Thursday, March 03, 2005

Albertus Seba

Much better than Hieronymus Bosch... Posted by Hello

Yesterday I entered into serious talks to acquire the whole collection of corals, stuffed animals and different organs in paraldehyde filled jars of a fellow member of this eccentric masonic lodge of builders of Cabinets of Curiosities, to which I belong myself. The negociation took place in his shop in the Antiquarians' Gallery in the Rastro area. While we were talking, he pretending not be seriously considering getting rid of his beloved collection and me pretending not to be really interested in acquiring it, we kept turning the pages of the exceedingly beautiful book by Albertus Seba, "Cabinet of Natural Curiosities" .

(The Rastro is the latest addition to my itinerary of flea-markets, which reads with almost the same distinction, if not bigger, as my list of diplomatic posts. The china pottery and superbly waxed furniture of Portobello, subsequently the brass trash and old carpets of the Jaffa street market, followed by the Turkmen rugs and the icon gilded frames of the Ysmailovo market. What's closer to the heart of a City, its Government district or its antiques market? I rest my case.

On Sunday mornings the Rastro has an ant-like population, in the league of the hundreds of thousand, slowly walking among the South American multicolored shirts, the Moroccan leather babouches and the East German military outfits, while the owners of serious antique shops, with Napoleon III's severe black comodes and statues of Saint Theresas, witness, with unforthcoming stares, the mob. On weekdays the atmosphere is of a peaceful, quiet neighborhood of a small town. Only the profusion of Chinese lettering in the shops' windows reminds us we are in Madrid.)

My interlocutor is adamant that the vampire-bat, the armadillo and the reading monkey inside a crystal box are not to be part of the items for sale. I tell him my disappointment, but I can understand his unwillingness to depart with his most cherished pieces. I've been offered to sell my stuffed penguin too (named Ysmail in honour of Ysmailovo, precisely) and I know I cannot ever do that. There is another armadillo left, though, even if in worst condition, and the chameleon in a jar, although a little devoid of suntan, is worth the loss of the longed for chiropter...

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