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What we do know is that this is the oldest restaurant in the world, from He came to Madrid 50 years later, an unknown painter. Maybe he needed a job? His magnificent portraits of Spanish society, from royals to ruffians, artists to aristos, will be on show this week in a major exhibition at the National Gallery in London, and I want to discover the world that inspired his work.
I thank Gonzales for a fabulous lunch and totter on to the cobbles of old Madrid. A stone gate leads into the Plaza Mayor, a classical square whose arcades hide ancient shops selling berets and cakes. I wander alleys lined with green shutters and iron balconies. But he remained also a man of the people, never forgetting his humble roots as the son of a poor gilder in provincial Zaragoza. And his pictures show the life of the street as well as the court. The high life that he knew can be found two blocks further on, in the Royal Palace.
The dining room has a table set for 50 guests. A different side of Madrid is seen in the royal chapel that Goya painted, a short walk down the river Manzanares.
The Real Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida took him just four months in , and he covered its walls and dome with images of ordinary people, some in rags, all being blessed by a monk in a brown robe.
But en route I meet a procession emerging from a church, black-robed men bearing a statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders, women in mantilla headdresses weeping. Drums throb in the dusk. Next morning I visit the royal tapestry factory where Goya had his first job in Madrid, painting charming images of rustic life that were woven into tapestries for the palaces. Amazingly, the looms are still in use — seven huge frames of wood where weavers toil for months to make replicas of his and other tapestries.