Artwork of the Month: Alberto Sánchez. La romería de los cornudos, 1933

Alberto Sánchez designed the set for the first performance of the ballet La romería de los cornudos, which took place on November 9th, 1933 at Madrid's Teatro Calderón. The ballet was performed by the company led by Encarnación López, La Argentinita. The music, composed by Gustavo Pittaluga, was conceived as a choreographic divertimento, and followed in the trail of Manuel de Falla with echoes of Igor Stravinsky and the group Les Six, with the idea of creating Spanish music that used balance and simplicity to distance itself from the Romantic picturesque.

In close harmony with the score, Alberto's stage design featured his distinctive avant-garde language and was far removed from any folkloric expression. The sculptor and his friend the painter Benjamín Palencia found inspiration in the imaginary landscapes created by Joan Miró and the sculptural bone drawings done by Pablo Picasso in the late 1920s in these artists' attempt to define a form of art that reflected its sensitive link with nature. Alberto's sculptures and drawings from the same period revealed the symbiosis existing between figures and landscapes imbued with atmospheric phenomena, and also the sensitive, tactile qualities of vegetation, with poetics that evoked all the senses. While working on the stage design for this ballet, the sculptor, with the precedent of Rafael Barradas' innovative work for the Teatro del Arte in the 1920s, followed his own ideology and conceived of the stage as a unified aesthetic experience that encompassed set, figures and text.

Three enveloping curtains represent the chapel and its surroundings in which, in the libretto by Federico García Lorca and Cipriano Rivas Cherif, a pilgrimage to the Christ of Moclín took place. Legend had it that the Christ granted fertility to the first of all the women who, after a night of singing and dancing by their husbands, gave him crown of vervain flowers. In the central curtain, the sinuous forms of the landscape cover a high horizon dotted with the carts and burros of the couples taking part in the pilgrimage. In the foreground, some hybrid forms of animals and plants allude to the story, recalling the strange and threatening figures appearing in some of the artist's contemporary drawings, such as Formas en el desierto (ca. 1934-36). These figures also serve to define the architecture of the stage-right set, while in the stage-left set, the one on display here, the chapel is seen, with its hybrid look and a sensorial, living quality that suggests a step forward with regard to the sets the artist designed for Fuenteovejuna (1933).


                                                                                                                  Carmen Fernández Aparicio

Alberto (Alberto Sánchez), Toledo, 1895-Moscú, 1962
La romería de los cornudos (The Pilgrimage of Cuckolds), 1933
Water-based painting on paper
Left side set
520 x 530 cm. and two pieces of 150 x 100 cm. (stairs)

  • Room view
  • Room view
  • Room view
  • Room view