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Spain - Expo Paris 1878

Spain at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1878


It is largely through its dead that Spain shines in the Fine Arts Gallery. Here, first of all, are some thirty paintings by Fortuny, a painter who was taken up in art at a young age and, although famous, is almost unknown to the French public, except through the exhibitions of the Goupil house. Fortuny is there in full, and the crowd crowds around these charming canvases, illuminated by the warm light of Spain, Morocco and the Orient. One admires, - and yet how much less the infatuation is today, how much the unintelligent copyists of the young master have done him wrong by accentuating his defects, which was much easier than imitating his great qualities! Here is the Retire, the Posada, the Arabian Fountain, the Charmers; here is the Repetition of the Comedy, which always seduces, but which should not be examined too closely. What colour! So much light! - What a pity that it is sometimes so abused! Then here are some small paintings by another dead man, almost an old dead man already, Zamacois: the Refectory, the King's Favourite, etc.; madmen and monks, unconscious actors in picturesque scenes full of finesse and good humour.

In the neighbourhood of Fortuny, one cannot pass without admiring the charming little paintings of M. Rico, in which one feels the influence of the master; but officially it is M. de Madrazzo, known to the French public, although he has not exhibited in France for a long time, who is the authorised representative of the Spanish school, with his graceful portraits, remarkable especially for the astonishing relief of the fabrics, and his pleasant genre scenes.

Here is a large historical canvas of fine execution, entitled: The Origin of the Roman Republic (the death of Lucretia), by M. Plasencia; another large canvas by M. Martinez Cubells: The Education of Prince Don Juan, which shows us the royal child taking his lesson from the throne and surrounded by courtiers, is treated with great science and taste. It is in historical painting, apart from the artists of great renown mentioned above, that the modern Spanish school is mainly distinguished.

In this order of works we may mention: Joan the Mad (Dona Juana la Loca), by
M. Pradilla. Joan accompanies the coffin of Philip the Handsome, her husband, who has been transported to Granada, and who, according to his wishes, travels only by night; the procession is stopped in the middle of an icy countryside, under a winter sky. This painting, very admired, is indeed worthy of admiration. Here is the Death of Francisco Pizarro, by Mr. Ramirez y Ibanez, also a very fine page; Philip II at Hampton Court, by Mr. Léon y Escosura; the Call to Arms, by Mr. Peyro Urrea; Guillen de Vinatea before Alfonso IV, by Mr. Sala; the Convoy of Saint Sebastian, by Mr. Ferrant y Fischermans.

We should also mention the interiors of chapels, sacristies and cathedrals, by
Gonzalvo y Perez; the Interior of an Inn, by Benlliure y Gil; An Adventure of Don Quixote, by Moreno y Carbonero; a very curious scene by M. Santa-Cruz y Bustamante, representing a burning chapel: a superb catalfaque is in the middle, guarded by valets in full livery, playing, drinking and smoking; one of these gentlemen lights his pipe at the nearest candle with a piece of paper, another snores on a sofa. Then there are various genre scenes, among which are some very remarkable ones, such as: Before the race, farewell to their families of the bullfighters dressed in the brilliant rabbit style, before going to the race, by Mr. Ferrandiz y Badinez; After the rain, in Madrid, by Mr. Ferriz; The Old Majo and the Vegetable Market, by Mr. Jimenez y Aranda; The Master of Arms, by Mr. Egusquiza; The Reclining Woman, by Mr. Cazado. Finally, let us add several good landscapes by Messrs. de Haes, J.-M. Velasco (Mexico), Morera y Galicia, etc.
As it stands, and certainly it is far from being poor, the Spanish art exhibition shows very noticeable progress, accomplished in a period which is nevertheless agitated and consequently not very favourable to the development of the arts, over that of 1867; it does better: it promises a great deal for the future, and, in the present state of affairs, it seems impossible that these promises will not be kept.


Let us now pass through the iron archway of the entrance door. The Spanish exhibition is divided into four rooms. In the first, we notice the exhibition of the Institute of Geography and Statistics of Madrid; that of the principal classical booksellers, notably Messrs. Bastinos, of Barcelona, of the Ilustracion espanola y americana and of the Imparcial of Madrid; pianos of excellent workmanship, photographs, billiard tables, etc.; and a number of other works of art.

Further on we find more remarkable earthenware than we expected, cheap cotton fabrics and precious fabrics; four-cent fans sold for only one franc. Further on, Spanish shoemaking exhibits true masterpieces, and we hear here only of the art illustrated by St. Crepin, and not of those marvellous relief paintings, of course, which some of these disciples of all Spain have executed with pieces of out-of-order soles. Basketry makes an excellent showing here, which does not surprise us; and so does the art of preparing hair, a more recent development.

