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At the end of the 16th century, Seville was the wealthiest and most highly populated city in Spain. It was also the Spanish Empire's most cosmopolitan centre. To a great extent its privileged position was a result of the royal decree that gave it a monopoly on trade with the Americas, which meant the presence of a rich colony of traders and merchants, especially Flemish and Genovese, to negotiate with the galleons that arrived from the Indies. In this interesting city there was a wide range of social classes, from the aristocratic nobility through the bourgeois merchant class right down to the adventurers and rogues. These contemporary opportunists remained on the edge of society, often filling the local prisons, and inspired famous works such as Cervantes's "Novelas Ejemplares" (Exemplary Novels), comedies by Golden Age writers like Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina, and also important paintings like Velázquez's [Los Borrachos#CUADROS#28] (also known as The Triumph of Bacchus). As Madrid's importance grew, however, Seville's prosperity started to decline. Madrid's population overtook Seville's and many aristocrats abandoned the provinces to build their palaces in Madrid, making the capital the main centre of artistic patronage instead of Seville. Many painters and artists were attracted to the capital, often reclaimed by important figures of the court or by the King himself. Velázquez and Zurbarán were just two of the painters who moved to Madrid at that time.

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