By Wendy Hower Livingston
Of course the Museo del Prado would have to be wonderful — it houses the Spanish royal family’s art collection. But I didn’t expect my hair to stand on end, with head-to-toe chills, over and over, during my visit there yesterday. The Nasher Museum group raced the marble floors from masterpiece to masterpiece, trying to keep up with Senior Curator Sarah Schroth. Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” was worth a whole day alone. I will never look at a strawberry the same again. The Prado, by the way, is loaning seven paintings to our upcoming exhibition, “El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III.” It began to sink in just how far these seven paintings will travel to reach the Nasher Museum: through 400 years and across an ocean. … The local Spanish artists from the court of King Philip III (1598 to 1621) — Sarah explained to us — would have studied many of these master works in person. She pointed out the influences of Titian and Rogier van der Weyden on Spanish artists who were suddenly getting good business from Philip III’s favorite, the Duke of Lerma. The duke was the first mega-collector in Europe, and his patronage made possible an incredible — and little known, until now — era of Spanish art. We stood, mouths open, as Sarah pointed out how van der Weyden coaxes the viewer’s eye across “Descent from the Cross” with his judicious use of red paint. Ruth Cox, the art restoration expert from Chapel Hill, stepped up to explain how painters of the day handled gold leaf. Many of us thought about American artist Barkley L. Hendricks and his use of gold and silver leaf in portraits. The UNC-TV crew filmed the exterior of the Prado (for a 30-minute documentary about the exhibition), and taught me how to work the camera and set up different shots. Oh, those pesky pigeons! Misbehaving tourists! Culinary adventure update: fried baby squid omelette last night.