16th December 2022-5th March 2023
Antequera City Museum Plaza Coso Viejo, s/n, Antequera, Malaga
The exhibition Washington Irving. An epic journey, from 1828 to 1829 is an approach to the figure of Washington Irving: writer, man of letters and diplomat who, although born in the United States, was fascinated by Spain and Andalusia in particular.
Born in New York in 1783 into a business family coming from Scotland and England, he travelled extensively throughout Europe from a very early age. He lived in Spain for eight years at different periods. Between 1828 and 1829 he travelled around and lived in Andalusia. It is on this period of Washington Irving’s life that this exhibition, housed in Antequera City Museum between 16th December 2022 and 5th March 2023, is focused.
The exhibition, that comprises more than one hundred pieces, shows the evolution of a character who showed a great attraction towards Andalusia and its history. Many of the works he wrote on this subject are on display in the exhibition. Thus, the exhibition gathers first editions of his well-known Tales of the Alhambra, both in English and Spanish, first partial editions, first complete editions , as well as the last edition of this work published while the writer was still alive, revised by himself. Also on display we will find editions of Life and Travels of Christopher Columbus, and the Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada. These works are placed in context by means of pieces relating to the writer and his world. Thus, together with his Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada, the exhibition shows, for example, a sales document concerning the house of an alfaqui’s daughter in Granada to a Christian man, manuscript kept in the Municipal Historical Archive of Antequera.
Particularly relevant are Washington Irving’s handwritten letters, a recent acquisition by the El legado andalusí Foundation, which are on display for the first time in this exhibition. Specifically, they consist of a letter addressed by Irving to his friend Sir Colin Campbell, written in Seville on 21st April 1829; other one addressed to his publisher in Philadelphia, Mr. Ellis, mailing him an engraving of a portrait of Columbus; other letter is addressed to his publishers Lea & Blanchard, asking them to send his History of Admiral Columbus: the Companions of Columbus to the Marshall Institute in Philadelphia, as well as a note he sent in 1830 to the bibliophile Obadiah Rich asking him for a history of Cadiz and Seville.
This exhibition does not only focus on Irving’s works, but also shows the character’s context. Thus, engravings of the places he visited on his travels are here on display, especially those related to Andalusia, the main topic of the exhibition. We can find, for example, engravings made by Laborde, Wilhelm Gail, Taylor, etc. The views of Antequera present in the exhibition are also very representative, such as Vista de Antequera desde la Moraleda (A view of Antequera from La Moraleda) by Lady Louisa Tenison or La Peña de los Enamorados, by Alexandre de Laborde, both kept in Antequera City Museum.
Through this exhibition we can relive Andalusia, that so exotic, fascinating and romantic seemed to the first foreign travellers who discovered our region in the 19th century. One of them was Washington Irving, whose work turned out to be, undoubtedly, a giant step forward for the dissemination of Andalusian historical and cultural heritage.