What is it about?

In his last work, Persiles y Sigismunda, Cervantes refers to a painting that accompanied the heroes of the story through most of their adventures, retelling their story. This article attempts the answers to two basic questions: why did Cervantes include this painting in the plot and why does the plot inform that it was painted in Lisbon, Portugal. In the process, the article attempts to uncover the ideas that would have presided over the inclusion of painted illustrations of a narrative plot in the narrative practice of Cervantes's time and to explain what Portuguese writers and painters could have had to offer then that Cervantes would find special enough to identify as a peculiar Portuguese trait.

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Why is it important?

One of the reasons why this article is important is that Cervantes has hardly ever been connected with Portuguese authors or culture in spite of the fact that he lived for a while in Lisbon and that the city is praised in his work more than any other in the world. A second, but not secondary, reason is that the inclusion of a painting in Cervantes's last great work, Persiles y Sigismunda, raises productive questions both for the theory of narrative and for the theory of image-making, especially when both are closely intertwined, as is the case in illustration. Why did writers feel that painted images should be included, even if fictionally, inside, or next to, literary narrative? What did it mean to say twice over (one in words, the other via images) the same story? What contributions did this make to the experience of reading those narratives? And finally, what clues did contemporary Portuguese authors provide to understand what Cervantes was attempting? The article provides original answers to all these questions, opening up new possibilities of interpretation of Cervantes and the literary and artistic thought circulating in his lifetime.

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This page is a summary of: Cervantes’s Portuguese Painter, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, October 2019, Liverpool University Press,
DOI: 10.3828/bhs.2019.54.
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