Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Parc del Palau Reial de Pedralbes

A small arbour, found not sought, is watched over by a dimunitive angry-nosed dragon, cuprous green and rust-red: Gaudí's Hercules fountain.
In November the winter sun extends the shadows' range.

I returned a few weeks later on an overcast day in December. The marble busts on the semicircular balustrade gaze vaguely in the direction of the palace, visiting residence of the Spanish royal family 1919-1931, today housing the Museu de les Arts Decoratives (1932-) and the Museu de Ceràmica (1990-).
Eusebi Güell acquired the seventeenth-century farm Can Feliu and surrounding land in 1862; Joan Martorell i Montells converted the existing farmhouse into a Caribbean-style mansion, added a neo-gothic chapel and designed gardens. In 1884-1887 his pupil Antoni Gaudí remodelled the house, built the Pavellons Güell (a gatekeeper's lodge and stables; the far more fearsome Drac de Pedralbes* guards the gate, forged in iron by Vallet i Piqué to Gaudí's design), added two fountains to the gardens and planted pine, eucalyptus, palm, cypress and magnolia trees. The mansion was converted into a Royal Palace by Eusebi Bona i Puig and Francesc de Paula Nebot i Torrens (1919-1924) and the gardens were given their current geometric design by Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí (1924), incorporating further features such as a pond, illuminated fountains by Carles Buïgas, bamboo brakes, and statues such as Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany's Maria Cristina d'Habsburg mostrant al seu fill Alfons XIII (1861, relocated 1924). One is greeted at the entrance to the park from Avinguda Diagonal by Eulàlia Fàbregas de Sentmenat's Mediterrània (1962). There is also much of natural interest in the park.

* The imagery of Hercules and the dragon comes from Verdaguer's L'Atlàntida with its Catalan retelling of the Greek myth of Hercules' eleventh labour: to steal the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. See for example Robert Hughes, Barcelona, 1992, chapter 8, III.

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