Museo de Zaragoza – Zaragoza Museum

November 2019

The grand entrance of the Museo de Zaragoza

The Museo de Zaragoza, a municipal museum, is free to enter. Situated around a central courtyard which is currently under renovation, there are two floors of paintings, sculpture, ceramics and more to stimulate your tastebuds.

The courtyard of the Museo de Zaragoza looking like a swimming pool with its protective flooring
Doors which lead from the courtyard to the exhibition spaces

This blog covers a rather random selection of what can be seen at the museum because my reason for visiting was to view the Japanese ceramics which were mentioned on the website. (I have a special interest in all things Japanese as I have been working as a Shiatsu practitioner for 30 years.) Therefore, I walked past the Goya paintings and the Roman section (Zaragoza has a fascinating Roman history as mentioned in my travel blog of the city) to find them, only stopping ocassionally on my way.

Advertising for both the Goya and Kotoge presentations

I have recently written a book about death and loss, so I was interested in the tombs I passed. I had not seen one with angels on either side of the deceased’s head before (were they bearing him up to heaven?) nor one featuring pigs at the dead woman’s feet (were they riches to be taken with her on her journey?)

The sepulchre of Don Pedro Fernández by Hijar y Navarra
As above, detail with angels
Unknown
As above, with pig detail

I tried out my Spanish, asking the attendant who the woman with swine was, but she didn’t know – or at least I think that was the gist of her reply. When I ask in my best accent and speed, and they answer accordingly, I can almost never understand all of the reply!

On the way back from that conversation, my attention was arrested by some 15th century Aragonese panels. Again, I enjoyed the detail the most.

Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén

In Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén (above), I loved the ‘now I hope you are listening’ expression on baby Jesus’ face, his little, chubby foot, the men’s hats doubling as crowns, and how similar the eyes of the cattle were to the man’s beside them.

Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén, detail
Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén, detail
Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén, detail
Epifanía by Blasco de Grañén, detail

It was the depiction of the torture by demons that poor San Antonio was subjected to in Escensas de la vida se San Antonio By Juan de la Abadía ‘El Viejo’ which I particularly noticed.

Escensas de la vida se San Antonio (Scenes from the life of Saint Anthony) by Juan de la Abadía ‘El Viejo’ (The Elder)
The 5th panel of Escensas de la vida se San Antonio By Juan de la Abadía ‘El Viejo’

In Retablo de San Sebastián by Taller de Juan de la Abadía, I was both horrified and amused by the weighing up of mortals to decide their fate, and the subsequent fighting off of the devil who is attempting to take the sinner from the bottom scale.

Retablo de San Sebastián by Taller de Juan de la Abadía (Abadía’s workshop)
Retablo de San Sebastián by Taller de Juan de la Abadía, detail

Then I came to the pottery by Tanzan Kotoge. Spanning his œuvre, the majority of exhibits were bowls and cups to be used in tea ceremonies.

Bowl made by Tanzan Kotoge
Ceramic by Tanzan Kotoge

Decorated with birds and flowers, Japanese lettering and figures, they were exquisite.

Happiness
Tanzan Kotoge 2012

Born in 1946 in Himeji, Kogote is from the Kyoto workshop and was taught by Shimaoka Tatsuzo (Living National Treasure) who learned from Shoji Hamada in the Japanese master-follower way. Considered one of the great masters of traditional pottery, he incorporates the old ways while also bring his own personal signature to the decoration.

By Tanzan Kotoge
Simpler pots by Tanzan Kotoge

It is believed that the creator of true tea-ceremony bowls must first understand and have integrated Zen philosophy and the art of this ritual. Kotoge, however, accepts that many potters will not have this background and still provide ceramics for this purpose.

I particularly liked this blue case with storks as I have been watching so many of them in Spain and the drawing is perfectly true to life. Link to bird blog
More sombre work by Tanzan Kotoge

I rounded off my most stimulating visit with a manuscript showing tea ceremony scenes and some older Chinese pots and porcelain figures from the museum’s permanent collection.

Panel from tea ceremony parchment
A XX century porcelain laughing Buddha with mini men all around him
Porcelain Quing Dynasty (1644-1911) Dragon vase
Like a real life stand-off, Chinese vase. Porcelain Quing Dynasty (1644-1911)

The museum can be found on the Plaza los Sitios and although it was dark when I emerged at 6.15 pm the playpark was full of children and their parents playing.

Information about Tanzan Kotoge