The fourth room is reserved for the exhibition of the Ministry of War, with a corner for that of the national corps of engineers of bridges and roads. This is the most interesting. It is in this room, organised by an eminently, too eminently warlike nation, that one can study, with more fruit than on any point of the Champ de Mars, the art of war. Here are scale models of forts, redoubts, encampments, field infirmaries, and subsistence services; field and siege pieces, in steel and copper, and weapons of every kind and shape; mules all harnessed and beaten, loaded with canteens containing pharmacies or telegraphic apparatus, cacolets, etc., and driven by soldiers of the artillery, the engineers, and the military crews. Here are mannequins dressed in all the costumes of the army (field dress), infantryman, foot hunter, horse hunter, artilleryman, hussar, lancer, royal guard, gendarme, customs officer, soldiers of the various arms of the administration. Further on, ropes and pulleys, then plans, drawings, models of kinematic organs, geological samples, etc.


Education is less advanced in Spain than in other countries; one feels that instruction is far from being popularised as in neighbouring nations.

Secondary education, however, is better shared, and the institutes of Logrono, Orense, Cadiz, Teruel and Palma have submitted memoirs, statistics and reports which are not without value.

It is also worth noting the synoptic table of education drawn up by the special school for road and bridge engineers.

The printing and book trade, on the other hand, is widely represented; this class has no less than 96 exhibitors; the great majority of the works deal with military subjects.

The Spanish paper industry does not seem to us to be making any progress; on the other hand, the manufacture of cigarette paper has reached the highest point of progress, and Spanish cigarette papers are more than ever defying all competition.

Photography has well-done specimens of the principal views taken from the famous sites, monuments, and museums of Spain. It is always with the greatest curiosity that the public goes to these collections, and it can be said that, in all foreign exhibitions, photography, in this respect at least, has obtained an unquestionable success.

In the class of music, among other instruments, we find the national guitar.

In Spain, as in all other countries, the picturesque relief of the customs of yesteryear is fading away; no doubt the time has passed when lovers went to strum the guitar k under the windows of their sweethearts, but the use of the guitar persists nonetheless, and we have been told that the guitar was still, along with the cigarette, the consolation of the soldier on campaign.


Woodcarving has always been one of the favourite works of this gallant, musical, poetic people, passionate lovers of all kinds of arts.

We noticed in particular a very beautiful gothic chair, 15th century style, from the house of Toledo Fernandez, and an antique cabinet in carved fir from M. Pons.

Ceramics are represented by 52 exhibitors; they are as curious for their originality of form as for the quality of the product.

Spanish ceramics," says Mr. Ch. Davillier in his beautiful book Spain, illustrated by Gustave Doré, "occupies a distinguished place in the cabinets of amateurs. The azulejos (glazed tiles) of the Arabs had reached a high degree of perfection at a time when the earthenware of the rest of Europe was still crude. The beautiful Hispano-Moorish tiles with their brilliant metallic sheen were also the first to be produced; in France, they were already adorning princely dressing rooms in the 15th century. Moreover, this metallic sheen does not contain gold and even less copper, as several authors have mistakenly claimed. It is obtained over a small fire by fumigation with arsenic or other materials, such as antimony or bismuth. The most renowned centres of this manufacture were Malaga, from which the famous vase of the Alhambra with blue drawings and gold reflections on a white background came out; Valencia, whose earthenware, loza valenciana, was in great repute from the Middle Ages and was sent to Italy and the Levant; Majorca, from which the Italian name for earthenware, majolica, is said to have been derived by corruption; and then Barcelona, Seville, Murcia, Teruel and several others."


With regard to weapons, we will borrow from the book by Mr. Louis Laude: Basques and Nacarrais, interesting details on the factory of Mr. P. Zuloaga, of Eibar.

"Eibar, a small town in Guipuzcoa, occupies one of the most honourable ranks among the few industrial towns in Spain; it manufactures arms to which the waters of a small river, a tributary of the Deva, give an excellent temper. The old houses, some of which still retain their Moorish windows, are arranged in workshops where workers are crammed together as actively and as numerous as in the working-class cities of London or Mulhouse; in order to obtain more space, they are overloaded with lean-tos to the point of forming a thousand bizarre superimpositions above the balconies and roofs; all lean and press jealously on both sides of the river as if to claim their share of this precious water. From morning to night, a confused beehive noise emerges from the heart of the city, mingled with the continual tapping of small hammers against the anvil and the grinding of files on steel, and, passing through the streets, through the half-open doors, one sees against the walls the glittering bundle of rifle barrels and bayonets.


