Casa Vicens exhibits a corner cabinet designed by Gaudí for the Vicens family

  • The restoration process of the cabinet, which took half a year, involved working with metal, wood and velvet fixtures.
  • The corner unit is on exhibit alongside the chimney designed by Gaudí for the same house of the Vicens family in Alella.

For the first time ever, Gaudí’s first house is exhibiting the corner cabinet designed by the architect for the Vicens-Giralt couple’s family home in Alella. The cabinet is now on display after a six-month restoration process.

The item was in the possession of a descendant of the Vicens family, and the museum-house purchased it at the Lamas Bolaño auction house in June 2023. This heralded the beginning of the diagnostic and restoration process by the cultural assets restorers Sonia Berrocal and Marta Vilà.

The diagnostic and restoration process of the corner cabinet

The cabinet is made of wood, metal and velvet. The diagnostic process revealed degradation processes affecting all three materials. There were holes in the woods caused by woodworm, some boards had lost nails or had become detached, and dust and dirt had accumulated on it. The unit’s metal parts had rusted and some parts were also missing, mainly the flowers. The velvet’s colour had paled, it had come unstuck in several places and presented holes and damp patches.

Following the preliminary examination, the intervention proposed consisted basically of disinsection, cleaning away the dust and dirt and stripping the layers of rust. A preventive conservation protocol was then produced to keep the different surfaces clean and to control any signs of degradation.

Gaudí and Alella: two pieces of furniture for the Vicens family

Between 1880 and 1890, the architect Antoni Gaudí spent long periods at the Vicens’ family home in carrer de Dalt, now Anselm Clavé, in the village of Alella. In this village of el

Maresme, Gaudí designed the altarpiece for the church of Sant Feliu and construction work on Casa Vicens was undertaken that same year.

Gaudí’s friendship with the Vicens lasted for years, and now allows us to enjoy these two furniture items: a chimney and a corner cabinet. Both objects were designed for the Vicens’ house in Alella. Their relationship bequeathed us these two valuable objects, and Casa Vicens itself, located in Barcelona’s street Carolines.

The first item is a corner chimney made of wood and metal with a metal panel bearing the inscription of the initials “M.V.”, Manel Vicens, at the bottom. This object had belonged to the Vicens’ niece until after the Civil War. At that time, she donated the chimney to the “Amics de Gaudí” Association, and it subsequently became the property of the Junta Constructora de la Sagrada Família. Thanks to this transfer agreement, it has been on exhibit in Casa Vicens since the house was officially opened to the general public in 2017.

The second furniture item is a wall-mounted walnut wood corner cabinet bearing the initials “D.G.”, Dolors Giralt, in gilt brass on both doors, a nod to the lady of the house. The outside of this cabinet is decorated with floral motifs executed in brass, with web-footed birds in carved wood and open brass at the bottom serving as a plinth for the main column. The inside of the cabinet is upholstered in velvet with two half-moon shaped shelves that slot perfectly into the two shelves of the same shape inserted into each door. This cabinet has belonged to four generations of the Vicens family.

Its original owner was Ms Dolors Giralt, the wife of Manel Vicens. It then passed on to her daughter, Joana Giralt, who took her mother’s surname after her father’s death in 1895 and married Francesc Álvarez i Montaner. This couple had a daughter, Josefa Álvarez Giralt, who became the third owner of the cabinet. The fourth owner was Francesc Borrell Álvarez (the son of Josefa Álvarez and Salvador Borrell i Saunell). The corner cabinet then passed on to his wife, Carme Carrió Solà, and had several homes before being acquired by the Lamas Bolaño auction house and finally by the Casa Vicens.

Recovery of the heritage, restoration and public exhibition

The director of Casa Vicens Gaudí, Emili Masferrer, explained that “the decision to purchase this cabinet and restore it and then exhibit it publicly for the first time stems from the house-museum’s commitment to become a point of reference of Gaudí as a young man”. In this regard, Masferrer emphasised that Casa Vicens “is a key space for discovering the architect’s beginnings and for understanding his legacy.” And he added that “we are proud to exhibit, once again, the cabinet and chimney together, exactly as they were conceived by the 30-year-old Gaudí for the Vicens family home in Alella”.

Discover Casa Vicens, never-before-seen Gaudí

The first home by the great architect of Modernisme. Declared Unesco World Heritage.

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