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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!).

In Málaga it is tradition to only provide streets with the first name of the honored person. So we all know who does Larios street stand for –the famous Málaga brewer–, but right next to it we find the commercial Martínez street and I’m still figuring out who is being honored there.

Well, I thought that the Ferrándiz street where I was staying was named after the famous character “Chanquete” of the show Blue Summer. Or so I thought the first day.

A new Sunday rose dazzling but with a nice cool breeze, strange in June. We decided to have breakfast outside in the park, we took a look around and chose to sit down at the bar The Garden of the Monkeys, a terrace sheltered by a chapel with a great view to the jacarandas of the square and the daily grind in the streets. When the waiter arrived I couldn’t help myself thinking he looked like one of the characters from the Planet of the Apes. I asked, then, for the reason behind the name of the bar. It seemed like Victoria square is also known as The garden of the monkeys since for a long time it held two cages.

After breakfast we –my wife and me – wandered from Victoria street, back bone of “de chupa y tira” (lick an throw away) neighborhood, to the touristic center of Málaga. That morning we would visit the Customs museums, an old impressing building that has just been restored to host the archaeological and the Málaga painters museum under the name of Málaga Museum.

The archaeological museum had its beginnings in the Loringiana Collection of antiques that the rich Loring marriage, Amalia and Jorge, amassed in their country house, today the Botanical Garden of Málaga. The Loringiana collection acquired real size during the mid XIXth century, after the purchase of the collection of the Córdoba antiquarian Pedro Leonardo de Villacevallos. This material would later welcome the new collections. Capitals from Medina Azahara, milliaria and roman and Arab tombstones coming from Córdoba decorate the entrance room of the museum.

However, the surprise begun when I reached the floor dedicated to Málaga painters. I crossed the door and the first thing I saw was the face of the waiter from the Garden of the Monkeys, the bar, a bust sculpted in stone exactly like him!

And so I got close enough to read the information about the head. And, oh, surprise!, it was the painter: Bernardo Ferrándiz y Badenes, a Valencia man that lived in Málaga and is considered the father of the Málaga painting. It is him the man with the surname written in a street plaque not Chanquete the actor.

But who was this man with monkey features, a street named after him and a public statue that I didn’t know about before. Well, I was at the right spot to find out, and I decided to act and do some good old research of this artist’s work in the collection. And the collection had plenty of his work, but it was the smallest of his paintings that gave me the key to understanding this artist’s life and fate.

The painting I’m referring is a small panel only a bit bigger than a paper sheet, donated by the Prado Museum. The name of the painting is “Postrimerías” (dying moments) and was painted in 1881, a year after the event I’m about to tell you and four years before Ferrándiz’s death.

Bernardo Ferrándiz was in 1880 the director of the Fine Arts School of Saint Telmo. It is thanks to his work that this institution reached the level of the best academies in Spain, even Europe. As we said before he was the father of the Málaga painting, big Málaga names like Moreno Carboner, José Nogales and Enrique Simonet among many others were his disciples.

Ferrándiz was then known for being liberal and a republican, also for his professional enthusiasm and perseverance to improve the School of Fine Arts –though he always struggled for funding. It was during this struggles that the fatal event that lead him to his ruin and perhaps even his death took place.

This happened: Ferrándiz asked for a sum of money to economically provide the awards of the Fine Arts School, a sum that was refused to him by the board. In one of the board’s meetings he encountered Juan Nepomuceno Ávila, an academic and a preppy ultra-catholic monarchic supporter that was also the municipal architect and close friend of the Marquis of Salamanca. It was him, in the first place, who denied Ferrándiz the money. A heated argument started between them and Ferrándiz couldn’t take it any longer and exploded completely losing his temper and attacking Nepomuceno. So violent must have been the attack that he was charged with attempted murder and sent to prison. He was barred and expelled from the School. However, even though the event were in everybody’s mouth, it barely made it to the local newspapers. Even nowadays is hard to find information about the event.

Ferrándiz died that day for the official circles of culture in Málaga. He stopped painting too. This little painting that I told you about portrays his living death and depicts the two main characters that lead to this dying moments of his: himself as a dead cat, and this Nepomuceno, a mouse gloating over the death of whom he didn’t kill.

The panel painting has the following inscription:

“Kick a man once he is dead”

 “Oh King, fierce yesterday for you my deeds I did enforced, and today that death is inside me even you have come to tread on the dust I once was!

So it says the inscription in the frame of Ferrándiz’s painting, also its tittle refers to a proverb that teach us about the cowardice of kicking someone when he is down.

The story of this “cursed” artist is barely known nor published. But even so Ferrándiz got to have his surname in a street plaque and a statue. He did a lot for the Arts in Málaga and filled the city with works of art, for instance the ceiling and the curtains of the Cervantes Theater that nowadays stands a symbol of Malaga’s commitment with culture.

All in all, what can you do! Another cursed artist that joins my personal altar. It has been a while since I first realized that in Spain, where culture is but a nuisance when it cannot be an ornament, the cursed ones are the only ones that carry the true essence of Spanish culture. I turn to them cursed ones for truth, I turn to them cursed ones once they are dead and then happily reinstated, happily published now that they can no longer “pollute” the status quo. Cursed ones, in Spain there are hundreds of them: Lorca was a cursed poet, so was Alberti too and Antonio Machado and Miguel Hernández and Goytisolo, Panero, Haro, García Calvo, the rocker Silvio or Juan Antonio Canta, and even the eternal Cervantes himself or the great Goya, all of them cursed and badly treated during their time. A cursed artist was also the Málaga painter Pablo Picasso who, by the way, begun his Arts studies in Ferrándiz Saint Telmo School just a few years after the fatal event.

Blessed cursed ones!

PS: I couldn’t go to the Garden of the Monkeys to ask that waiter about his surname, I unfortunately run out of time in Málaga.

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