The Hispanic Society of America
613 West 155th Street
New York, NY 10032
Hours: Current Closed for renovation
**I discovered this little gem of a museum on my walk around Washington Heights. This can be seen on my blog site “MywalkinManhattan”. Don’t this miss hidden gem tucked off 155th Street. Check their website for corrections in times open.
The Hispanic Society of America was founded as a free museum and research library in 1904 by the American Scholar and philanthropist Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955). Over the past century, the Hispanic Society has promoted the study of the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Spain and Portugal and their areas of influence in the Americas and throughout the world. The Museum and Library constitute the most extensive collection of Hispanic art and literature outside of Spain and Latin America.
Archer Huntington’s fascination with Spanish culture started at the age of twelve; by fourteen he had begun to study the Spanish language and by nineteen he revealed his aspiration to found a “Spanish Museum”. As Huntington’s enthusiasm grew he became increasingly committed to the creation of an institution that would encompass all facets of Hispanic culture. Working toward this goal, Huntington began his collection with Spanish rare books and manuscripts; then decorative arts; followed by paintings and sculpture-all of which now fill the galleries of The Hispanic Society of America.
Today the Hispanic Society Museum and Library builds upon the legacy of Huntington through an active acquisitions program as well as public programs that reach out to new audiences through collaborative exhibitions, educations, and publications.
The Museum offers a panoramic survey of Spanish painting and drawing dating from the Middle Ages up to the early 20th century with particular strengths in the Golden Age (1550-1700) and the 19th century.
Notable among 16th century paintings are the Portrait of the Duke of Alba by Antonis Mor (1516/19-1576) and the Holy Family by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos, 1541-1614). Three portraits by Spain’s preeminent master, Diego Vaelazquez (1599-1660), represent the heights of Spanish painting in the 17th century: Gaspar de Guzman, COnde-Duque de Olivares; Portrait of a Little Girl and Camillo Astalli, Cardinal Pamphili. The collection also includes works by other acknowledged masters of the period, such as Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664) and Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682).
The Hispanic Society is especially rich in paintings, drawings and prints by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), one of the most inventive artists of his time. Goya’s iconic 1797 Portrait of the Duchess of Alba dressed in black as a Spanish maja, is the most renowned painting in the collection.
Among the most popular works at the Hispanic Society are those by Spain’s “painter of light” Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1919), present a celebration of regional costumes and cultures that surround the visitor with the artist’s “vision of Spain”. The Museum also possesses an outstanding selection of works by late 19th and early 20th century artists.
The Hispanic Society is renowned for its decorative arts from Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Philippines and Portuguese India. Ceramics represent one of the most significant facets of the collection, ranging from three-thousand-year old Bell-Beaker pottery to contemporary works. The collection of Spanish lusterware, numbering over 150 pieces, is considered the finest in the United States. This distinctly Spanish style of ceramics flourished between the 15th and 17th centuries as artisans combined Islamic and Western traditions to produce objects of incomparable beauty. Important examples of decorative and utilitarian earthenware and soft-paste porcelain from various workshops complete the collection-including works from Talavera de la Reina, Alcora and Buen Retiro in Spain and Puebla de lost Angeles and Tonala in Mexico.
Other decorative arts include silver, glassware, secular and ecclesiastical furniture, decorative ironwork and textiles dating from between the 15th and 19thy centuries. The processional custodia by Cristobal Beceril (1533-1585) is one of the highlights of the magnificent collection of Spanish and Latin American gold and silver ars sacra and jewelry. Textiles in the collection range from luxurious silks of medieval Islamic Spain to domestic needlework of the early 20th century. Hispano-Muslim textiles include fine gold, silk, and satin brocades from the 13th through the 15th century. An exquisite ‘Alhambra silk” (ca. 1400) from Granada recalls the repeating geometrical pattern and Kufic inscriptions which decorate the famous Alhambra palace.
Huntington’s fascination with the ancient past of the Hispanic world led him to sponsor significant archaeological expeditions and excavations in Spain and the Americas. He conducted excavations in 1898 near Seville at the site of the Roman City of Italica, birthplace of the emperors Hadrian and Trajan. Through these excavations and subsequent acquisitions, the Hispanic Society has been able to assemble the most important collection of Spanish antiquities outside Spain. This wealth of objects from Spain’s Bronze Age to the period of Roman rule features works from Ibero-Phoenician, Greek and Celtiberian cultures in addition to the extensive collection of Roman ceramics, glass, metalwork, mosaics and statuary.
In addition to Ancient and Classical sculpture, the Hispanic Society collection contains extraordinary Islamic and Christian works dating from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. A cylindrical ivory box signed by the Islamic master Khalaf (ca. 966) at the Umayyad court at Madinat al-Zahra stands out for the beauty of its intricate carving. Supreme examples of the heights which Spanish sculpture reached in the 16th century are found in the Gothic and Renaissance tombs of the Bishop of Palencia and the Duchess of Albuquerque from the monastery of San Francisco de Cuellar, along with the two magnificent effigies of Suero de Quinones and Elvria de Zuniga by Leone and Pompeo Leoni.
Pedro de Mena’s haunting representation of the young Saint Acisclus, patron saint of Cordoba, stands out as one of the finest examples of 17th century Spanish polychrome sculpture of her era, are rich in exquisite detail. An impressive ensemble of monumental sculpture also graces Audubon Terrace with the iconic equestrian statute of El Cid and limestone reliefs of Don Quixote and Boabdil, all by noted American sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973).
With more than 600,000 books, manuscripts, documents and letters dating from the 10th century to the present day, the Library of the Hispanic Society offers unparalleled resources for researchers interested in the history and culture of the Spanish and Portuguese speaking worlds. The manuscripts and rare books section comprises over 15,000 books printed before 1701 including some 250 incunabula (books printed before 1500) as well as first editions of the most significant literary works in the Spanish language such as Tirant lo Blanc, Celestina and Don Quixote.
The collection of Hispanic manuscripts, extraordinary rich in material and scope is the most extensive outside Spain. It encompasses medieval charters, holograph royal letters, sailing charts, illuminated bibles and books of hours as well as historical and literary manuscripts from the 10th to the 20th century.
The library’s invaluable holdings from the America’s include some of the earliest books printed in Mexico, Peru, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. First editions of works by many of Latin America’s greatest writers, such as Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, form an integral part of the collection. The library also conserves one of the largest and most important collections in the United States of historical manuscripts and documents pertaining to Latin America and the Philippines from the 16th through 19th century.
Prints & Photographs:
Over 15,000 prints afford a unique glimpse of the graphic arts in Spain. The collection contains incomparable engravings by 17th-century artists such as Ribera, yet its greatest strengths are in the 18th and 19th centuries including almost all of Goya’s prints, many in multiple editions. The department also has an extraordinary assemblage of illustrations of Don Quixote, totaling more than 4000 engravings, etchings and lithographs.
The section of photographs holds over 176,000 black and white images documenting life and customs in the Hispanic world. Many of these images now preserve a way of life irrevocably lost. Among the most notable and rarest are those from the 19th century but the department also features more than 15,000 photographs made by Hispanic Society curators and staff who traveled throughout Spain and Latin America in the 1920’s.
Publications, Group Visits & Education:
For over a century, the Hispanic Society has maintained an active publication program. Books and other publications relating to the collections as well as postcards, note cards and posters are available from the Museum bookstore.
The Hispanic Society is dedicated to educational programs for students of all ages. The education department provides gallery talks, group tours and activities and materials for educators.
For further information on current programs, group tours, special events and on becoming a member of The Friends of the Hispanic Society visit our website, hispanicsociety.org or call (212) 926-2234.
The Hispanic Society is located on Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets in Manhattan.
*This information is taken from the Hispanic Society of America’ brochure.