Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 22 March 2007

A day in Jerez

(NB/ As well as today's visits in Jerez described below, soon after my arrival the previous evening I visited the Bodegas Gonzalez Byass - home of 'Tio Pepe', perhaps the best known fino sherry brand - please read about that visit here.)

Well today I spent the whole day being a 'tourist' in Jerez de la Frontera (I mentioned yesterday that I would probably visit either Sanlucar de Barrameda or El Puerto de Santa Maria today), having decided that there was more than enough to keep me occupied in Jerez today. Again it was a day of brilliant blue skies, but it was very cool during the morning (probably around 11 or 12 degC maximum) although it became pleasantly warm, in sheltered spots out of the wind, for a couple of hours in the afternoon. After visiting the bank to get some cash out of the 'hole in the wall' I spent an enjoyable spell in the Cathedral - a very ornate mainly 18th century structure, built on the site of the main mosque in Scheris (the Arabic name for the city during Moorish times). Then it was lunch in a tapas bar, one recommended by the receptionist in the hotel, and very good it was too - a small selection of tapas and a glass of Fino went down very nicely. Thus refreshed I was ready to visit the Alcazar, the 11th-12th Century Almohad (Moorish) fortress, located next to the Cathedral. The Alcazar contains many interesting features (the city gate, a mosque, an oil mill, a parade ground, beautifully laid out walled gardens, arab baths and various other things including the Villavicenzio Palace - see below.

The Villavicenzio Palace contains an artwork display (the photographs below were from an exhibition there just now), a quaint 19th Century pharmacy and on the top (third) floor a camera obscura; in these structures the external image is generally projected onto a horizontal white matt convex surface. As I was the only person there, along with the guide, for that session this afternoon I was able to move freely around the projection surface as the guide (a very pleasant young woman) panned around through the full 360 degrees of the city, rasinig and lowering the convex surface to bring close and distant objects into sharp focus; including birds landing on various of the buildings - quite extraordinary! The guide gave a running commentary on what was being shown and this was both highly informative and entertaining. The only time I have ever been in a camera obscura before was as a young child when I was taken to visit the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh, where we lived at the time.

On my way up to the Camera Obscura area I had passed through the art exhibition area and noticed there was an exhibition of very brightly coloured, mainly acrylic, paintings, some of which were homoerotic and some were what can only be described as pornographic. I discovered that this style of art is called Costus (the article is in Spanish, but a rough translation is here). Broadly speaking the paintings are a little like advertising posters, generally having a 'rude' or over-the-top theme. The paintings are of women, or men or mythical animals, although some have still-life themes. In an explanatory article in an English-language magazine at the time of the first major exhibition of these works (and which forms part of the exhibition I saw) the English translation of the term given to this style of painting is far too rude for me to mention it here, but I think a rough approximation is 'rude pictures'. Naturally I was drawn to the pictures with a pretty obvious homoerotic theme (CARE! This link may not be safe for work!). I took quite a few photographs of the paintings, although all those I include here are amongst the least 'rude'.

Costus Exhibition, Jerez de la Frontera - 22 MAR 2007
Del Chochonismo ilustrado a la Serie Andaluza (1981-1989)
Canos de Meca (Costus, 1987)

Chico de Sanlucar (Costus, 1987)

Chicos (Costus)

Click here to see larger images.

Tomorrow I leave for two days in Seville, but prior to travelling there I will visit Sanlucar de Barrameda in the morning and early afternoon - I hope to visit the Bodegas Pedro Romero, one of the well-known makers of manzanilla in this coastal city.

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