Spanish Golden Age  

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The Spanish Golden Age (in Spanish, Siglo de Oro) was a period of flourishing in arts and literature in Spain, coinciding with the political decline and fall of the Habsburgs (Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II). This term does not generally imply any great precision about dates, but it begins no earlier than 1492, with the completion of the reconquista and the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World, and politically ends no later than the Treaty of the Pyrenees between France and Habsburg Spain in 1659. The last great writer of the period, Pedro Calderon de la Barca, died in 1681 and his death is usually considered as the end of the Spanish Golden "Century" in the arts and literature.

The Habsburgs, both in Spain and Austria, were great patrons of art in their countries. El Escorial, the great royal monastery built by King Philip II of Spain, invited the attention of some of Europe's greatest architects and painters. Diego Velázquez, regarded as one of the most influential painters of European history and a greatly respected artist in his own time, cultivated a relationship with King Philip IV and his chief minister, the Count-Duke of Olivares, leaving us several portraits that demonstrate his style and skill. El Greco, another respected artist from the period, infused Spanish art with the styles of the Italian renaissance and helped create a uniquely Spanish style of painting. Some of Spain's greatest music is regarded as having been written in the period. Such composers as Tomás Luis de Victoria, Luis de Milán and Alonso Lobo helped to shape Renaissance music and the styles of counterpoint and polychoral music, and their influence lasted far into the Baroque period which resulted in a revolution of music. Spanish literature blossomed as well, most famously demonstrated in the work of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Spain's most prolific playwright, Lope de Vega, wrote possibly as many as one thousand plays during his lifetime, of which over four hundred survive to the present day.

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