The Flight into Egypt, ca. 1570, is a small oil painting on a prepared pine board. It is mostly a landscape representation with the sacred family as the figures within it. It demonstrates El Greco's newly acquired knowledge of the Venetian style of painting that was popular at the time due to the grand Venetian master, Titian.


In his illustrious career, El Greco painted Saint Sebastian three times. The last of his three portrayals dated between 1610 and 1614 found its way to the Prado Museum - but in two parts.

Report by Karla Darocas, Hons. B. A. (KarlaDarocas.com)
Exclusive for SpainLifestyle.com

In 1959, the top half was donated by the countess of Mora y Aragón and in 1987 the legs were found that fit the upper part of Saint Sebastian's body perfectly. Painted in oil on canvas, approximately 201.5 x 111, 5 cm, trimmed and missing some areas, it was assembled in one piece.

The time and circumstances in which the canvas was cut are unknown but would appear that this Saint Sebastian was cut in two because of an inheritance because the division of the painting is interesting. It seems that one of the parties received the upper part and the other received the lower section, thus destroying a painting of great quality.

Today, we can marvel at this Saint Sebastian tied to a tree, impaled by arrows that come from different directions with an expression of consent and tenderness. He looks up to God, accepting his martyrdom.

Behind him, we see stormy skies that threaten the city of Toledo. Anyone who has spent any time in Toledo will indeed relate to those turbulent cloud formations.

Not surprisingly, Saint Sebastian was never in Toledo, but that did not stop El Greco from incorporating his beloved adopted home into the painting. Saint Sebastian is placed in a shallow space of ground as if on a daring precipice and behind him we contemplate the town in the background, depicted in green and bluey grey tones, creating a dramatic if not ghostly atmosphere.

The saint's figure is very elongated, as was typical of El Greco's spirited and other worldly figures in his later years. The powerful source of light illuminates the saint with such force that the skin colour almost disappears, turning white, yet casting shadows all over his body.

Undoubtedly, El Greco's aim was to use his images to show the spirituality of Counter-Reformation, a Catholic resurgence initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation, beginning with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War (1648).

While most of El Greco's works conform to the piety of the new era, Saint Sebastian is a nude, which was always subject to critical speculation by the Catholics and hence could never be deemed as beautiful in any way. Hence, we find a ghostly figure who looks up to heaven and excepts his fate.

Aside, we know that Sebastian was a soldier of the Roman army and the Emperor Diocletian. He was born in Narbonne (France) in the year 256 , but was educated in Milan . He complied with military discipline, but did not participate in pagan sacrifices because he considered them idolatry. As a Christian, he preached among his companions, visiting and encouraging other Christians imprisoned because of their religion.

He was discovered and denounced to Emperor Maximian (friend of Diocletian), who forced him to choose between being a soldier or following Jesus Christ . Sebastian chose to follow Christ.

Enraged, he condemned him to die. The Emperor's soldiers took him to the stadium, undressed him, tied him to a tree stump and impaled him with a shower of arrows and left him for dead. However, his friends came and, seeing him still alive, took him to the house of a Roman Christian noble named Irene, wife of Castulo, who kept him hidden and healed his wounds, until he was restored.

His friends advised him to leave Rome, but Sebastian flatly refused.

He appeared before a disconcerted emperor, as he thought he was dead, and strongly criticized his conduct for persecuting Christians. Maximian had him clubbed to death and soldiers tossed his body into a quagmire.

The Christians picked him out and buried him in the Via Appia, a famous catacomb that bears the name of San Sebastian. He died in the year 288.

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200 years ago from November 2018, El Prado opened its doors to the public to marvel at 311 paintings form the Royal Collection.

It was not called the National Museum El Prado at that time and it had a long way to go until it became Spain's master art gallery. El Prado has grown and evolved over the years along with Spain and its people for whom it shares its art and historical events. The ups and downs of Spains' turbulent times as well as the calm of its peace filled time can be admired in each room of this massive gallery.

SOROLLA: The Artist, the Humanist, the Scientist

Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923) was Spain's premiere impressionist artist.

A master painter from Valencia, Sorolla won many artistic  prizes and was adored the world over. In his youth, he was idealistic and like a modern pop star, his powerful paintings served to bring a social conscious to the fine arts world and beyond.

