The Maison de Victor Hugo opens its doors to the « Spanish costumes : darkness and light » exhibition.

For the first time in Paris a large selection of garments and accessories from the end of the 18th and early 20th century are displayed to enable visitors to discover the opulence of each province of Spain’s traditional costumes. They are mirrored by some 40 remarkable photographs by José Ortiz Echagüe.

For the first time in Paris, we will be able to admire the skills and ingenuity of the craftsmen and craftswomen who, between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 20th century, made the forty or more costumes and accessories on display. These pieces used to be catalogued simply as examples of folk costumes, but the delicacy of the work and their extraordinary variety, have inspired the greatest Spanish couturiers, including Balenciaga.

These are clothes that reflect regional life, they express the soul of the Spanish provinces: the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Catalonia, Mallorca, Aragon, Castile, Salamanca … They are emblematic of a trade, of a social or cultural group, a specific place, or the religious beliefs of their original wearers, but their sheer creativity strikes us today with unprecedented force.

The embroidery on them, the pleating, the range of colours, the ribbons, the extravagance of the hats and jewels, all endow them with a singular presence. Some of the intricately decorated costumes were worn only on festive occasions. In the bridal tradition of the Toledo region, for example, the girl was expected to wear five toilettes, one on top of the other. Some jobs required specific clothing, like the Extremadura shepherds’ garments, which were made of tough material – coarse woollen cloth or soft dry-tanned leather. This exhibition lays great emphasis on the extraordinary quality of the work carried out by ordinary, unassuming men and women who, over the years, constructed these precious clothes. This ‘poetry of the ordinary’ is elevated to the level of art and craft.

The collection is juxtaposed with a large selection of photographs by José Ortiz Echagüe (1886-1980) – an engineer by training, whose great passion was photography. From Spanish Morocco, to the provinces of his native country, his sharp but benevolent eye captured the full beauty of the landscape, the monuments, the local inhabitants and their rituals.

The exhibition is organized in partnership with the Museo del Traje, Madrid.

(Text from Galliera Museum and Victor Hugo house websites.)