MNAC's Romanesque art on show in Madrid

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The National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) conserves the most important and diverse collection of Romanesque art in the world.  This collection can now be seen in Madrid at an exhibition known as, ‘El esplendor del románico’ (The Splendour of Romanesque art’) in the rooms of the Fundación MAPFRE.

The exhibition is open till the 15th of May and boasts 59 masterpieces, each characterised by their artistic quality. The selection seeks to represent all Romanesque art’s techniques and main themes. It is on in Madrid while the Museum’s permanent exhibition rooms in Barcelona are being renovated.

In fact, it is the first time that such a significant selection of masterpieces from this magnificent collection can be seen outside Catalonia. The only exception was in Paris in1937 in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

The itinerary is organised in 5 areas, followed by a presentation space. They want to show, on one side, art works related to architecture (mural painting and stone sculpture). On the other side, pieces related to furniture and liturgical use objects (panel painting, wood sculpture, and metalwork and enamel).

Among the art works that travelled to Madrid for this exhibition is the fragment from Saint Stephen’s stoning –coming from Sant Joan de Boí–, the Batlló Majesty, and a fragment from the mural paintings of the San Pedro de Arlanza Monastery. 

Moving out the great apses from the Museum rooms is absolutely impossible. Among these apses is the masterpiece of the universal art’s history: the apse of Sant Climent de Taüll. A reproduction of the paintings from one of Sant Quirze de Pedret’s apse chapels has been prepared to evocate the mural painting spaces. A 3D virtual reproduction of Ripoll’s portal is also part of the exhibition.

Once the exhibition comes to an end and the art works are brought back to the MNAC in Barcelona, they will join the new collection’s presentation. At the beginning of this 2011 summer, the MNAC’s collection of Romanesque art will open again its doors with a new museographic narrative. It will foster, besides the mural painting, other extraordinary techniques of the Catalan Romanesque art, such as panel painting and the wood carving. The precious metalwork and monumental sculpture will also be emphasised.

In the new presentation, aspects telling the collection’s genesis and the technique to remove mural paintings will be included. The reading of the Romanesque art will be updated in relation to the last 15 years’ contributions made thanks to the research at the MNAC and from scholars in general.


by Maria Teresa Ocaña

Director of the MNAC

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