Sorolla paintings are built upon scientific knowledge and based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations. Thus, information derived from sensory experience, interpreted through reason and logic, forms the exclusive source of all certain knowledge.

Sorolla's positivism held that valid knowledge (certitude or truth) was found only in empirical evidence and this 19th century discovery caught the imagination of entire younger generation liberating their eyes from the Church and traditional society.

Sorolla learned to take advantage of this scientific revolution and incorporate it into his colour palette.

The sea was often the protagonist in his paintings and before his could put paint onto canvas, Sorolla had to ask himself question like, "What color is the water? Why do we see it? How is it painted?"

Light is the key to everything and Sorolla knew it. He would experiment with a bottle of water and a little milk to simulate, on a small scale, the behavior of sunlight in the Earth's atmosphere. Like a scientist, he was determined to understand why the sun's rays turned the sky blue in broad daylight or orange during sunset.

Today, we know via science that colour depends on the inclination with which the sun rays pass through the atmosphere. When Sorolla took a lamp and his bottle with water and milk and entered the light directly, the mixture looked bluish. If the bulb was placed on one of the sides, the tone changes to red.

- intro by Karla Darocas. Hons. B.A.



"I really enjoy the in depth view about the life and times of the artist Sorolla. All aspects of this presentation from his life and times to the information about Spanish history around each of the times of a particular period of his artwork was fascinating. But more importantly is how much knowledge Karla passes on to her 'students' . The presentations are really fun and the time goes too fast!!! I always recommend her lectures, her knowledge and enthusiasm."
* Janis Turner

"I learned about a painter that I had no knowledge of, from his formative years right through to his death, through the styles and painters that influenced him as his work developed. The paintings were the star of the show. Very inspiring work, especially his use and rendering of light. Beautiful. I enjoyed Karla's informality and organisation and I would recommend her to friend."
* Debra Cazalet, Pego

"I had seen some of the work of Sorolla before and was so delighted to have attended your very interesting lecture on this great Spanish painter. His connection with Javea was of particular interest and you gave us a true illustration of his unusual technique and skill."
* Lorna Ainsworth, Javea

"Karla has a great knowledge of both techniques and cultural history. Sorolla is of great interest to me because I am Javea resident and so I have a local Javea connection."
* Lorna O’Connor, Javea

"It was another fabulous lecture Karla...we learnt so much about Sorolla and his work through your inimitable and very accessible style of lecture. I can’t wait to see more of his paintings and also look forward to hearing more from you in the future on other artists...thank you... "
* Gladys Cummings

"Thank you for your very interesting talk at the recent Anglo Spanish Assoc. meeting on Sorolla The presentation was very informative and it was a great pleasure to have had the opportunity to see such a wide range of his work about which I knew nothing. I wish I'd found a seat nearer the front !
* John G. Deacon, Jávea

"Wow and again wow! What a wonderfully interesting talk on Sorolla you gave to the Anglo Spanish Association yesterday evening. Many of us struggle to understand the subtleties of the development of an artist. What you gave us was a lucid, and well illustrated, talk on the progress of his abilities and career. For example I especially remember him being the first to use a white background. I look forward to hearing more of your talks, lectures and tuitions."
* Keith Hyde, Javea

"Karla'a expertise on Sorolla's life and work is both extensive and fascinating."
* David Decker, Javea


The Royal Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba sits proudly on a small hill just outside of Gandia, in the district of Alfauir (Valencia). It is surrounded by nature, orange groves, walking trails and picnic spots. It is now a private estate that opens the main floor and the grounds to the public on weekends, but for over the past 600 years, it has been a very special place for Kings, Queens, Nobelmen and women and the Hieronymite Order.

The Hieronymite Order has its origin in Jàvea. In 1374 Pope Gregory XI authorized the foundation of a monastery in Jàvea to the Hieronymite order. The duke Alfonso of Aragon granted the grounds for this monastery but it was attacked by Berber pirates in 1387 and the monks feared to return. For that reason in 1388 Alfonso of Aragon bought the territories of Cotalba from Muslims, which was safer and he donated it all to the Hieronymite monks of Jàvea.

