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Arts and culture Updated: 09 Jul 2023

A journey through time with the BBVA Collection

Just as they do every summer, the streets of Paris, New York and Madrid prepare to be discovered by visitors and to enliven their imagination. Who hasn´t dreamed at one time or another of strolling through their favorite city two hundred years ago and living its history in first person? There´s no need to go on dreaming. Thanks to the BBVA Collection, we can go around the world and revisit the past.


Inspiration comes from Paris

The streets of Paris have been a source of inspiration for great artists throughout the centuries. Without a doubt, if there is a place in the French capital that lives and breathes art, it’s Montmartre, the neighborhood of the painters. Paul Louis Chrétien is one of the artists who could not resist immortalizing the streets of this Bohemian district. The big hill of Rue L’Abrevoir, with the dome of the basilica of Sacre Coeur watching over it in the distance, is the subject of this oil painting from the end of the 19th Century.

Assisi, the timeless city

Assisi is one of those cities that transport us to the past as soon as we step into its streets. The views of the Basilica, built in the 12th Century have hardly changed since they were painted by the Asturian artist Pablo Peña in 1892.  San Francisco de Assisi is comprised of a lower basilica that represents the life of penance and an upper basilica that symbolizes glory. This city, anchored in the Middle Ages, is the seat of the Franciscan order and an essential stop for pilgrims on their way to Rome, as was reflected by Peña in his “Pilgrimage to Assisi.”

The Monastery of El Escorial: the tomb of kings

This impressive view of the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial was done during the second half of the 17th Century by Jan Frans Soolmaker. The monastery was painted on numerous occasions by artists during the 17th Century, which is doubtless why the Dutch artist also did so, either inspired by one of those illustrations or because he really journeyed to El Escorial. The palace was built in the second half of the 16th Century by King Felipe II as a royal residence and the burial place of the kings of Spain; at the time was regarded as the Eighth Wonder of the World. In spite of the recent construction surrounding it, El Escorial continues to be an enclave where time does not pass.

A stroll through New York during the 1930s

New York, the city of skyscrapers, is one of the most painted places in the world. In 1989, Jesús Mari Lazkano captured the immensity of the city through a panoramic view of the East River, in which the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges are the protagonists. In spite of being a recent painting, the artist did not work with real views or current photographs in his work, entitled “Two Cities as One I,” but rather, with the work of the great American photographers of the 1930s, which allows one to note the passage of time in the Big Apple.

Venice, the city of the canals

Venice is comprised of 118 small islands connected by 455 bridges. Its framework of canals as streets and its picturesque boats are the great attractions of this beautiful city.  The Grand Canal was the source of inspiration for the Venetian Jacopo Fabris in the 18th Century. The artist reproduced the views of the principal Venetian route from the famous Puente Rialto which, in spite of the bustle of tourists, has hardly changed over the centuries.

Brussels, the historic capital of Europe

The Grand Place is the center of life in Brussels and has been the scene of great moments in history. One of those was the arrival of Emperor Carlos V and his son Felipe II, an event that is still commemorated today with the Ommegang festival. In 1695, the majority of the buildings that form the plaza were destroyed during a bombardment by French troops. These buildings were reconstructed by the different guilds in only three years and since then have changed little.

Traditional history in the heart of Madrid

The bustling streets of the center of Madrid are lined with palaces and grand buildings that hold incredible stories within their walls. One of the most beautiful is the Palace of the Marquis of Salamanca, the illustrious aristocrat and promoter of the neighborhood that bears his name. However, the marquis’ debts caused him to lose the palace in 1876, when it became the property of the Banco Hipotecario de España. In 1977, Amalia Avia immortalized this building on the corner on the Paseo de Recoletos, which is the current headquarters of the BBVA Foundation. Only the clothing of the passers-by and the designs of the parked cars give evidence of the passage of time.