Exhibition: Basque Cosmogony Series - Bilbao Fine Arts Museum


2008-11-03 • 2009-02-01

Basque Cosmogony Series

BBK Room

Basque sculptor Néstor Basterretxea (Bermeo, Biscay, 1924) recently donated one of the most celebrated series of Basque sculptures dating from the second half of the XX century to the Museum: the Basque Cosmogony Series. The Series was first exhibited by the Museum in 1973.
The current exhibition comprises 18 sculptures, 17 of which are made of oak and 1 of bronze, which the artist created between 1972 and 1975.

The finely crafted works executed in contemporary language are based on mythological characters, forces of nature and traditional objects from Basque culture taken from José Miguel de Barandiarán's Diccionario de Mitología Vasca (Dictionary of Basque Mythology, 1972). Visitors will also have the opportunity of admiring 5 works from the Máscaras de la Madrina Luna Series created in 1977 as well as several preparatory drawings.

It is also on exhibition two movies directed by Néstor Basterretxea and Fernando Larruquert, entitled Pelotari (1964) and Ama Lur (1968), and a documental about the artist.


1. AKELARRE and AKER BELTZ (Black billy goat)
Meadow where wizards met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights to worship Aker Beltz, a spirit which took the shape of a billy goat and protected the livestock. Pagan tradition.

3. EIZTARIA (The hunter)
Legend has it that a hunter, punished for his excessive love of hunting, wanders ceaselessly over the mountains with his dogs.

4. GAUEKO (He who stalks the night)
Spirit of the night in the shape of a cow or a monster; his presence is marked by gusts of wind.

5. IDITTU (Night spirit)
Night spirit with the form of an animal; his presence is marked by a flame.

6. ILLARGI AMANDRE (Godmother Moon)
A divinity associated with fertility.

7. INTXIXU (Wild demon)
Legendary spirit haunting caves and deserted areas. 

8. AMALAU ZANKO (The ghost of the fourteen stilts)
A strange malignant being.

9. ARGIZAIOLA eta ARGIZAIOLA ZUTA (Light of the dead)
Tablets in remembrance of the departed; the wax scroll symbolizes the fire in the hearth that lives on in the temple.

11. BOST HAIZEAK (The five winds)
Natural phenomenon. The lauburu (four heads) is a pre-Christian symbol, used from the 16th and 17th centuries in funeral steles, on houses fronts or as an amulet or charm.

12. EATE (The harvest destroyer)
Spirit of storms, fire, floods, lightning and hurricanes.

13. MAIRUAK (The cromlech builders)
Pagan builders of dolmens and cromlechs.

14. OSTADAR (Rainbow)
Natural phenomenon considered to be magical in the ancient world.

15. TRIKU HARRI (Stone of the hedgehog. Homage to the dolmen)
Name of a dolmen, a prehistoric monument widely found in the Basque Country.

16. MAJUE (Subterranean spirit)
Pernicious underground spirit; with his wife Mari he conjures up hailstorms.

17. MARI (Main goddess of Basque Mythology)
Female spirit living in caverns. Legend has it that her cave is one of the faces of Mount Amboto, in the Duranguesado area.

18. TORTO (Malign one-eyed spirit)
Malignant, man-eating spirit with one eye.