After a few necessary and unnecessary delays (Grrr!) Jim and Ellen set off to explore the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalyuna, which boasts the best collection of Romanesque art in Spain? Europe? the World?
It certainly lived up to the reputation. After World War I, world museums and individuals were stripping Romanesque churches of their precious objects, frescoes, sculptures, carvings, etc. The government endeavoured to save some of these by transporting original works to the MNAC, and replacing them with good replicas.
Frescoes were stripped by an interesting but precarious process (involving animal glues, fixing agents, mystery and prayer) from their original locations and positioned in constructed naves or apses, to show how they were placed in the original church. Ellen did a sketch of one of the seraphim you can see in the photo: She entitled it “Scary seraphim” because of all the eyes on the wings and hands.
We learned some new words, in Catalan and in English: baldaquin/ baldachin–a roughly rectangular painting or carving, supported by pillars or poles and held horizontally above the altar, so viewers are looking up at it as at a ceiling; retaula/ retable (Jim knew this one) a painting behind the altar, an altarpiece.
After a few hours of perusing these magnificent works, we took in the special exhibition, “Gothic 1400” (no photos allowed) which gathered works from museums around the world, including many religious paintings, fabulous illuminated manuscripts, silver, stone and wood carvings. Completely dazzled, we returned to camp for supper (as usual skilfully provided by Daniel and Andrea), intending to move to Girona the next day. However, someone proposed that we stay another day, and everyone was happy with that idea: it would give Gwen time to finish her paper, Daniel and Andrea could have another beach day, and Ellen and Jim could take advantage of the MNAC’s policy of allowing a second free visit within a month of the original admission.
06 01 MNAC II Jim and Ellen didn’t expect to be too long for the second day at the MNAC: we only had to cover the Museum’s collection of Gothic, Baroque, and Modern Art!
After a few rooms of Gothic art, Ellen felt art-saturated and sleepy, so she found a fantastically comfortable leather sofa and had a nap while Jim continued in the exhibit. She wasn’t sorry to skip Baroque art: Baroque music, big thumbs up, Baroque art, not so much.
We wandered through the Modern Art collection. Of interest were the amount of sculpture, a painting by a Catalan artist that could have been done by a member of the Group of Seven, a token Picasso, a token Dali (a portrait of his father—I don’t think his father would have been flattered) and a special exhibition of etchings by Marià Fortuny, showing the progression of the etching from the first impression through several other more detailed impressions.
We were done by about 4:30 and headed back to camp, just in time to catch Daniel, Andrea and Gwen heading out on their bikes for ice cream. Gwen had finished her paper!!! Cheers all around!!! Jim and Ellen quickly got their bikes and joined the expedition to Gavà Mar, less than 10 minutes ride away. We sat and ate delicious gelato, and decided to go out for supper in celebration of Gwen’s achievement. Although there were a number of restaurants in the area, they were either fast food type establishments or too ritzy and expensive, so we decided to eat at the campground restaurant. It was nice not to have to prepare food or do dishes, but the food was indifferent at best, the paella tasting of chicken stock powder, the soup looking a little like Lipton Chicken Noodle. The service was a little surly as well: dishes could not be shared between two people—each person had to order a dish. It was late by the time we headed for bed, knowing we had an early start the next day, as we had to pack up the tents, cycle to Gavà to catch the train to Barcelona, and then another train to Girona.