The period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, Spain's 'Golden Age' really spanned two centuries (the 16th and the 17th) and it is the most fecund and glorious age of Spanish Arts and Letters. The novel would reach its highest level of universality and Spanish expression with Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' and other clearly Spanish works such as the picaresque novel: 'Lazarillo de Tormes' and Mateo Aleman's 'Guzman de Alfarache'.
It would be also a Golden Age for poetry. In the 16th century, Boscan and Garcilaso de la Veda adapted Italian lyrical poetry to Castilian which found its maximum expression in the mystical poetry of Fray Luis de Leon and San Juan de la Cruz, and in the prose of Santa Teresa. Two great figures of the 16th-17th centuries were Luis de Gongora whose difficult and complex style originally derived from the Latinizing movement, 'culteranismo' and Francisco de Quevedo, a master of 'conceptismo'.
The theatre is another genre that reached a high level. Stage plays were no longer performed in ecclesiastical surroundings after the creation of the 'Corrales de Comedias' some of which still exist, such as the one in Almagro (Ciudad Real). Juan de la Encina, Torres Naharro and Gil Vicente were the precursors of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina and Calderon de la Barca.
Humanism had also flourished since the beginnings of the Modern Age with Luis Vives and the monumental works in which various authors collaborated, such as the 'Biblia Poliglota Complutense'. prominent works in the field of history and politics were those of Mariana, Zurita, Hurtado de mendoza and the chronicles of many protagonists of America's colonization.
This 17th century period closed with the publication of the diplomat, Saavedra Fajardo's 'Idea de un Principe' and of the writer and philosopher Baltasar Gracian's 'El Criticon' (The Critic, English translation, 1681).
The 16th century would produce one of the masters of Spanish painting: Domenikos Theotokopoulos, 'El Greco' who did most of his work in Toledo where many of his paintings are preserved: 'El expolio' (Christ Stripped of his Garments), 'The Martyrdom of San Mauricio', 'The Resurrection of Christ' and 'The Burial of Count Orgaz' represent a decisive moment for Spanish and universal painting.
Among the first 17th century painters who depicted realism were Ribalta and Ribera. but his style reached its summit with Diego Velazquez (1599-1660), whose many works hang in the Prado Museum: "Las Meninas" (The Maids of Honour), "The Surrender or Breda", "The Forge of Vulcan", in addition to his famous portraits of Philip IV, prince Baltazar Carlos and of Conde Duque de Olivares.
Velazquez was a Madrid painter but Zurbaran and Murillo worked in Seville devoting themselves to religious themes. The Golden Age also has its own architectural style, a spartan and purist reaction against the filigre work of the Plateresque, a style resembling silversmiths' work. Its most remarkable monument is Philip II's Monastery of the Escorial, begun by Juan Bautista of Toledo and finished after Bautista's death by Juan de Herrera.
For more information, please write or call to:
MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO Paseo del Prado 28014 MADRID Phone: (1) 420 28 36 (1) 420 17 52 CASA Y MUSEO DE EL GRECO Samuel Levi, s/n. 45002 TOLEDO Phone: (25) 22 40 46 (25) 22 44 05 Fax: (25) 22 45 59 CASA DE CERVANTES Calle del Rastro, 7 47001 VALLADOLID Phone: (83) 30 68 10 Fax: (83) 39 07 03
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