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• Friday, March 20th, 2020

Javier Sierra was born in 1971 in Teruel, Aragon, Spain. Since his childhood, Sierra was interested in the world of communications. After his school education, he studied journalism at the Complutense University of Madrid and worked for the radio, television and the press. His first book was published in 1995.

He has written fiction and non-fiction books. The Master Of The Prado, his sixth, was published in Spanish in 2013 and English in 2015. Sierra became an acclaimed writer, his books have been published in several countries and he has won awards for some of his work. He currently lives in Madrid with his wife and two children.

The story of The Master Of The Prado starts in 1990 in Madrid with Javier Sierra standing in the Gallery “A” of the famous Prado Museum in the capital, admiring the painting of the Renaissance artist, Raphael, the Holy family, known as The Pearl. An enigmatic, tastefully dressed gentleman appears at Sierra’s side and introduces himself as Dr Luis Fovel. Noticing Sierra’s state of surprise, Fovel quotes the ancient Eastern proverb, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”, which sums up succinctly the subject of the story.

Javier Sierra, a provincial nineteen-year-old journalism student and part-time worker at Scientific Discovery, a monthly magazine, is initiated by his mentor, Luis Fovel, who takes him for a journey of five unexpected encounters in the Museum’s galleries. Both of them will marvel at the various masterpieces painted by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Boticelli, Titian, Brueghel, El Greco and other famous European painters. Fovel tries to stimulate Sierra’s intellect by encouraging him to decipher the astonishing secret messages hidden in these various works of art.

When Sierra fails at his task, Fovel enlightens him by disclosing incredible esoteric information and points out various details which would be impossible to detect by the average person – alluding to the ambiguous codes purposely included by the artist in his painting. Fovel’s explanations and analysis of the clandestine religious sects, supernatural beliefs, heresies, schemes and zealotries of remote times are all based on his own historical knowledge.

All these intriguing revelations described by Fovel, give Sierra food for thought as well as transport him to olden times. It certainly makes him look at the ancient paintings through different eyes. The story is written by the author like an autobiographical fiction.

Sierra takes upon himself the task of untangling reality from fantasy by following his fact-finding pursuit. Nevertheless, in his impetuous endeavour, he goes against his girlfriend Marina’s warning and better judgement, putting both of them in danger.

The Master Of The Prado has a gripping plot. It is elaborately described and richly footnoted like a textbook. The novel has beautifully coloured illustrations, fitting for a museum guide book of some of the famous paintings mentioned by the author and which are placed comfortably in the right spot for the reader to examine while reading about them.

It is a book for art historians as well as lovers of classical paintings of the great masters of the Renaissance period. The notes, index and list of The Prado owned paintings mentioned at the end of the book will be useful for art enthusiasts who might like to pursue their research on the subject further.

In one of his interviews, Javier Sierra says about his book: (It is) “A sort of fictionalized biography. I wrote it from a very real experience of encountering an old and wise man in the Prado Museum in the early 90’s. We had a very revealing conversation and from my memories of it, I developed a character which is a sort of ‘spirit guide’ of the Museum, who knows all about the ‘biographies’ of the paintings (…) Regarding Marina, she is a real person, but I have never met her again since the time of the plot line. She just vanished from my life”.Sierra went on by saying: “I have always been interested in the ‘other side’ of reality”. Those words reveal it all.

Category: Book Reviews
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