXth century. The caption in the photo says it is “The Door to the Mihrab or the Mosque Sanctuary”. The photo is kept safe in the archives of the Ministry of Culture. It must be the Mihrab of the Mezquita!

The XVth century brought changes to Fine Arts and particularly to Painting. Gothic Art, its forms of representation (sculpture, glass and tesseras), was showing signs of depletion. That and the availability of new techniques such as oil painting or perspective were already giving notice that Painting will become the main form of representation up until the “recent” development of  photography.

I am almost certain that at least one of you have heard of Gabi Delgado, well, that is if you are my age and have partied the night like my generation has. In my mind still echoes that little big pub in the old Jewish hood, “Varsovia” was the name back in the 80’s: cutting edge stuff.

Gabi Delgado was born in Córdoba in 1958, right in Manríquez street, or so the king said in a recent interview. He spent his childhood here but in 1966, he parted alongside his family to Germany (just like many other families did then). It is there, however, that his musical career starts; with time he would become one of the most influential musician in Germany.

The Mezquita is the finest patrimony the city of Córdoba has. It is important for many reasons: it is the oldest building still in use in Spain; it shows the fusion of great civilizations that were able to cohabit in harmony at the time; it is a symbol to the Islamic world; and it also represents an architectonic reference that even nowadays leaves architects from all over the world in awe.

The circular bench made with the famous ceramic from Talavera that today slowly decays forgotten in the Agriculture Gardens (Los Patos), acted, back in 1925, as the limit enclosing the local Seneca public library. The library was but a small hexagonal hall containing little more than 2000 books that remained open until 1963. Then the library was demolished on account of prostitution being held in the premises at night. The circular bench is the only reminiscence of it, now rotting away because of idle institutions. 

Despite the original building (1979) was to be located in the mountains near Córdoba (you can look it up above; the MOMA keeps the project plans safe), it was finally build 40 kilometers from Seville in 2004, in La Roda (between the regions of Burguillos, Guillen and El Ronquillo). 

Summer fades away, temperatures decrease and a gentle breeze cools the punished earth of Córdoba, and this will last until Christmas. Summers are very hard to endure, in exchange –you can call it justice– the remaining seasons treat us kindly and we can finally walk the streets at any hour. This Fall, just like any other Fall in Córdoba, opens with poetry: the Cosmopoética Festival. 

What is it that fascinate us so much about M.C. Escher? His impossible paintings and surreal mosaics seem to lack a expire date. There are a millions replicas of his drawings circulating the web, especially those reflecting his tours around Córdoba and Granada. Maurits Cornelis Escher, better known as M.C. Escher, traveled to Spain for the first time in 1926 and visited the Alhambra of Granada. He took many notes during his stay there and made sketches of  its famous mosaics. 

José de la Vega, whose real name was Joseph Penso de la Vega Pasariño, was a Jewish merchant and writer. He was born in Espejo (Córdoba) around 1650, probably, into a Jewish  family from Portugal or Galicia. One of many new Christians families that converted in Spain. He successfully engaged in trade and finances, though, he was also a fine author. 

The biography of our most distinguished and universal writer, Miguel de Cervantes, gets eaten away by the mist of time. There are but a few true and verified facts about the life of the great author. Countless scholars and investigators have been trying desperately to disentangle the puzzled enigma of his life in order to build an honest portrait of Don Miguel. For instance, although it is not certain, many believe him to have been born in Córdoba.

“A diverse group of about fifteen or twenty people seated any way we can on improvised benches of all sorts or even on the floor of the “Plaza del Potro”, enjoying a cool, calm and  warm mood after a long satisfying, yet tiring, day's work. Most of them are young boys and girls from every corner of the world that have come to Córdoba with the sole purpose of taking the intensive guitar course that we are organizing in the “Posada del Potro”. There are also people from Córdoba, some friends and family of mine and neighbors from nearby streets that have joined us, attracted by the music and, maybe, the never-ending wine from the cellar of my dear friend Enrique Santos.”

We dealt recently with Ronald Kitaj and his chiquita piconera, today we shall talk about another great British Pop character: David Hockney. He too made his peculiar grand tour around the romantic Andalucía. It was in spring of 2004 when he visited the three Andalusian architectural  treasures: Córdoba, Granada and Seville. 

Romanticism (flourishing at end of the XVIII century and beginning of the XIX century) would wake up the interest of many artist for the far and exotic lands, Andalucía would be among those unexplored and raw places. Cities like Córdoba would serve as inspiration for artists. In exchange for that the cities gained a portrait, living memories quite helpful when investigating our past. 

Solitude, that despicable flaw with which the new Contemporary Art Center of Córdoba was born, seems to have sentenced it–temporarily, I hope– to suffer the Sacunda curse (the curse harvesting and separating life and death in the city for more than a thousand years). However, far from harming the works of Pepe Espaliú, this solitude comes to strengthen them with some sort of a sound presence that multiplies the emotions of its viewing.

Wikipedia states that Antoine Alexandre Henri Poinsinet was born in Fontainblue the 17th of November of 1735 and drowned in the Guadalquivir, in Córdoba, the 7th of June of 1769. The French playwright and librettist of the great Philidor –to whom Wikipedia dedicates more space trying to make sense of his odd character than to his work– would be the lead character in this curious story that happened very close to Hotel Viento10.

Ronald Kitaj may not be as popular as his close friend David Hockney, and yet he is the one who introduced the School of London to the world by that same name. The school of London gathered pop British painters such as Allen Jones, Boshier, Caufield, Peter Phillips, etc.

The “errand Jew”, as he often spoke of himself, born in Ohio, although later would take on the British citizenship, first heard of Spain to his mother who befriended the brigadiers that fought in the Republican side during the Civil War. He visited Sant Feliu de Guíxols (Costa Brava) in 1957, it was then that his relationship with the Spanish culture begun and it would last 20 years. 

What do they have in common: the word Córdoba and cordovan, cordon and cordonnier (shoemaker in french). Well all of them derive from the name CÓRDOBA. Just imagine the prestige and relevance that leathers from Córdoba reached during the Middle Ages all over the known world. 

Under the category of “Iglesias Fernandinas” fall  all the churches that Fernando III commanded to be built in Córdoba after the city was finally captured from the Muslims in 1236. The buildings are in-between Romanesque and Gothic architecture: a must for anyone that enjoys art and history. The churches are of a strong appearance, almost fortresses. Many are build in the same place of prior mosques using the same elements for the new construction.

Córdoba plays a powerful role in the world of Photography, having its highpoint during International Photography Biennial of Córdoba. This XVIth edition the Biennial will focus on war images. Between the 23rd of March and the 21st of May a wide range of activities will be taking place in Córdoba: workshops, documentaries of warlike conflicts, book presentations, conferences, round tables.

When talking about ancient bells we ought to establish two different categories. The first category would apply to oldest bells in general, without taking into consideration their current use or disuse. The second category would account for oldest bells still ringing at the top of a bell tower nowadays. It is to this second category that the famous bell “Wamba”, from the Cathedral of Oviedo, belongs to. In fact, the bell preceded the bell tower: it was molten in 1219.

Because of the correspondence he had with his wife Clotilde when he travels, we know that Joaquín Sorolla visited Córdoba for the first time at the end of march in 1902. “Impressions are so fast and so many that my head feels like a madhouse. We treated ourselves to such an artistic binge in Córdoba” he writes in one of the letters.

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