January 16, 2012

0100 SPAIN (Cantabria) - El capricho de Gaudí

Of all the cities that I have ever seen them before (not too many, it's true) most impressed me Barcelona, and Antonio Gaudí was undoubtedly a key role in forming my opinion. I would venture to say that after the "intervention" of great master of Catalan Modernism, the city hasn't been the same, even if the architect from Reus came relatively late to the celebrity of today, simply because that it happens to those who exceed too much contemporaries.

El Capricho (literally "the whim"), the building shown in the postcard received from Fabienne (thanks a lot, my friend), isn’t located in Catalonia, but in Cantabria, namely in Comillas, a town perched above the sea, the summer home of the Spanish royal court in the 19th century. It dates from the early years of architect's career, during the period later called Orientalist, when he completed a series of works with a oriental flavour, inspired by the art of the Middle and Far East, as well as Islamic-Hispanic art, among which also include the Güell Palace, the Güell Pavilions and the Casa Vicens. The commissions was given by the father-in-law of Count Güell (who commissioned some of Gaudí’s most outstanding work), the marquis of Comillas, and consist in the build of a small annex to the Palacio de Sobrellano.

Constructed between 1883 and 1885, under the direction of Cristóbal Cascante, Gaudí’s fellow student, El Capricho was (alongside with Casa Vicens, erected between 1883 and 1889) the first building by Gaudí, even if after his graduation as an architect in 1878 the commissions didn't lack. In an oriental style, it has an elongated shape, on three levels and a cylindrical tower in the shape of a Persian minaret, adorned with fringes of glazed ceramics representing sunflowers and leaves on the rest. The entrance is set behind four columns supporting depressed arches, with capitals decorated with birds and leaves, similar to those that can be seen at the Casa Vicens.

The basement, which wasn’t designed to fill the entire perimeter of the house because of uneven ground, houses the kitchen, laundry room, garage and servants quarters. The main floor includes the formal dining room, parlor and bedrooms, while the attic was dedicated to other uses. Two spiral staircases, one in the entry hall and another near the dining room, connected the different floors. Notable is the main lounge, with its large sash window, and the smoking room with a ceiling consisting of a false Arab-style stucco vault.

"It should also be noted that, in this first work by Gaudí (and this was to be a constant), we see the extraordinary adaptation to the characteristics set by the contractor. In fact, Díaz de Quijano was an amateur musician and collector of exotic plants. El Capricho, whim or caprice, evokes free, fantasizing musical composition, has a U-shaped ground floor to shelter a large south-facing greenhouse from the north wind where the owner treasured his plants brought from abroad. Gaudí echoed the owner’s passion for music in various elements, both in interior and exterior decoration. Such is the case of the dragonfly in the glazing with a guitar and the sparrow on an organ, or the bench-balcony, where the counterweights of the guillotine window were metal tubes which, when raised or lowered, were hit by a rod let out pleasant musical sounds." (Josep Liz) In this context, the name of the building takes on a double meaning.

Like most of the buildings by Gaudí, El Capricho is functional in nowadays (the interior is a restaurant with a menu prepared from the ingredients of the area) and can even be rented for various events. In the basement is also a shop selling gaudinist articles. The postcard seems to me to be published specifically to be sold in this store or to promote the building, completely and careful restored in 1989.

List of Gaudí's buildings featured in this blog
● Works of Antoni Gaudí (UNESCO WHS)
Park Güell (inscribed in 1984)
Palau Güell (inscribed in 1984)
Casa Milá (inscribed in 1984)
Sagrada Familia (inscribed in 2005)
Casa Batlló (inscribed in 2005)
Crypt at the Colònia Güell (inscribed in 2005)

● Other works
El Capricho - Comillas (Cantabria)

About the stamp
The stamp is one of the two issued by Correos España for the Christmas 2011: Luisa Roldán sculpture of the Holy Family with the baby Jesus beginning to walk, and a neoclassical version of the Holy Family by painter J. Carrero (the one on my postcard).

sender: Fabienne - World Heritage Postcard (direct swap)
sent from Madrid (Spain), on 07.12.2011
photo: Rozas

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