International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867


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Annex of Spain

Annex of Spain at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

For a moment, the Spanish exhibition almost had to be the most brilliant and the most picturesque of all. There was nothing but talk of circuses with sparkling cavalcades and powerful emotions. Toreadors and their procession of chulos and picadores were evoked. The historical costumes of Andalusia and Castile, from the Cid onwards, were to appear in splendid carousels. Already we could hear the voice of the serenos; and all the popular tunes of the music, half Arabic, half European, of ancient Spain came back to our memory. The names of the dancers who would make us admire the old national dances were mentioned, and we were shown Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Burgos, Toledo rising to enjoy the admiration of France.

Events, those merciless ones who respect nothing, have blown away these magnificent castles, and Spain presents herself to us without her great festive finery; we must take her as she is, hard-working, modest, recollected, seeking her way with effort and not wanting to remain behind anyone. It will not give us the expected emotions; but it will offer us all sorts of original subjects for study. Alongside the ancient industries which have earned her such a solid reputation in many branches, we shall see the industries of the new world develop in her.

In presenting herself modestly and industriously at the Universal Exhibition of 1867, Spain has not for that reason renounced all coquetry. It did not leave its glory completely forgotten. The annex placed in the Park, not far from the Porte Dupleix, near the agricultural exhibition of Algeria, bears witness to this. Since everyone, in their constructions, tried to recall the character of national architecture, Spain also wanted to say to other nations: Here I am!

Before speaking of the building which is the main subject of this article, it is necessary to say a general word about the Spanish exhibition itself.

Spanish exhibitions have long been stagnant. That of Madrid, in 1827, had only 297 exhibitors. In 1845, in the same city, there were only 325. The number rose to 400 in 1850. In 1854, the number was even higher. Today, the number of Spanish exhibitors in Paris is 2071, at least provisionally. The increase is immense.

These two thousand exhibitors compete in almost all classes. We find forty-two in painting and eleven in sculpture. We do not yet have an exact count of the number of exhibitors in the material and applied liberal arts classes; but in the class of luxury furniture we find 11, in that of lighting equipment 5, in that of cotton yarns and fabrics 14, of hemp 10, of worsted wool 14, of carded wool 51, of silk 15, of shawls 3, of lace and embroidery 11, hosiery and lingerie 8, clothing of both sexes 24, jewellery 8, weapons 10, camp equipment 5, products of mining 185, forestry 85, hunting and gathering 27, non-food agricultural products 175, chemical and pharmaceutical products 57, leather 13, in the group of usual arts 117, in the class of floury and other agricultural products 207, in that of fats 109, in that of meat and fish 12, in vegetables and fruits 183, in condiments and sweets 100, in fermented beverages 313, in farm specimens 4, in the classes of educational material 125, in those of libraries 14, and in the last classes of the tenth group 9 exhibitors.

But it should be noted that many of these exhibitors are collective entities, ayuntamientos, provincial delegations, agronomic and other institutes, philanthropic or economic associations, central administrations, State establishments, foundries, museums, societies, etc.

It is not our task to assess the value of the shipments, either collective or individual. We can, however, say in general that they are distinguished, as we have just seen, firstly by a great variety, since they appear in almost all classes, and secondly by a sui generis character of the most important. Spain appears here as it really is, a country of production: its mines, its woods, its cereals, its oils, its wines always ensure it a high rank. She continues to have an outstanding position in wool, and she struggles without too much disadvantage in the fine arts and in education. Its weapons, its pharmaceutical products, its pottery, its confectionery continue to have the superiority that Arab traditions have given them from the beginning.

But what makes Spain known in a new light is the collective effort that we have mentioned for a host of consignments. One readily imagines the Spaniard living in superb isolation, working alone in a proud personality. Nothing could be further from the truth. Associations are beginning to cover the surface of Spain, and the delegations of the provinces, the institutes, the economic societies, the ayuntamientos are everywhere pressing and stimulating the zeal, marking the choices, directing the exhibitors. The hand of the community is not only visible in Seville and Burgos, but also in the smallest towns and villages. The people respond to the efforts of this powerful hand, and all the provinces of Spain, all its industries and those of its colonies are represented.

Spain, having only 1768 metres in the Palace, must have thought of having annexes in the Park. The abundance of its colonial and agricultural products made it a kind of law.

As we have said, the Spanish Commission, like most other commissions, thought of fulfilling this aim by offering at the same time for examination the specimen of an architectural building in front of which one could exclaim in passing: Here is Spain!... She had the choice among the many monuments of character that one visits in the Peninsula.

She stopped at the Hotel de Castillanos, so well known to tourists who have visited Salamanca, dear to Gil Blas. She could not have chosen better. No building was ever more severe, more haughty, more fixed in its lines. It is clear that those who live in this house do not compromise. They are no strangers to the arts or to elegance; the middle body is alert and slender, its columns sing when needed. But the wings are high, almost dark. The doors are impassable, and everyone looks twice before entering. Who knows if they will not close again and if behind this well worked iron are not the ministers of Philip II or the inquisitors? How to escape from there? The days are few and high, the openings stingy. But what majesty in the whole! Such are the castles to which Velasquez's severe paintings are suited; and then the illustrious knight of La Mancha might have thought that his Dulcinea was separated from him by such walls, it is conceivable that he was not quite sure of possessing her. With these bars, dueting is a matter of course, and serenades are obviously the only way to get an echo of one's heart to the one one loves. The monument helps us to understand a society that is no longer.

Progress or transformation of the times, as one may wish, the Spanish hotel will not contain marquises covering themselves before the king, and Hernani's rival will not be hiding in any cupboard. Spain will house there the specimens of the productions of the colonies which remain to her. These colonies are still considerable. Here are the Philippine Islands, the Marianas, the Carolinas in Asia; here are Ceuta, Penon de Velez, Melilla, Annobon and the divine Canaries in the African shores; and finally Cuba with its inexhaustible Havana riches, Puerto Rico, Mona, Culebra, Vicque, Margarita, Los Roques and others that we have forgotten in America. It is clear that the collection will be worthwhile!

Below the rooms where it will be exhibited, the Commission has provided a reception room, a rest room for the king, and several other rooms. It also has a purely agricultural annex behind the hotel and an orgateria that should not be confused with the Puerta del Sol café, located in the side of the palace like the other national cafés. This orgateria will pour streams of a refreshing drink, dear to the throats of the Peninsula. The French drink much of the wine they produce. The Spaniard is more sober, reserving water, almonds and fruit.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée