Vista de Bermeo (View of Bermeo, 1783) is the first of a series of paintings of Basque ports by Luis Paret y Alcázar made for the purposes of decorating the Casa del Príncipe at El Escorial. Soon afterwards, the Buen Retiro Royal Laboratory of Pietra Dura made a copy of the painting in semiprecious stone inlay. This may have been used as a tabletop. In 1989, the oil painting on copper by the painter from Madrid was displayed at the exhibition Painting in Spain during the Later Eighteenth Century at the National Gallery in London. Since 2017 it has been part of the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum collection. The landscape with its Rococo figures announces the interest in the picturesque and the portrayal of styles and customs that was to reach its peak in the nineteenth century. The accurate topography described in the image stands in contrast to the friendly, idealised portrayal of the rural proletariat. A further contrast emerges if we extend our perspective beyond the frame of the painting to the context for which it was made. The second contrast, or rift, occurs as we imagine the labour of the working classes as a decorative background to the scene of the privileged minority enjoying their leisure.
Miren Jaio (Bermeo, 1968) is a member of Bulegoa z/b and the Department of Art and Music History at the Universidad del País Vasco. Miren has written for different written media and artists’ publications. She has collaborated in curatorial projects. She has translated and edited. She has taught History of Art, taken part in workshops and seminars, and given talks.