“Balenciaga and Spanish Paintings” opens in Madrid

A coat and dress evening outfit inspired by the portrait of "Queen Anne of Austria, fourth Wife is Philip II" (circa 1616) by Gonzales (picture via Twitter)

The Thyssen- Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid recently opened the Balenciaga and Spanish Paintings exhibition to the public. It displays iconic designs from the designer alongside some of the paintings that inspired him through out his illustrious career. 

Christian Dior once said, “With fabrics, we do what we can. Balenciaga does what he wants“. Through out his life as a designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga had been known for his love of the colour black and his recurring Spanish motifs in his designs. His celebration of the culture has been showcased previously in two other exhibitions- Balenciaga: Spanish Master and Balenciaga and Spain. 

Balenciaga and Spanish Paintings, the latest one to be held, will portray how he was influenced by traditional Spanish paintings. The designer often turned to art history for inspiration and his embroidery details and the structure of some of his more avant garde pieces have paid homage to portraits done by Zurbarán, Velázquez, Goya, Zuloaga and Picasso- all of which can be seen at the exhibition. 

People have often noted how he was able to channel different aspects of his native culture into beautiful creations. Religious cardinal robes, the extravagant frills of a flamenco dancer’s dress, the jackets of the Spanish toreros and the seemingly formal attire of the royal Habsburgs- all were images painted by Spanish artists that Balenciaga was exposed to as a young child in the house of the Marquis and Marquesa
 of Casa Torres (now the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa), his mother’s employers. All are paid homage to, in some form or the other, in his work. 

Francisco de Goya’s Cardinal Luis Maria de Borbón y Vallabriga (circa 1800) can be seen reflected in a stain dress and jacket ensemble. Zurbarán’s portrayal of clergy and female saints inspired wedding dresses and evening gowns. Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo’s Margaret Theresa of Austria (1665-6) caused him to conjure up a black evening coat in 1939- nicknamed the Infanta dress for how much it resembled the garments in the painting. 

The exhibition itself has been curated by Eloy Martínez de la Pera and features 90 Balenciaga garments and 55 Spanish paintings from the 16th to the 20th Century. Some of the Balenciaga pieces have never been exhibited before and are on loan from national and international musuems such as the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa in Guetaria, the Museo del Traje in Madrid, the Museu del Disseny in Barcelona, he Museo Nacional del Prado and the Museos de Bellas Artes of Seville, Valencia and Bilbao. 

The paintings and the dresses are displayed in chronological order, placed next to the piece that they inspired. The decor of the exhibition play tribute to black- the Basque designer’s favourite colour- and the perfect nondescript background for the haute couture ensembles. The exhibition will go on till the 22nd of September 2019 in Madrid. There have been no reports, as of yet, about whether it will also travel to other locations to be displayed. 

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