Las Meninas comment animatedly on the arrival of Justin Trudeau. The Three Graces blush at the look of Boris Johnson and the Virgin Mary, overwhelmed, cannot believe that Joe Biden is so close. The commotion caused by the heads of state and government during their nocturnal visit to the Prado Museum during the NATO summit was visible on the faces of the protagonists of the masterpieces that hang in the Madrid art gallery. It is unknown if the host, Spanish President Pedro Sánchez, warned the characters in advance, who in any case wore their best clothes.
In the central gallery of the museum, the leaders left quite picturesque and even unusual images. Like that of Sánchez passing an arm over the shoulder of the president of Hungary, the far-right Viktor Orbán. Only Velázquez himself, the girls and, perhaps, the mastiff can give an account of his conversation with the Meninas.
Perhaps Orbán will comment on his feelings after having dinner the day before with Gauthier Destenayal, husband of the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel. The protocol has these things, that sometimes it serves a purpose and a homophobic president sits next to a Belgian architect married to a prime minister.
Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm has been lauded even on raging social media. He was the only one of the 40 leaders who got down from the platoon to appreciate the paintings alone and calmly. The British ‘premier’ perhaps wanted to dust off his knowledge of Antiquity, those that he cultivated in Oxford in his younger years.
As a museum guide, he even made explanatory gestures to anyone who wanted to listen. Perhaps he was considering how he would look in some of those works in the British Museum, along with the other loans (let’s say it in italics) that are exhibited there.
The one who did not have time to attend to the requirements of meninas, bishops, Greek gods, holy families and still lifes was Mario Draghi. It was almost pitiful to see the Italian Prime Minister away from the group and glued to the telephone. Almost like a punished schoolboy, in this case for the Italian political news. Draghi had to fly to Italy urgently and, as in the good punishments of yesteryear, he was left without dinner.
This summit will go down in history for being one of the first without restrictions due to the pandemic, or masks or safety distance. Macron and Biden took it to heart. Both the French and the American gave themselves fully to physical contact, kisses, the grip bordering on medical palpation. There are those who have been surprised by the sensuality of the leaders: hug goes, hug comes… the unity of the West against Russia has been immortalized even in collective hugs, the kind that remind one of a basketball team in a dead time.
The Spanish Government is so satisfied and Pedro Sánchez has gained such international projection and such fluency, that in the image in which he is seen chatting with musicians from the kyiv Symphony Orchestra, which entertained the evening, it is not clear if he is advising them how to hold cello
At dinner time, the groups have separated. Those who cut the cod (chef José Andrés cleverly included this fish in his ‘Flavors of Madrid’ menu) dined in the Jerónimos Cloister. It was a work dinner; that is why they let the consorts amuse themselves in the Hall of the Muses.
The first ladies and first gentlemen witnessed a performance about the war in Ukraine, a somewhat downbeat entertainment for a high-end dinner, but it is known that at this point in the summit, even the muses have run out of ideas.
At the end of the evening, the rooms tidied up and cleaned, silence once again reigned in the night of the museum. The characters in the paintings were then able to comment on the move.