The Monastery itself is a complex or compound with a vast array of architectural wonders, which represent Spain's long, creative and devotional past. In 1994, it was declared a Place of Cultural Interest because its original construction dates back to 1388 and it contains important Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical features.

* Report by Arts Historian and Educator , Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (SpainLifestyle.com)
* Copyright Karla Darocas 2018* (no part of this text or photos may be replicated)


It has been on my radar for quit some time but we finally, my husband and myself, made a morning excursion and early, as I so not like people in my historical type photos. * big grin *

As we walked up to the Main Gate of the Monastery, we were met by multiple early morning reflections on white plaster. Looking down at us was Saint Jerome, the patron saint of this establishment and he was writing his famous Latin version of the Bible called the "Vulgata", which appeared at the end of the 4th century.

Also, sitting proud on the entrance head, was a stone coat-of-arms designed for the grandson of King James II and the benefactor of the monastery namely Alfonso IV of Aragon. You can see all of the tributes in this insignia including the bars of Aragon, French lilly flowers for his grandmother, Blanche of Anjou, the wild lion being the symbol for the residing monks of the Hieronymite order and also the eagle's talon or claw with a sword to represent the Marquis of Villena, a nobel title of which Alfonso was the first.

Once through the main gate, the bell tower commands your attention. It was built in the 14th c. and is beside the church part of the Monastery. 

It has a rectangular shape and was built from stone in four parts with "ashlar" or raised stone bricks as bands around each party. The upper part has the battlements and below that are classic Gothic "ogival" arches. The bells are housed in this upper part.

The main facade of the building is austere and formal. It has three floors, small windows and  ironwork balconies added in the 18th Century. The main portal to the Monastery, which leads directly to the building, is a simply, stunted ogival arch, over which is the coat of arms of the founder in a "roundel", which is a round shape crest, and decorative Royal chains dressing the frame of the portal.

The backbone and communications channel of any Monastery is its Cloister. Four buildings back onto Sant Jeroni de Cotalba's covered cloister of two levels that journey around the courtyard.

The lower cloister was a wonder to behold with its jazzed up ribbed vaults and ogival arches made from natural clay bricks and white lime mortar in the Mudéjar style, a term referring to the Muslims who continued to practise their religion and their customs in the territory that became part of the Christian dominions after the Reconquest. Stone is used for the bases of the arches and the round keystones, which have insignias.

A highlight in the south-east corner is a unique spiral staircase in Flamboyant Gothic constructed towards the end of the 15th or at the beginning of the 16th Century by Pere Compte, architect of the Llotja de València. It is covered with plasterwork with plant decorations in high relief that leads to the upper part of the Cloister.

The stairs and the upper cloister was sponsored by Maria Enríquez de Luna, who as Dutchess of Gandia from 1497, was the real motivator behind all of Gandia's economic, social and cultural transformation. 

The Chapterhouse, now a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Health is used by the private family who now owns the Monastery. However, the Chapter house in its day was an essential place in monastic life. This is where the monks held their daily meetings. The abbot sat in his high seat and everyone else had his own seat in order, from the oldest down to the newest.

High on the northern wall of the Chapterhouse is a Gothic tomb of the Prince John, who was the grandson of Alfonso the Old. This tomb was constructed by maestro Xàtiva Pere Andreu in 1380, before work was started to construct the monastery. This tomb is a magnificent example of a medieval sarcophagus and it is extremely small as well!

The Chapterhouse is now a chapel and has a neo-gothic altarpiece with a replica of the Virgen de la Salud or Virgin of Good Health, the original is in the neighbouring village of Rótova.

The room alongside the Chapterhouse is full of olive oil storage wells and 32 large jars for olives. In the 14th century, this room was actually the sanatorium, oratory and the refectory. The only part of the primitive refectory that is preserved is a wall with a grisaille (charcoal, egg tempura and white gouache) of the last supper by Friar Nicolás Borrás, which is now a replica of the monochrome art painted onto canvas to preserve it.  

The south wing of the monastery is taken up by the church. It has a rectangular floor plan with 8 chapels between its original buttresses.