"Apart from weapons, Eibar manufactures jewellery which, for the delicacy and finish of the work, can compare with the best articles from Paris. These jewels, which are very special, are made of steel inlaid with gold, and are already in great demand both abroad and in Spain. Altar tables, lamp-posts, chests and vases of all sizes, and even statues, are also made in the same style. The magnificent tomb of Marshal Prim, which can be admired today in the Basilica of Atocha, came from the Zuloaga firm, the most important in Eibar. Situated in the middle of the desert, although at the gates of the city, this church is the burial place of the most illustrious Spanish generals of our century. There they sleep their last sleep, in the shadow of the glorious folds of a hundred standards conquered from the enemy: Castanos, who won at Bailen; Palafox, who defended Zaragoza; Concha, who perished at Abarzuza.

"The Spaniards have been criticized for their love of phrase and pathos; this is not the case here. Simple marble slabs, barely decorated, recall only the names and titles of the heroes: nothing more modest, but nothing so striking either; the completely bare walls are whitewashed. Concha, it is true, will soon have his equestrian statue at the entrance to the church, the execution of which has just been ensured by a public subscription. In the meantime, the tomb of Marshal Prim is the only one that shows any aesthetic concern. It is placed in a chapel on the right, near the door. The proud adventurer is represented lying in full uniform above the sepulchre where his remains rest; his hands are crossed on his chest, his head is bare, and this tormented face, so well captured by our friend Henri Régnault, still retains a singular energy even in death. A sort of baldachin covers it, bearing these words inside: Crimea, Morocco, Mexico, Cadiz, and outside, in medallions, the heads of the Gracchi, Regulus and Marius. On both sides of the tomb, splendid bas-reliefs reproduce the most important events in the life of the deceased: the battle of los Castillejos and the proclamation of the Republic.
To depict a modern-day general in a long reclining position, with no indicated pose or gesture, in his tight-fitting frac, his army boots and his horse's trousers, was a daring undertaking, the success of which does great credit to the artist who designed the monument. The statue, like the baldachin and the body of the sepulchre itself, is made of only two metals: gold and steel, and the brilliance of the one, combined with the bluish reflections of the other, replaces very well the warm colour of bronze and the polish of the most precious marbles.

"During the Carlist war, the head of the company had moved his workshops to the French border, to Saint-Jean-de-Luz; he has now returned to Eibar and employs a relatively large number of workers. I found them each seated at a workbench fitted with a small vice, a bundle of almost imperceptible gold wire and a few small tools at hand. The steel plate to be decorated is first cut with the punch; a more or less rough drawing serves as a model for the workman and indicates the often very delicate figures he must reproduce; after which, taking a gold wire with a pair of pliers, with a sharp blow of the mallet, he secures it in the grooves left by the punch; although this operation is carried out cold, the gold is so solidly applied that it will wear with the steel itself before coming off. The backgrounds are obtained by means of hatching, and it is necessary to see with what skill, what precision, the practised hand draws these intersecting lines barely a quarter of a millimetre apart. The workshop also employs several apprentices, young boys of about twelve years of age, all chosen from among the children of the country; they are taught to draw, to handle the punch and the mallet, and in less than four or five years they become perfect workers. This would tend to prove that, from the day when Spanish industry wants to recover, it will not lack arms or intelligence.

The operation, such as we have just described, consisting of a superimposition of gold threads on round and flat surfaces, prepared with the help of the chopper knife, is none other than the old damascene. Unfortunately, the difficulty of the processes and the exorbitant cost of labour were obstacles to this luxury work; so more expeditious and economical means of achieving the same result were sought in intaglio engraving; even chemical discoveries have made it possible to simplify the engraving operation and to obtain intaglios by using etching; Mr. Zuloaga himself did not disdain having recourse to this process. Moreover, his current exhibition is no less interesting than his previous ones. We see a small number of large pieces, but all well chosen: two lamp-posts each worth 50,000 francs, two large Moorish vases, estimated at 4,500 francs each, a mantelpiece for 35,000, a dish for 13,000, etc. In addition to these, a host of smaller objects, but all offering the same delicacy of workmanship, such as crosses, boxes, staples, cane-heads, match-holders or cufflinks, make it possible to satisfy less costly fantasies. We deeply regretted not seeing a reproduction, or at least an exact reduction, of that mausoleum of Prim which we mentioned earlier and which is undoubtedly Mr. Zuloaga's masterpiece; he has lost a great element of success and the Spanish exhibition one of its main attractions.


150 millions of business, 700 factories, 12 millions of spindles, 100,000 workers, such is the balance of the cotton industry in Spain; the industry of painted fabrics, Indian or cotton, has also been introduced in Spain and is giving good results.

