La Celestine

La Celestina (also refered to as La Celestine) is one of the most significant works in Spanish literature, traditionally associated with the birth of the literary Renaissance in Spain and the consummation of the mighty Catholic monarchy. Properly known as La Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, this dramatized novel was written by Fernando de Rojas and published in Burgos in 1499.

The tale revolves around Celestina, a matchmaker, who is bribed by lovesick Calisto to persuade the sheltered Melibea to marry him. Celestina's corruption knows no bounds and she resorts to pulling one ruse after another in order to further her position. She ultimately succeeds in winning Milibea's heart for Calisto, but is murdered upon her refusal to share the bribe money with Sempronio (Calisto's valet) and his friend. Ultimately the tale ends in tragedy when Calisto falls from a ladder and dies, whereupon Melibea throws herself from a high tower in despair. The story concludes with Melibea's father wailing, "Why have you left me, sad and alone in this vale of tears?"

The 66 original etchings done for La Celestine are part of Pablo Picasso’s famous “347” series, a collection of etchings and aquatints produced between March 16 and October 5, 1968. Picasso employed a wide variety of techniques, of which the lift-ground process against a greased copper plate was the most common. The impressions were pulled by Aldo and Piero Crommelynck in their atelier at Mougins.

Historically, the primary impact of La Celestina has been its examination of the lowliest class in Catholic Spain through the machinations of the wily matchmaker.  Indeed, after viewing this suite it becomes apparent that what inspired Picasso the most was the lovers' meetings arranged by Celestina and held in her presence, thus collapsing the traditional hierarchy of class and submitting the upper-class world of sentimental courtly love to Celestina’s more cynical way of life.


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