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Gaudinian milestones 2004
Two unedited Gaudí Lamps
Salvador Dalí and Antonio Gaudí
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The Religious Art of SalvadorDalí
The portico of the Saint Anthony the Abbot church
June: Two Gaudí's anniversaries
The Relationship with Gaudí and Carles Mani
 

The Relationship of Gaudí and Carles Mani

The sculptor Carles Mani i Roig (1866-1911) is a typical example of an artist belonging to the end of nineteenth century, who led a miserable life, immersed into the utmost solemn poverty. The artist profession was regarded as a contemptible bohemia and to try to get in the society of that time was an almost heroic task. I remember that the painter from Valencia Víctor Moya Calvo (1890-1972) told that when he was a student in the Academy of San Carlos in Valencia and being then fifteenth years old, he was asked to paint the window card of a grocer's shop, a work that was rewarded with twenty-five pesetas. Well, his class mates did not talk to him during fifteen days, enraged and full of envy for the ephemeral success of their friend.

Carles Mani was born in Móra d'Ebre (Ribera d'Ebre) and he moved to Barcelona very young and matriculated in the Fine Arts School, in the Lonja. He did not get any job in Barcelona moving with his poverty, first to Madrid, where he lived for two years an where he prepared a plaster model of the group "The degenerated" with human micro-cephalic forms, having enormous hands in a prostration attitude, which perhaps reflected the decayed soul condition of Mani. Of this model, he did several versions in different sizes, and showed it in the Exhibition that took place in the Fine Arts Palace of Barcelona in 1907 and it is here when Gaudí intervened.

Alter living in Madrid, Mani moved to Paris where he lived thanks to the charity of Santiago Rusiñol, always disposed to go protect the artists of his country, and when he came back to Barcelona, he frequented the Sagrada Familia and worked in the model maker's workshop directed by Llorenç Matamala. He did a plaster Immaculate that did not please father Gil Parés and the magnificient Christ from the Casa Batlló Oratory, in 1906, an image having a posture that differs from the generality of the Holy Christ sculptures but that was suggested by Gaudí, by considering the usual way of crucifixion used by the Romans.

Poor Mani dragged himself along the Temple works and Joan Matamala remembered him lying in the ground with a row of ants promenading over his body.

In the1907 exhibition he presented "The degenerated" life-sized, although he said that the definitive form in stone would match the height of the great pyramid, and the responsible of the mounting placed the sculpture in a corner beside the staircase. Mani had a terrible deception and went to the Sagrada Familia crying to tell Gaudí his trauma. Gaudí listened him patiently and he went afterwards to the Fine Arts Palace and talked with Carles Pirozinni i Martí, the exhibition secretary, convincing him to change the place of "The Degenerated". The critics were merciless with Carles Mani. Actually, if this work must be judged the Casa Museo Gaudí in the Park Güell must be visited, where there is a small sized plaster model, but it is imposing because of its dramatic feeling.

 

Till the death of Mani in 1911 Gaudí went on offering him several commissions in the Temple, and especially the Virgin with the Archangels Michael and Raphael, a gilt bronze group being four metres and a half high, to be placed crowning the Pedrera façade, in the Paseo de Gracia-Provença chamfer.

Carles Mani could finish the life-size plaster model in the first floor of la Pedrera, by then at works. The sculpture did not please the Milàs and it did not go beyond the model condition. After Mani's death in 1911 it was completely impossible to think in carrying out Gaudí's project with the sculpture of Mani. Many years later Gaudí asserted that had he known that the Virgin image would have not be placed, he would not have charged of the project and directing of the works. Of the gaudinian idea only remain the angel's salute sculptured in the top part of the façade: "Ave gratia plena Dominus tecum" (Hail full of grace the Lord is with thee). The missing word "Maria" ought precisely to be the sculpture by Mani.

The artistic sensibility of Gaudí enabled him to understand the talent, rather daring and terrible, of Mani. And the kind-hearted architect made the sculptor to survive with the commissions in the Sagrada Familia, casa Batlló and la Pedrera. After the death of Carles Mani, Gaudí went on helping his widow, Antonia Bonay, and his nephew Pau Badia Ripio (1887-1976), a sculptor who worked in the Sagrada Familia workshop and who, many years later, painted the portrait of Gaudí in the Colonia Güell and a new wood carved version of the Casa Batlló Christ, now in the Architecture Museum in the Royal Gaudí Chair. The difference between the two sculptures is that Batlló Christ is the Expiation one, whereas the one by Pau Riba is the Dead Christ.

Joan Bassegoda i Nonell (24th of February, 2000)



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