We shall pass quickly over the clothing, limiting ourselves to pointing out first of all a real curiosity: shirts in madapolam from 21 to 33 francs a dozen, - it seems to us that this is the last word in cheapness, - then silks; the college of the art of silk has sent, in particular, a magnificent portrait of King Alfonso XII.

Laces, tulles, trimmings abound, and if, from the point of view of art, they may not have quite the cachet and finish of the past, they are no less delightful and delicious objects.

We will say very little about boots and shoes in general.

A small masterpiece made entirely of hair is the cathedral of Burgos.

In the field of metallurgy, we should mention the excellent samples of iron, most of which come from the Ybarra company, which owns several mines, of which photographic views can be seen.

The richest part of the Spanish soil in iron is Biscay; the whole country on this side is underlain by iron deposits. Mr. Louis Laude, whom we mentioned earlier, describes the interior of the Triano mine in his volume Basques et havanais as follows
"At Triano, an unexpected sight struck our eyes. The track cannot, because of the difficulties of the ground, rise to the top of the ridge; it stops at the foot, at Ortella, and the ore is transported there as it is taken out of the mine, in long wagons drawn by oxen; all day long, these wagons, numbering more than a thousand, go up and down with plaintive squeaks and form, along the slope, an endless procession. Workers are continually busy reloading the road worn by this incessant friction; despite everything, the ground is nothing but a dust where the wheels of the carts sink to the axle, the oxen to the knees: a fine, reddish dust made of the impalpable debris of the ore. And this dust is everywhere, penetrates everywhere; the fields, the trees, the houses, the smallest household utensils, the skin of the animals and even that of the people, everything is covered with an indelible rusty colour. We miss seeing the mines on a rainy day, but we can imagine what a terrible mess it must be. Yet we would still prefer this to the coal mines where everything is black as night.

"The mining extends over a length of several kilometres, it is done on a great number of points at the same time, independent of each other; the whole mountain is really only one immense block of iron; in certain places the ore is so rich that it has all the appearance of the purest metal. So the only thing being done is to detach it in blocks by means of gunpowder; little by little, in this work in the open air, the workers will have made the old galleries disappear, some of which are very large and date back more than twenty centuries. While we are gathering these details, a foreman signals us to move aside, the mine holes have been dug, the firecrackers are in place, all that remains is to set the fire; at a known signal, everyone moves away; the wagons which, higher or lower, were preparing to pass, stop and form a barrier to the ever-increasing stream of those who follow them. Suddenly there are five or six detonations preceded by fleeting flashes of lightning, enormous fragments of rock fly through the air, fall, resound and shatter with a crash; slowly the wind dissipates the smoke, one waits a few moments more, then the line of carriages resumes its march, which has been stopped for a moment. Often on several points mine holes burst at once, the ground trembles and the atmosphere is all impregnated with the intoxicating smell of gunpowder.


The organisation of the Spanish exhibition is due to His Excellency Don José de Santos.
It is our duty to congratulate him on the initiative he has taken and also to congratulate his country on the products of all kinds which he has exhibited in the Champ de Mars.

The citizens of don José de Santos are grateful, and rightly so, for the services of their Commissioner General, as shown by the magnificent bust in one of the first rooms, which bears the inscription
Al. Exmo. ST. D. José Emilio de Santos il fomento de la produccion nacional y los expositores.

At the foot of the bust are numerous attributes of science, art, industry and commerce in a magnificent jumble.


Everyone recognises the excellence of the idea that the soldiers of each country should be entrusted with the guarding of the principal foreign exhibitions.

Among the various nations, Spain is the nation that has best carried out the idea, wanted and obtained the result sought.

Indeed, the Spanish army is almost complete: the dragon, wearing a shiny helmet, with a long rapier (vulgo latte) beating his calves, the artilleryman and the infantryman take turns to serve.

The dragoon wears a black jacket with short skirts and black trousers with red stripes, with metal epaulettes; the artilleryman has a black tunic decorated with large red beads as epaulettes, a flat cap, higher in front than behind, red and decorated with a white bumblebee; the infantryman is dressed in a long grey capote with green beads and epaulettes, madder trousers and a grey cap with a red bumblebee.

It goes without saying that the war is widely represented in the Spanish exhibition.

The Ministry of War has sent copies of its most interesting works, including the descriptive military itinerary of Spain and the atlas of the African War.

It is a real and religious pleasure to contemplate the copies of precious swords:
the sword of King Pelagius, the sword of the Cid, the swords of Ferdinand III and Peter of Castile, the sword of Isabella the Catholic, the sword of Gonzalve of Cordoba, the sword of Philip IV and the mace of Charles V.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878