The exhibition shows the photographs produced by José Manuel Navia in connection with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes in 2016. For this project, Navia followed in Cervantes’ footsteps, visually capturing the places and paths trodden by the great author throughout his life – a troubled and uncertain life that is also revealed to us in a veiled manner in his works. The photographs that make up the exhibition are taken especially for this purpose. They illustrate the places linked to Miguel Cervantes’s life, the traces of a lifetime. The photographs are accompanied by detailed texts and literary quotes that refer to the author’s life as well as to his works.
Photographer Jose Manuel Navia looks at the life of Cervantes, through 66 photographs. A subjective and evocative way to present the main places linked to the life of Miguel Cervantes.
October 7th 1571. Over three hundred ships of the Holy League overtake the Turkish fleet, moored in the Bay of Lepanto. "The battle at this point was so bloody and terrible that the fire and sea seemed joined as one.
"Did the harquebusier Cervantes, the day before battle, find a moment to glance across the bay to the island of Ithaca and recall his beloved Homer and the tenacious Ulysses? Come the day, "Don Quixote will be quite simply, a man from La Mancha transfigured into an Homeric hero."
Practically nowhere commemorates his stay. Three hundred and sixty years later Albert Camus writes in his notebook, yes, I’ve tilted at windmills. Because it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you fight windmills or giants. It matters so little that they are easily confused. Camus the "pied-noir"; exiled from himself, like Cervantes.
"Milan for pleasures; Portugal for love". The veteran of Lepanto makes his way there in the hope of recognition for his services. He’s due for disappointment but his affection for Portugal is a touchstone.
In the novel Persiles, after disembarking in the vicinity of the famous Lisbon the pilgrims visit the city before setting off for Valencia, crossing the entire peninsula.
December 12th 1584. Miguel marries his young bride Catalina in Esquivias. An attempt to live the life of a country squire is not a success.
Two years later he leaves wife and home and sets out for Seville. But in his time living at La Sagra, occasionally getting away to nearby Toledo, and later on the roads to Andalusia, he meets the people who will form the backbone of his work.
The Inés Inn, previously known as The Mayor’s Inn, just along from the Mill Inn "is situated on the confines of the renowned plains of Alcudia, and on the road from Castile to Andalusia."
Felipe Ferreiro and his daughter Carmen, disabled from birth, live in this isolated place. Did Miguel stop here on his repeated journeys, riding a mule and covering eight leagues a day? It’s highly likely as both inns are mentioned in his works.
Twelve years of travelling Andalusia from top to bottom, first as a requisitioner of wheat and oil and later as a tax collector. We can follow his movements from signed documents: towns such as Marchena, Écija, Estepa, Montilla and Úbeda figure amongst others. He makes no exception for the Church and is twice excommunicated as a result. On 19th September 1592 he ends up in the prison of Castro del Río over a question of three hundred bushels of wheat.
1607. Miguel and all the family have moved once and for all to Madrid.
In the wake of "Don Quixote’s" success, he concludes and publishes the rest of his works: the "Exemplary Novels", "the Journey to Parnassus" and a compilation of his works for the theatre, so poorly received on the stage, despite his professed love of the genre.
"One morning before dawn [...] he commenced to ride through the ancient and illustrious countryside of Montiel. And it was true that this was where he was riding." The author leaves no doubt about the region that is Don Quixote’s homeland, whichever village he was born in, that place whose name he does not care to remember. No matter, "we should respect the deliberate ambiguity imposed by Cervantes" Argamasilla, Ruidera, the windmills... "In Don Quixote the countryside of La Mancha is more felt than described," in words of Joaquín González.
For Francisco Rico "in Don Quixote the countryside of La Mancha is more felt than described." La Mancha, a land with very little in its favour for those who don’t look beneath the surface; yet this is a land which can maintain the delicate "balance between honour and poverty and is the setting Cervantes chooses to unleash the great battle between idealism and realism", according to Manuel Criado de Val.
December 1615. Cervantes produces his finest work, publishing the second part of "Don Quixote". After giving his knight new adventures in La Mancha and by the River Ebro, he sends them to Barcelona.
They arrived at the beach on Midsummer night and saw the sea which they had not seen before. Although they visited this city, fountain of courtesy, shelter of strangers and unique in its location and beauty, Don Quixote was drawing slowly to his close, until finally vanquished and falling on that very beach. The fact is –as Martín de Riquer, who believes Cervantes visited Barcelona in 1610, puts it– the end of Don Quixote is at hand. And his creator’s too.
Curator and Photographer
José Manuel Navia
Set up and Programming
Raquel Mesa (AC/E)
Translations Spanish- English
Jenny F. Dodman
*All quotations belong to works of Miguel de Cervantes except those which where expressly cited.