El Prado’s well kept secret
It’s rare at my age to discover a new, never-heard-of, good, major painter; it is all the more pleasure when the said painter turns out to be one’s countryman. Bartholomäus (in Poland we would say Bartłomiej) Strobel (1591–1647) hailed from Breslau, and worked chiefly for Ladislaus (Władysław) IV; he also did some work for the Hapsburgs, which is how one of his works found its way to El Prado, where it hangs — relegated to the inconsequence of an elevator lobby (while far inferior Rubenses and Zubarans take pride of place elsewhere): the amazing — and gigantic (it must easily be 3m x 10m) — Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. In keeping with the Torquemada tradition, Prado won’t let you photograph it; nor will they photograph it themselves; they do admit it is a good painting, and discuss it (in audio) on their website here (mas sólo en español) while providing you with an image the size of a largish post-stamp (!); the best reproduction of it I have been able to find anywhere is the ridiculously inadequate above. Unless you actually go to Prado you would never know about it; or the amazingly athletic Christ in Purgatory by Del Piombo (one of the best Venetian painters ever unduly forgotten in the shadow of Titian’s mediocrities); or the two portraits by Parmeggianino, radiant like the rest of his portraits. You would think El Greco and Goya is all they have there and, wrongly (though for good reasons) conclude the place isn’t worth a visit.