Friday, September 26, 2008

Frederic Mares and his Cabinet of Curiosities

As, promised, a much-delayed but heartfelt tribute to the best museum in Barcelona.

Frederic Marès (1893-1991) was a wealthy Catalan sculptor, well read and well traveled, who spent most of his fortune gathering all kinds of objects, from medieval art works to 19th and 20th centuries items. He is quoted as saying, "I create sculpture in order to be able to collect sculpture."

At the turn of the century, Spain (and Italy, Greece, etc.) were being quietly plundered by art traffickers who visited churches in remote rural or mountain villages to carry away all the art works they could lay their hands on, including mural paintings.

Alarmed by this fact and by the general decay of these small remote churches, Frederic Marès did his best to preserve this legacy searching and obtaining a wide collection of medieval art works (sculptures, altar-pieces, accessories, etc.), which are now displayed in the Middle Ages section of the Museum.

Marès also realized how so many daily life objects would actually disappear, erased by progress, and he extended his passion for collecting and preserving to all kinds of daily life items and things, also displayed at the Museum.*

And this is where it gets really interesting.

The second floor houses the "Colleciò Sentimental", a comprehensive collection of small
Baroque works of art, tinware, hand-tools and various kinds of scales, playing cards, advertisements, dried
flowers under glass, scrap-books, ashtrays, antique cameras, tobacco jars, binoculars, watches, old seals, table silver, porcelain and much more.

The cumulative effect of the sheer number of collectibles is dizzying, as you go through room after room in a warrenlike house, each room crammed with human detritus. I felt like Alice going down the rabbit hole, when she passes by all those random, floating objects. For any obsessive collector this place is pure heaven.

Wooden Medival Sculpture

Whimsical Carvings

Tools, Keys, Coins, Etc.

Lace handkerchiefs, in the "Ladies Room"

* From "Barcelona Tour Guide." There aren't many books on Mares, and none of the links work on the museum website, so tour-guides will have to suffice as reference works, for now. Also, I had to crib some photos from Flickr since we didn't take enough. I wish I had some photos of the diorama room!


Celeste said...

This is great!

Rosie said...

Thank you for this post, my last name is Mares, of Mexican heritage, and I ran across a sign for an exhibit of Fredic Mares while touring Barcelona. Unfortunately I did not have time to go check it out, but I was curious. Thank you for feeding my curiosity, I will now put his museum on my list of places to visit. As a collector of stuff, perhaps he and I share a little bit of DNA. :-)