If there is one place that you must visit when you are in Barcelona it is the Museu Frederic Marès, and in particular La Sala Femenina.
Frederic Marès was a great and passionate collector, and throughout the 98 years of his life, he nurtured his passion for everyday objects in his role as a sculptor, historian teacher, and defender of Spain’s artistic heritage.
The most unusual part of the museum that he left is the La Sala Femenina or “Ladies Quarter”, where you will see displayed hundreds of feminine accessories dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries: fans, combs, boxes, dressmakers dummies, hats and a whole range of other artifacts which reach a level of sophistication that has to be seen to be believed. This room in the museum is truly a wonderful catalogue of part eras and a remarkable testimony to women’s daily lives during these centuries.
Marès, besides collecting toys, automatons, pipes, Christmas cribs, daguerreo-types, and cameras, was a skilled ornamental sculptor. His work can be seen in many places around the streets of Barcelona, such as Niña encima de un pez (“Little girl on a fish”) at the junction of Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes and Rambla de Catalunya. He also carried out a number of official commissions, such as the recumbent statues of James I and James II in Majorca Cathedral.
Despite appearances, Marès did not come from a wealthy family like so many other renowned collectors. The success of his sculptures allowed him to indulge his passion for collecting that had begun in childhood, when he hoarded toys and chocolate wrappers.
Apart from the thousands of unusual objects, the museum also has an important collection of Spanish religious sculptures dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries.
Interestingly too, on one of the outer walls of the museum there has survived the emblem of the ecclesiastical tribunal of the inquisition in Barcelona. Inside, in 1542, heretics and convicts were judged, tortured and murdered. A rare reminder of the atrocities of that time.