A wander through history

Palau Nacional of Montjuic

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya is located in the Palau Nacional of Montjuic, which was built for Barcelona's International Exhibition of 1929. This building is currently undergoing a restoration and consolidation process directed by the Italian architect Gae Aulenti so that it can house the whole collection that present the history of Catalan Art throughout its periods and its different manifestations. These collections are grouped in different centres (the Museum of Modern Art, the Division of Drawings and Engravings, the Numismatic Division and the General Library of Art History) that will go on functioning in their provisional headquarters while restoration works end and until such time all the collections will be shown at the Palau Nacional.

One feature is a romanesque wall painting section which is the most important ensemble of romanesque art in the world. The other collections will be constituted gradually from now on; thus, the Gothic Art section will be opened in 1997.

In addition to mural painting, the Romanesque Art collection incorporates an excellent ensemble of paintings on simply constructed wooden altar frontals, and a series of monumental sculptural elements such as carvings and enamelled works. The exhibition hall has been designed in such a way that the apses provide the focal point on an itinerary which highlights the most significant moments of this period and displays several fine examples of romanesque architecture. Besides, some specific areas has been set up to house thematic exhibitions centred on subjects such as iconography and gold and silversmithing, as well as a coins section which displays pieces from the Numismatic Division.

The focal point of the collection is the central apse from Sant Climent de Taull. This well preserved work of art is worthy of admiration for its vivid colouring and sharp outlines. The works from Santa Maria de Taull form the second great ensemble of Catalane Romanesque mural paintings.

The romanesque collection ends with a display of works pertaining to the late romanesque period, such as the apse from Sant Cristofol de Toses, among others. The paintings from Sant Esteve d'Andorra la Vella form the portal of the space devoted to the style of the 1200s. In the early decades of the 13th century European art reorientated itself towards classicism. In the field of painting, this orientation led to aesthetic expressions rooted in the Byzantine tradition, as exemplified by the large atrium of Sant Vicenc de Cardona which the public will have the opportunity to contemplate for the first time, as well as by two of the non-Catalan pieces exhibited in the Romanesque hall: frescoes from the court house from San Pedro de Arlanza and those from Santa Maria de Sixena, painted over with scenes from the Old and New Testaments allegedly by an English artist, which put the finishing touch to an exceptional collection.