Belmonte is in the province of Cuenca, Castile-La Mancha, Spain — southeast of Madrid. It’s the birthplace of the Spanish golden-age poet Luis de Léon and features a 15-century hexagonal castle, Castillo de Belmonte. The castle has been used as the location for several films, including 1961’s epic “El Cid” starring Sophia Lauren and Charlton Heston, and a more recent version of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” with John Lithgow and Isabella Rossellini. As you might imagine for an area associated with Don Q, the region is famous for its windmills.
Rope Weavers of Belmonte
Clark Hulings painted Rope Weavers of Belmonte in 1987. It’s notable for the almost-letterbox rectangle format and a subtle palette of brown, tan, and deep green. The chiaroscuro and interplay of textures between the stucco wall, the earth and stones, the men’s clothing, and the rope create a natural and rough-edged environment for these three men. The bottom of the green door and ironwork on the window suggest that they may be working outside a small factory.
Rope-making by hand is becoming a lost art, but it’s one of the oldest human technologies, pre-dating the axe or the wheel. Fibers are spun into yarns, yarns are twisted together to make strands, and strands are wound into rope, with each stage alternating twisting direction so the rope holds. Each of the weavers here has fibrous material tucked under one elbow, so they may be making the yarns. On our right, the man is absorbed in his work, the man just left of center may be just about to look up, and the man on the far left is doing something a little unusual for a Hulings painting: looking right at us. From the expression on his face, he doesn’t look as if he suffers fools — or would have too much time for art. Fortunately, we do!
Update: Rope Weavers of Belmonte (Oil on Canvas, 12 x 24″) sold at Neal auction on January 27th 2018. These hardworking gentlemen will be an inspiring addition to an art collection.