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From musical hosiery to modern plumbing in Madrid’s Costume Museum


Andrea Kirsh posts on her visit to Madrid

[First we give you Paris, now Madrid.]

Rococco clothes that looked as though Goya’s tapestry cartoons and early paintings had come to life.

An unexpected treat of my trip to Madrid was a visit to the Museo del Traje (Costume Museum), located in the far West, next to Cuidad Universitaria. The 1970’s structure was built as a museum of contemporary art before the founding of the Reina Sofia, and in 2004 assumed the present arrangement as a Museum of Costume and Ethnological Research Center. The installations speak of a big budget and good taste: beautifully arranged, multiple video monitors for research information (although they were an awkward way to find out basic facts) and lighting that reacts to the visitors’ presence (crucial with all that light-sensitive material). How could you not love a collection that displays eighteenth-century silk stockings decorated with musical notation? Here’s where the computer let me down – I don’t read music, but was wondering if the tune was identified. They were in a room devoted to Rococco dress that looked as though Goya’s tapestry cartoons and early paintings had come to life.

A dress by Mario Fortuny

The high point of the collections for me were the fabrics and clothes of the incomparable Mario Fortuny, who raided the past, from Classical statuary to Renaissance paintings, to create timeless clothing. I’d never seen as much of his work as they have here.

Madrid Mus Traje meal 024
from the cafeteria

But the greatest surprise was their “cafeteria,” in fact a fine restaurant. For a prix fix of 17 Euros I had three courses of delicious food, so beautifully presented that I had to photograph it:

Madrid Mus Traje meal 025

Madrid Mus Traje meal 026

Then an even greater delight was the sculptural toilet-paper holder in the women’s room – again, begging to be recorded:

Madrid Museo Traje restaurant toilet 029
Madrid Museo del Traje restaurant toilet

I must say, I didn’t check the men’s room. But this was the complete aesthetic experience, and I recommend it to all art visitors to Madrid!

For Andrea’s previous Madrid post on video, go here.

–Andrea Kirsh is an art historian living in Philadelphia. See her Philadelphia Introductions essays on emerging artists at inliquid.