press release

IMAGES OF DON QUIXOTE Since the publication of Part I in 1605 and Part II in 1615, Don Quixote became the modern novel par excellence, with translations circulating throughout Europe almost immediately and a resulting success for publishers almost unparalleled up to our own day.

Headline of the chapter used by Cervantes was "To be read and listened to" for, at that point he was unaware that shortly after the appearance of the unillustrated first edition it would be reprinted with illustrations that would fix the images of two of the great inventions of European culture, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, paradigmatic human beings with their different attitudes to life.

It was through the prints that illustrated the text that the figure of Don Quixote was fixed in our collective imagination: in Chapter I he is described as "of vigorous complexion, rather dried out in the flesh and lean in the face", while in Chapter IX Sancho is presented to us as "with a big belly, short body and long shanks".

The different prints that have been used to illustrate Don Quixote are evidence of the changing interpretations which each age and each artist has give to Cervantes' novel. The choice of which chapters and which episodes to illustrate, the techniques, formats employed and other purely aesthetic aspects all reflect social, cultural and artistic changes from the 17th to the 19th centuries. For this reason an exhibition of prints from Don Quixote reveals more than simply how the book has been illustrated over the years; it offers a survey of the history of the book, and even of western art and culture. Perhaps even further a field.

In his dedication to Part II of the novel, Cervantes notes the Emperor of China's interest in receiving the second part of the knight's adventures and in founding a school in order to read the history of Don Quixote in the original Castilian. What was at the time no more than a joke at the expense of the forger Avellaneda, became reality one century later and the present exhibition shows how prints of scenes from Don Quixote arrived in China and were used as models in porcelain decoration. Such was the fame of the book that images from it were used as the basis for porcelain, tapestries, embroidery, playing cards and of course, paintings.

The present exhibition offers a survey of the most important illustrated editions of the novel, which saw the participation of leading artists whose designs were much imitated.

Jacques Lagniet (Paris, 1640), Charles-Antoine Coypel (Paris, 1725), John Vanderbank and William Hogarth (Londres, 1738), Antonio Carnicero and Francisco de Goya (Madrid, 1780); Daniel Chodowiecki (Leipzig, 1780), Luis Paret (Madrid, 1798), Jean-Honoré Fragonard (Paris, 1800), Robert Smirke (London, 1818), Gustave Doré (Paris, 1863), Adolphe Lalauze (Edinburgh, 1879), Ricardo de los Ríos (Paris, 1880) and Gottfried Franz (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1882) are among the artists represented in this exhibition. Their designs have helped to create our visual image of Cervantes' text.

The exhibition at the Museo Nacional del Prado is complemented by another held at the Calcografía Nacional, which features examples of the creative process, from the preparatory drawing to the finished print via the copper-plate.

These exhibitions are the result of a close collaboration between the Museo Nacional del Prado, the Calcografía Nacional and The Hispanic Society of America. Among its many great treasures of Spanish culture, the Hispanic Society houses the large collection of prints illustrating Don Quixote formed in the late 19th century by the Englishman, Henry Spencer Ashbee. This collection forms the core of the exhibition which is further enriched by loans from the Biblioteca del Cigarral del Carmen in Toledo, the Biblioteca Nacional, the Real Academia Española, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, and the collections of the Prado and Calcografía Nacional where the exhibitions are held.

only in german

Images of Don Quixote
Models of representation in 17th to 19th-century Editions

mit Jacques Lagniet, Charles-Antoine Coypel, John Vanderbank / William Hogarth, Antonio Carnicero / Francisco de Goya, Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, Luis Paret, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Robert Smirke, Gustave Doré, Adolphe Lalauze, Ricardo de los Rios, Gottfried Franz