Monday, June 22, 2015

Inside Porfirio's Palace (Now the National Art Museum)

Palacio de la Secretaría de Comunicaciones,
now the National Museumn of Art, on Tacuba Street
Viewed from the Torre Latinoamericana
Photo: JRB

We introduced the Palacio de la Secretaria de Comunicacions in our last post on Porfirio Díaz's major public works in and near the Centro Histórico. The design is primarily Neo-classical, but mixes elements of other architectural styles.

Passing through the lobby of what is now the National Museum of Art, you come to a grand double staircase reminiscent of the one in the nearby Palacio de Correos, the Postal Palace. It fills a semi-circular atrium lit by large windows.

Click on any picture to enlarge it,
A slide show will appear below it.

As you ascend one of the stairways, you look up two stories through the atrium

Neogothic and neoclassic details on the lamp bases and on the walls:

This dragon is evidently female.

The ceiling at the top is covered with a mural recalling the religious art of the Baroque period that fills so many of Mexico's colonial churches. But intead of the Catholic God and his Angels, it portrays a female Roman Justice, descending from Heaven to conquer the Evils below, lower left. At the lower right is an idyllic scene of a campesino farmer plowing with his ox.

On a frieze around the mural, nude children play in a kind of Dionysian revel.

Turning around from the atrium, you face carved, neoclassic doors.

Entering, you pass through a large anteroom and a second set of doors, into the grand Reception Hall, President Díaz's preferred place for making public declarations and receiving dignitaries from abroad.

You immediately realize that you are in a 19th century European royal palace. Allegorical murals of romanticized neoclassic figures representing the arts, science, liberty, history and work adorn the end and inside walls.

The Arts

Labor, the only man in the group.

Above, on the ceiling, a grand mural of Progress bestowing her blessings.

You feel that the Spanish viceroys would have been comfortable here, as would Agustín Iturbide, Mexico's first, if brief, Emperor. Santa Ana would likely find it appealing. Certainly Emperor Maximilian, who grew up in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, would have felt right at home. However, Diáz's presidential predecessor, the spartan republican Benito Juárez, would not.

Back downstairs, in the interior courtyard outside the windows to the grand staircase, you meet two other classic symbolic figures.

 A lion who seems to be reflecting on matters.

And one who is sleeping, or, perhaps, just very tired.

You wonder whether Porfirio Díaz, at the time this Palace was completed in the middle of the first decade of the 20th century and a few years before he was overthrown, was able to reflect on the thirty-some years of his reign and what he had wrought for Mexico, good and bad. Or whether, in his late 70's, he was just tired.

No comments:

Post a Comment