During the 18th Century the church was transformed from the Gothic style to a Neo-classical design. The roof and pointed Gothic arches had to be demolished in order to increase their height and to cover the nave with a barrel vault and lunettes. These arches are supported by capitals bearing the coat of arms of the first Duke of Gandia, Alfonso I of Aragon, decorated with figurative, plant and pastoral motifs.

The upper choir has a rectangular floor plan and is covered by a stellar vault with lunettes, which were decorated with paintings and shell corners, veneration symbols to Mary, in the corners.

Sadly this church fell pray to the Ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal often referred to simply as la Desamortización in Spanish, were a set of decrees that resulted in the expropriation and privatisation of monastic properties in Spain from 1835 to 1837. The pictorial works went to the Museum of Fine Arts of Valencia. The Monstrance went to the Collegiate Basilica of Gandia, the organ to the Pias Schools of the same city, the great bell went to Xeresa and the image of the Virgin of Good Health was taken to the church of Rotova. This church then became a warehouse. Now, it is used for musical concerts and other special events.

The 15th c kitchen with Moorish oven is a rectangular room supported by four cross arches, with four groin vaults in the corners. The earthenware dishes, woven wicker mats and wooden spoons look like the items we still use today.

On the other side of the kitchen is an 18thc. lounge with Renaissance vaults and period furniture. 

The western side of the Monastery hosts a 20th c. Romantic-style garden created by the Trénor family who aquired the monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalva in Alfahuir, among other things that had been expropriated as a result of the Spanish Desamortización. The family still own it to this day and the rooms that are not open to the public are private rooms for their personal use. 



Historically, settlers of many diverse cultures have populated and enjoyed this exclusive spot. The name could very well come from the Arabic "Xibìa", which means "abundant".

Xàbia or Jávea is a Valencian coastal town in the Marina Alta region (Alicante). It has always been a privileged and strategic Mediterranean location enticing ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Christians.

REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. Fine Arts (www.KarlaDarocas.com)

Today, the most impressive structure of this town is the parish church of San Bartolomé.

It is a royal treasure, a Valencian Gothic / Isabelline gem combining exquisite aesthetics with military defensive features like a watch tower, roof top parapet and "murder holes".

For centuries Xàbia was a coastal settlement that fell victim to many threats, attacks and incursions arriving by the Mediterranean sea. In order to combat these assaults and to protect its people, Xàbia developed a defensive style town with strong stone walls, military lookout towers with a beautiful fortress church.

Over the decades, and three major eras of wealth and expansion, Xàbia has preserved some gems of architecture and history. For students and art lovers, Xàbia is a great place to study your History of Fine Arts and Architecture with a focus on the regional Mediterranean history and culture.

As with all of the Valencian region, it was the medieval King of Aragon, Jaume I, who in 1244 claimed Xàbia for the Christians and set about the long and unstable process of populating the town. The revolts of Al Azraq slowed down the process of re population.

It was not until 1397 that Xàbia obtained its village title. By this time, the medieval village had grown into a network of narrow streets with a good defensive perimeter wall.
The layout would correspond to the current streets of Roques, Ronda Sud, Sant Josep, Verge del Pilar, Pastores, Príncep d'Astúries and Ronda Nord. 

Within this primitive town there was a fortified tower built on top of a previous Arab tower called the Torre d'Encairat. Close to this tower was constructed a primitive Christian church that utilized the foundations of a captured Arab farmhouse.
Xàbia remained a tiny rural Medieval outpost until the beginning of the 16th century when due to the growth of the community, the walls had to be set back into the new open roads.

The defective portals in and out of the village were marked as the Portal del Clot (1554), Portal de la Mar (1561) and Portal de la Ferraria (1637).

Etymologically, the name of "Clot", derives from the word Cros, which means bottom of the town.


"Mar" is sea, so we can derive that door exits in the direction of the sea.

"Ferraria" is a reference to the Cape of San Antonio. In the era of the Roman occupation, the Cape was called the "Promontory of Ferraria", meaning a point of high land that juts out into a large body of water; a headland.

This is where one of the very first Christian Religious Orders from North African, led by Donato Servetian, built a small community to flee persecution. It was called the the Servitano Monastery. A Roman from the Valencian region, a noble woman named Minicea, assisted them in settling up.

