Friday, 5 December 2014

Memories of times past

Opening an exhibition this week, a former monarch and his consort came face to face with the past. Juan Carlos I and Sofia of Spain officially launched a special selection of paintings that are on show at the Royal Palace in Madrid and which focus on the importance of the portrait in the monarchy. And on their arrival they were greeted with a giant picture of themselves and their children several decades ago.

A king, a queen, a time long gone - Juan Carlos and Sofia pose in front of a portrait of them and their children in more settled times

The portrait, by Antonio Lopez, shows a much younger Juan Carlos at the centre of the family. His consort is on his left, his heir on her left while his two daughters stand to his right. The king's arm is placed around the shoulder of his first born child, the Infanta Elena, while his other hand rests on Queen Sofia's back. All five stare out of the painting but it is only the queen who really smiles. The moment in history was revealed for the exhibition and is a reminder of how the Spanish Royal Family used to look.

The portrait was painted before the troubled years that have recently engulfed the family. It shows the nucleus of the new monarchy with Juan Carlos at its head and his wife and children spreading out to extend the royal reach further. The painting exudes confidence, calmness and a sense of solidity - all things that have since been harder to find for Spain's royals.

The exhibition focuses on portraits of many of Spain's kings and royals but it was the most modern and most recent of kings past that caught everyone's imagination at the launch. A rare public appearance for King Juan Carlos and a rare chance to see the man of today next to the image of yesterday. Juan Carlos and Sofia both looked impressed with the portrait but it was a strange moment for them and for those who looked on. A former monarch and his consort, face to face with memories of times past.

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