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Start of the international symposium "Visions of Velázquez's Seville. Past, Present and Future" at the Diego Velázquez Research Centre

May 5, 2009

Seville, 5 May 2009. The Diego Velázquez Research Centre today opened the international symposium entitled "Visions of Velázquez's Seville. Past, Present and Future", which will run until tomorrow at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville, the headquarters of the Focus-Abengoa Foundation. The opening ceremony was chaired by Maribel Montaño, Cultural Delegate of the Seville Town Hall; Anabel Morillo León, Director General of the Foundation, and Benito Navarrete, a lecturer at the University of Alcalá de Henares, who emphasised the role of the centre as "an international and multidisciplinary forum that encompasses all methodological approaches".

Benito Navarrete, the Centre's scientific adviser, explained that the objective of the symposium, focussed on the painting "Vista de Sevilla", is "to analyse the many aspects that feature in this work and to examine the reality of the city of Seville in the 17th century, when the work was painted. "Vista de Sevilla" is one of the most emblematic portraits of the city in terms of its physiognomy, illustrating the socio-cultural and urbanistic context that inspired Velázquez's early works and reflecting the vitality of the capital of Seville in the Modern Age through the Triana quarter of the city".

The 1630-1640 decade was a time of great splendour in Seville thanks, in part, to the brilliant legacy from its time as capital of the first maritime empire of the Modern Age.

This first conference included presentations by Francisco Márquez Villanueva from Harvard University ("Seville and el Arenal: a comedy by Lope"); Ramón María Serrano from the University of Seville ("Splendour or decline? Seville in 1650 and American silver"); Carlos Martínez Shaw and Marina Alonso Mola from the UNED ("From Seville to Manila"); and Delfín Rodríguez from the Universidad Complutense ("After the journey. Painted Seville and various notes on visits to cities").

The authority and the prestige of the speakers that feature at this second symposium have not gone unnoticed by Seville's universities which, as on other occasions, have agreed to recognize students' attendance with free choice credits and more than 300 students have registered to participate.

Tomorrow's speakers will take another look at 17th century Seville, but from other perspectives, such as the artistic, literary and architectonic viewpoints.

The work of the Diego Velázquez Research Centre, which began after the acquisition of the "Santa Rufina" on 4 July 2007, focuses on promoting the study of Velázquez's work as well as analysing the background of his professional career in the city of Seville. The Centre has a clear mission to raise awareness among Seville's residents of the legacy of one of the most dynamic artistic periods in the history of the city, an era in which Andalusia was the benchmark for the whole of Europe.

The Centre currently comprises 15 master works that have been chosen with a clear educational and scientific purpose to demonstrate how Velázquez, in Seville, "revolutionised" the history of painting by highlighting the beauty of the real world, using very careful presentation techniques, placing museography at the service of museology.

The Focus-Abengoa Foundation was started in 1982 as a result of the cultural work begun in 1972 by Abengoa with the publication of the works "Temas Sevillanos" (Themes of Seville) and "Iconografía de Sevilla" (Iconography of Seville). A collection of documents, books and recordings on the Kingdom of Seville or by Sevillian authors was created at the same time. This initial cultural work showed Abengoa's directors the importance of the company's involvement in activities that directly benefit society, beyond its core technology based work, and this led to the creation of the Seville Cultural Fund Foundation.

About the painting

"Vista de Sevilla", anonymous flamenco (hist. 1650-1660). Oil on canvas. Focus-Abengoa Foundation, Seville.

The painting that best embodies this mixture of hope and aspiration, crowded with people and the hustle and bustle of galleons and galleys is "Vista de Sevilla", about which historian Juan Miguel Serrera said, "The details are more important than the whole", since they show, better than any other view that has remained, a city that likes to see and been seen, and that is a real reflection of the world during this period. This "Vista de Sevilla" could be considered, together with the one in the Museo de América in Madrid, one of the most important and significant of the era.

The transformation of this large city, seen from its west side, overlooking the Triana quarter and its pontoon of boats, allows us to pinpoint the city's main landmarks, some of them stereotyped, such as the Giralda, the cathedral or the Torre del Oro, but others, surprisingly well positioned, such as the old "coracha", which joins the Torre del Oro to the Torre de la Plata, or the buildings of the Milanese architect, Vermondo Resta, which could have been taken, as well as the general view, from the engraving by Mathäus Merian (1593-1650) which illustrated the book "Neuwe Archontologia cósmica." by Johan Ludwig Gottfried.

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