Friday, 2 January 2015

Perfume and Palau de la Musica Catalana - Barcelona

I almost completely forgot to write up this day, which seems crazy as it was a delightful day visiting a Perfume bottle museum and the Palau de la Musica Catalana.

Prior to our trip, my aunt had indicated that we really should visit the obscure little perfume museum they'd found in Barcelona as we'd really like it. That was all well and good, but it didn't appear on standard tourist maps, was obscure, and we kept forgetting to look up its location until we were out of the apartment.
Finally we did our research, only to discover we'd been standing in front of it only the day before. It is behind a little perfume shop, nothing more than a plaque on the wall indicating its presence, equally distanced from Casa Batllo, and Casa Lleo-Morera at the other end of the block of Discord.

Diving in and guided to the very back of the shop, we found ourselves in a world of bottles made of ceramic, glass or metal, dating back to the ancient Greece.


Below are décolletage bottles. These date back to the middle of the 18th century and would have slipped down the front of the bodice between the breasts. They were also available at the antique market outside the Cathedral.

The perfume of my favourite fashion designer, Worth. His house, House of Worth released a series of perfumes which I later discovered told a love story through their names; Dans la Nuit (1924), Vers le Jour (1925), Sans Adieu (1929), Je Reviens (1932), Vers Toi (1934).
"In the night, just before dawn, because I cannot bear to say goodbye, I will return to you."

A whole cabinet of miniatures,

and a whole case of powder compacts.

A small set once belonging to Marie Antoinette, the leather case emblazoned with her arms. It is strange how desirable her belongings are, over any other royal's, particularly as I view her as little more than a pretty airhead.

At the more current end of the time line (for the bottles were arranged around the room in a roughly chronological manner), they had what appeared to be every version of every perfume by the main fashion and perfume houses. Wandering through the shelves, we could recognise the bottles of perfumes we wear, and perfumes Mum's mum and grandmother wore. 

Also bottles we'd dearly love to get our hands on, for the delicate shape and lines of the glass, and, more often than not, because that particular one had been designed by the renown Rene Lalique. 

Leaving this museum we wandered down the street enjoying that fact that on this particular day the shops were actually open, with the added bonus being that the January sales were on. Not that we bought anything. 

Next stop was the Palau de la Musica Catalana. 

This is the other main public building designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner and it is truly delightful. It is predominantly a structure of (stained) glass and iron with brick and mosaic cladding. This creates a very light spacious building which allows for lots of natural light to penetrate in to the auditorium, in spite of the close proximity of the surrounding buildings. 

In fact, with its sweeping arches and minimal columns, the entrance hall bears fleeting similarities to the structure of contemporary train stations. In the Palau de la Musica Catalana the spaces have been filled with floral stained-glass walls and a sweeping double staircase that leads up into the auditorium. 

What is impressive is the lightness of this structure. Montaner's preferred mediums appear to have been glass and mosaic tiles, both of which reflected and refracted the available light. With the necessary solidity of the staircase, this love of light is met through the decoration of the roof in glistening tiles and the construction of the banister from glass pillars (internally supported by spiral iron rods). 

Within the auditorium the stain-glass sky-light and backdrop of the stage are the most eye-catching elements, almost to the extent that you fail to notice anything else. However they are each in their own way spectacular. 
Located in only a small rectangular section of the ceiling, the stained-glass ceiling dips inwards (like a margarita glass) drawing the natural light into the auditorium. As is perhaps appropriate for the home of the Orfeo Catala, the choral society that commissioned the Palau, the sun (also symbol of Apollo, God of Music) is surrounded by choirs of angels. 

These are complimented by the musicians/muses who grace the stage. Depicted in a combination of sculpture and mosaics, the torsos of these muses emerge from the wall in individual sculptures with each one playing a different musical instrument and wearing a unique multicultural bodice and head covering. While their upper halves are three dimensional, their lower halves are not, rendered in colourful mosaics on the curved back wall of the stage.

Throughout the building Montaner's signature use of flowers is noticeable, The ceiling is festooned with lines of roses, garlands of which are repeated between the muses and across the windows.

The exterior:
These beautifully mosaic decorated columns are replicated on the exterior of the building, on the first floor balcony where they compensate for the lack of natural nature and support the flying buttress style of the building.

It really was an amazing building, and I think next time, I'd arrange to attend a concert there as well, in order to truly appreciate the beauty of the building.

We may have got slightly lost on our wander home, taking the wrong fork in the road. But we made it eventually if via the Christopher Colombo column again.

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