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Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

La Dama de Elche

The Lady of Elche is generally considered to be a 2,500 year old sculpture of a woman wearing an ornate headdress. There is a minority view that it's actually a bloke. Either way it was dug up in a field a mile or so out of Elche town in 1897 by a farmer called Manuel Campello. He flogged it, for a pittance, to a passing French art collector who put it on show in the Louvre.

During the Second World War the pro Fascist Vichy Government did a deal with the Spanish Fascist Dictator, Franco and the statue came back to Spain in 1941 when it was put on display in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

The people of Elche, the Illicitanos, have had a running battle with Madrid ever since demanding that it should be returned to the city where it was found. It did get to the city once, about 30 years ago, when it came from Madrid in a Citroen 2CV with a couple of Guardia Civil on motorbikes as escort.

Anway, the Illicitanos, have got their way and the lady is back in town for the six months up to November as part of the celebrations to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the city's founding. This time it came inside an air conditioned, almost indestructible, box carried by a lorry specially built to shrug off any sort of terrestrial impact and with a full contingent of armed guards.

She is on display in a sealed glass case, inside a small dimly lit room where groups of 15 people at a time are allowed to gaze in wonder. The groups are let in through a system of doors and waiting areas to maintain the air at a constant temperature.

We went to have a look. I wasn't expecting much. There are copies of the statue all over town but I have to say I was impressed. The Lady has presence.

In the lower photo the lady of Elche is the paler one. The blurry one is Maggie.


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