I was lucky enough last week to visit Barcelona, accompanying the globe-trotting Machaut manuscript (Ferrell MS 1) which was recently on exhibition in Paris. But it has important Spanish as well as French connections so it’s appropriate that it’s now on view in a new exhibition at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). Although Ferrell MS 1 belonged to and was possibly made for Gaston Fébus, Count of Foix, who was celebrated in the recent Paris exhibition, it seems to have been given by him as a gift to Yolande of Bar (1365-1431), wife of King John I of Aragon. It thus entered the Aragonese royal collection and is listed in the 1417 inventory of the books of King Alfonso V of Aragon (“El Magnanimo”).
The MNAC exhibition is entitled ‘Catalonia 1400: the International Gothic Style‘ and the Machaut manuscript is on display in the first section of the exhibition which explores the close relationship the courts of Aragon and Catalonia had with France, particularly as it was expressed through the exchange of gifts, including jewels and manuscripts, and the impact that relationship had on cultural and artistic sensibilities in late 14th and 15th century Catalonia.
Installation of an exhibition is a stressful time but it was lovely to meet some of the people that we’ve been corresponding with over the last two years or so in arranging the loan, including the loans co-ordinator, registrar, exhibition curator and his assistants and the manuscript conservator:
Once the manuscript was safely installed, I had a quick look at the rest of the exhibition which contains some beautiful manuscripts, silver and altarpieces. I particularly admired the work of the Catalan artist Bernat Martorell. The curator, Rafael Cornudella, was especially delighted to have Martorell’s St George retable from the Louvre in the exhibition.
The rest of the museum contains some absolutely stunning works of medieval art, notably numerous Romanesque wall paintings from churches across the Spanish Pyrenees which were collected and preserved in the 1920s. The collection of Gothic altarpieces is also exceptional.
This is a detail from one I really liked which depicts various miracles associated with the Eucharist from a chapel dedicated to Corpus Christi. Having read many exempla stories from all over Europe which describe hosts bleeding when stabbed (proving that they truly are Christ’s body), it’s exciting to see the same narrative depicted so clearly in contemporary church decoration.
MNAC is definitely worth a visit, especially while the Catalonia 1400 exhibition is on. It closes on 15 July.