To aid in the new Christian growth, a building material called "tosca" was introduced. It is a durable, honey coloured sandstone which was excavated from the shoreline and seaside caves.

This rock of calcareous origin was formed in the sand dunes thousands of years ago and has been extracted in this region for several centuries. At the beginning of the 1970s, new environmental protection laws prohibited the extraction of the sand stone.

Església de Sant Bartomeu, Xàbia.JPG

The medieval fortress church of San Bartolomé was enlarged in 1513 with tosca stone blocks.

This reformation work was paid for by the patrons of the village who had plenty of money thanks to their royal affiliations.

Bernardo de Sandoval (1502-1536 ) was the 2nd Marquis of Denia and uncle to Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, 1st Duke of Lerma.

Sandoval married Francisca Enríquez y Luna, the cousin of King Fernando. This was a direct relationship with the most famous medieval queen, Isabella and her husband King Fernando.

Both Sandoval and Enríquez have a family shield each above the church's main portals enhanced with floral wreaths to show their patronage.

Under the direction of a master builder Domingo de Urteaga, the fortress church was aggrandized with a large Valencian Gothic nave and apse with three chapels on each side framed by buttresses.

The outside as well as the inside chapels were decorated in honour of Queen Isabella with her chosen style of naturalist flora designs, royal crowns, gargoyles, orbs, pinnacles, ogee arches and heraldic shields of the patrons. The style was appropriately called "Isabelline" architectural design.

In 1931 San Bartolomé was declared an Artistic Historical Monument. Alas, it was badly raided and burned in the Civil War of 1936 and the remarkable altar and other historical relics were stolen or destroyed.

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The Marina Alta region, especially the coastal village of Jávea/Xàbia, has its 20th century heritage wrapped up in raisins. Not just any raisins, but the succulent Sultana raisins made from the marvelous muscatel grapes, which brought fame and wealth to the industrious villagers.

Within the Soler Blasco Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum are an important series of artworks by Soler Blasco that immortalize traditional trades, fiestas and legends. One of these impressionistic paintings showcases the process of blanching and drying of grapes to make raisins. 

REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. (www.KarlaDarocas.com)

Xàbia artist, teacher and resident Soler Blasco (1920-1984) became an important local figure because he was the mayor from 1974 to 1979. He was also involved in great cultural projects such as the creation of an archaeological museum and the Municipal Public Library.

Blanching accelerated the drying process. It all started with lighting the oven or fire, "el fogater", then filling a pot with water, herbs, caustic soda and bringing it to a boil. Then the grapes were tossed into the pot for a good 15 minute boil, then spooned out onto a drying mat.

In the back of this painting by Soler Blasco you can see the landmark mountain named "Montgo" and a white building with a "Riurau". During the 19th and 20th centuries, Riuraus flooded the the entire Marina Alta rural landscape. These unique Roman arched constructions were used to dry the raisins when it rained.


The technique of blanching grapes goes back two millennia. In the writings of Julius Moderatus Columella, a prominent scholar on agriculture in the Roman empire, he describes 'l'escaldà' ". This information comes from Josep Antoni Gisbert, the archaeologist and director of Denia's  Ethnological Museum.

The oldest documented sources relating to the production of raisins in the Valencian territory date back to the second half of the 15th century. In the Marina Alta, there is evidence of the production dated 1476, whereby Valencian merchants wrote out billing contracts with Morisco farmers who lived in Dénia, Xàbia, Xaló, Pedreguer and Ondara, for their supply of raisins.

After the expulsion of the Moors and Moriscos in 1609, the grape production disappeared and so did the raisins because the Christians did not know the procedure.

It was actually because of travelers to the Marina Alta and La Safor regions in 1800's who prompted the production of raisins again, especially the English Navy who wanted raisins to combat scurvy and other diseases because of poor diet, but also the miners and textile factory workers wanted raisins to keep in their pockets to fight fatigue.


Each year, the celebration of the "Escaldá de la Pasa" takes place in the village of Jesus Pobre on the last morning of August. The villagers keep their heritage alive by recreating the process of making raisins via blanching. The ritual lasts all morning and ends with traditional dances.

REPORT BY: Karla Darocas, Hons. B.A. Fine Arts (www.KarlaDarocas.com)

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