by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library
The Master of the Prado
When Da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian created their revered masterpieces, they were in the first generations of artists to paint in oils. Oil paintings were rare and held to be revelations from God. Painters prayed and meditated for days before engaging their canvases. Raphael was called divine. The Spanish kings ruled a global empire. They collected and commissioned works from these geniuses and their brilliant, extensive collections are in the Prado in Madrid.
Today, we admire these paintings for their beauty and the technical skill they display. We understand they carry messages, some we understand, others perhaps not, but we assume they adhere to the strictures of the Catholic Inquisition. In The Master of the Prado, the fictional narrator recalls days years ago when he was a student in Madrid and Luis Favel appeared to him in the lonely galleries of the Prado. The older man showed him ways to find hidden messages in the paintings, and he helped the young man understand the supernatural power they were held to possess. Young Javier wonders if Favel is himself supernatural.
The Master of the Prado is a page-turner. We are drawn into the mystery of Luis Favel, the Master, even as we are drawn deeper into the mysteries of the masterpieces they explore. The book has excellent reproductions of these paintings and they are well organized into the text. While the development of the narrative is enjoyable, the lasting impression on readers will be of new ways to see great art. We will look for hidden meaning. Most of the action and the paintings are within the walls of the Prado and Phillip II’s Renaissance palace the Escorial. Readers will want to see these places, or see them again.
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