Unearth an Early Picasso; They Say a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. LAURA DAVIS Traces the Footsteps of a Young Pablo Picasso in Spain

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Byline: LAURA DAVIS

ON A bench in the Plaza de la Merced, a metal sculpture of the world's most famous artist sits on a bench, quietly surveying the square in front. Although Pablo Picasso was just 13 when he left Malaga for the more bustling city of Barcelona, there are plenty of traces of his boyhood waiting to be found among the quiet town's streets.

You just have to be prepared to look.

This is one of them - a peaceful space not far from the main shopping district, where his parents, Jos Ruiz Blasco and Maria Picasso Lopez, met.s

In the mid-1880s, he played here to a soundtrack of chattering servants and shouting salesmen selling home-made jams and milk straight from the goat.

It was here that he would have seen his first pigeons and doves - later an important symbol of peace in his art.

Long before he shrank his incredibly long name - Pablo Diego Jos Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Crispin Crispiniano de la Santisima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso - down to the bite-size "Pablo Picasso", he painted his first bird under the careful watch of his father, a well known artist of pigeons.

It is not possible to visit the family's home where this took place - a single floor of 32 Plaza de la Merced (today at number 17 since the street has been re-numbered).

But just a few doors down is his birthplace, now the Fundacion Pablo Picasso.

It's a small space - just a few rooms - with the walls of the front room painted maroon and the floorboards bare giving you a feel for the simplicity of the young artist's life.

Several of his father's works are on display, as well as his brother's Christening gown, while a small exhibition of 25 of Picasso's own ceramics fills the rest of the third floor.

Jos Ruiz Blasco held the post of Linear Drawing and Decoration teacher at the Malaga School of Fine Arts in Plaza de la Constitucion - spot the plaque on the pavement outside.

This was the first place that young Pablo came into contact with the sort of classical plaster models that he would later be asked to copy in his studies at art school in Barcelona.

The many painters who passed through the classrooms here provided Picasso with inspiration as he watched first-hand the creation of large historical scenes that were very much in fashion at the time.

Another school building with a link to Picasso - albeit a pretty tenous one - is the Instituto de Segunda Ense[+ or -]anza, where he sat an exam shortly before leaving Malaga.

A plaque on the wall of the picturesque courtyard states this fact and an ancient-looking leatherbound register locked away in a safe records his name. Beyond this there is little evidence of his presence.

Discover The simplest way to discover Picasso's Malaga is to wander the streets. …