The city's museums of decorative arts and ceramics occupy the Palau de Pedralbes and can be seen together. The palace is set in an elegant garden that once belonged to the Finca Güell, the country estate of Gaudí's patron and friend Eusebi Güell.
The neoclassical residence was taken over by King Alfonso XIII (who hardly ever used it) in 1920, then 10 years later he handed it over to the local government, which turned it into an exhibition space for the decorative arts. During the dictatorship, General Franco made it his Barcelona abode, before it finally regained its status as a museum again in 1960.
Inside, the lavish halls with their gilt, marble, and frescoes make a picturesque backdrop for both these collections. By far the superior of the two is the Ceramic Museum, whose collection, arranged regionally, spans from the 11th century to the present day. Particularly striking are the Mudéjar and metallic inlay work from the South and the baroque and Renaissance pieces from Castile. One extraordinary exhibit from Catalonia is an enormous plaque from the 18th century depicting a chocolate feast in the countryside.
Compared with the collection of decorative arts at the MNAC, the small exhibition here is a slight letdown. The name is somewhat deceiving, as the focus here, at least in the latter part of the collection, is really on design, as opposed to decorative objects that may or may not be functional. That said, Catalonia's design heritage is an important one, and there are many pieces here from the city's design boom of the '80s and early '90s featuring top names such as Javier Mariscal and Oscar Tusquets. In the future, this collection may form part of the projected Design Museum, a project that is currently on the drawing board.
- © Frommer's 2013
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