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Hispanic Society of America: Hispanic soul

Hispanic Society of America: Hispanic soul

The exhibition Treasures of the Hispanic Society of America. Visions of the Hispanic World brings to Madrid over 200 items from the best Spanish culture collection to exist outside our borders, a selection which represents the life-long pursuit of Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955): to reflect ‘the soul of Spain’. That reflection - which also incorporates Portuguese, Latin American and Philippine art - was shaped by bringing together examples of the best painting and sculpture from throughout our history, alongside manuscripts, incunabula, archaeological artefacts, costumes and other objects.

The Hispanic Society of America holds a large collection of objects which, as though they were a book, recount our History. Inspired by this passion, at Tienda Prado we wanted to pay tribute to this American institution by creating a series of very special products.

Archer Milton Huntington, its founder, was well aware of the Arabs’ important contribution to Spanish culture. Therefore, in addition to ivory pyxides, capitals from Madīnat-al-Zahrā and carpets from the Alhambra, he collected extraordinary examples of lusterware or metallic-glazed ceramics, one of the most important artistic techniques brought by Muslim potters to the Iberian Peninsula. The most significant creators of these ceramics - a highly sought-after product between the 14th and 18th centuries - were potters from Manises.

(Plate. Manises, 1470-1500)

In modern-day Manises, one craftsman continues to work with the difficult metallic glaze technique: Arturo Mora, whose family have been ceramists from Manises for generations. Since the late 19th century, at the height of the Historicist movement, the Mora family have preserved and promoted this technique, which we can now admire in items such as those created especially for our exhibition: a large plate (50cm in diameter), two 30cm plates and a 20cm bowl.

(Manises Plate. Luster and cobalt decoration. Exclusively produced for the Museo del Prado by Arturo Mora Benavent)

(Manises Bowl. Luster and cobalt decoration. Exclusively produced for the Museo del Prado by Arturo Mora Benavent)

Arturo Mora, winner of the 2015 National Ceramics Prize awarded by the Spanish Association of Ceramics Cities, drew inspiration from our exhibition’s pottery works to produce these four items; they recreate that glorious period in Valencian pottery production, which, for centuries, captivated the European courts and the moneyed social classes.

Whether in the form of a religious adornment, a wall hanging from Al-Andalus or a Medieval tunic, fabrics are another of the most highly-valued items held in the Hispanic Society of America collection. Continuing with our penchant for artisan work, on this occasion we worked with embroiderers from Lagartera to create two single placemates and a linen hand towel, both hand-embroidered by Rocío Lozano.

(Single Placemate)

(Single Placemate)


For centuries, Lagartera residents have embroidered the most exquisite trousseaus, using the complex ‘unravelling’ technique. Rocío’s place lies within this tradition; she belongs to the third generation of a family-run company which has specialised in craftwork since 1915. For this exhibition, they have embroidered three items, each with a different inspiration. Firstly, the drawing which defines ‘the line between Man and the Sun’, from a 16th-century manuscript, with nautical and astronomical instructions for sailors.

(Drawing of an illustrated manuscript of the Hispanic Society of America. Sevilla, h. 1585)

Secondly, an 18th century lion-shaped water pitcher, from Peru or Bolivia, which upper-class families used to serve maté to visiting dignitaries or important guests.

(Hot water kettle in the form of a lion aquamanile. Peru or Alto Peru, XVIII century)

Thirdly, a number of pharmacy jars, produced in 1580 in Talavera de la Reina for the El Escorial Royal Monastery, which follow the tradition of usingpots to store medicinal formulas, a practice brought to Spain from the Near East in the 14th century. 

(Chemist jars at the Royal Site of San Lorenzo del Escorial. Talavera de la Reina, Toledo, 1580's)

However, the Hispanic Society of America does not only collect treasures from Spain: Portugal, the Philippines and Latin America also have their place in this fascinating collection. Indeed, the last object presented here originates from Latin America. Huntington would later acquire this spectacular rebozo, bought in 1904 in Mexico by the New York collector Emily Johnston de Forest, daughter of one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A rebozo is a large, square shawl with tassels; it is, perhaps, Mexico’s most characteristic and long-standing traditional female garment, still used today by women of all classes. A symbol of Mexican cultural heritage, on this occasion of the highest quality.


(Shawl with polychrome embroidery and threads wrapped with silver and gold, 1775-1800)

Who better than Jim Thompson, one of the world’s most respected Thai silk fabric-producing firms, to reproduce this spectacular 18th-century item, woven with threads of silk, gold, silver and linen, and on display in the Museo del Prado exhibition. An object as unforgettable as the exhibition itself.

("Shawl" Silk Scarf. Made by Jim Thompson Silk Company)

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