Casa Lleó Morera

Casa Lleó Morera (73)

On the same side of Passeig de Gràcia you can find three of the great jewels of Catalan Modernism. The first is the Casa Lleó Morera, at number 35, and the other two are the Casa Amatller and the Casa Batlló. The three form part of what has become known as the Block of Discord, since each one is by one of the most prestigious architects of the time: Doménech i Montaner, Puig i Cadafalch and Gaudí, all with their own distinct styles. 

In 1902, Domènech i Montaner was commissioned to rehabilitate the Casa Rocamora, built in 1864, to adapt it to the tastes of the new owners – the Lleó-Morera family. But what was originally intended as a minor architectural reform ended up winning an architectural award in 1906. The close work of a large number of artists and craftsmen gave this surprising and inspirational result. 

Lluís Domènech i Montaner, renaissance man of Catalan Modernism par excellence, conceived of the house as a complete work of art, in which he was the conductor of the orchestra and the craftsmen working on the building were the musicians. 

This work is the best example of the architect’s full floral style. All the ornamentation on the building, both on the façade and the interior, express the sensitivity of the time and in many ways has a Wagnerian feel. It is significant that in 1902, when the house was first under construction, Richard Wagner was the most fashionable musician among the Catalan middle classes, the same people who chose the Modernist style for their houses.  

It is easy to recognise, because it is on the corner and on the ground floor there is a shop with one of the most famous names in luxury goods. 

Sit on one of the benches in Passeig de Gràcia and look at the façade, which show the work of sculptor  Eusebi Arnau.

On the ground floor there were some amazing sculpted nymphs but parts of the sculptures and ornamental elements were destroyed in May 1943 when the building was occupied by the FAI, and by the aggressive actions of anti-Modernist artists. 

Curiously, only one of the original nymphs remains, but it is not in this building, but in the Dalí Museum in Figueres, in the Province of Girona. It is said that it ended up there because the concierge on seeing the attacks on the building, collected up the sculptures which could still be saved. Salvador Dalí became interested in them, tracked them down and managed to buy them for what would today be 30 euros. And that is why you can see them today in the museum. 

Later, the ground floor was changed when the luxury brand designed the shop windows.

Today you can see a partial restoration carried out in 1992, based on photographs and other historical archives.

Domènech i Montaner included elements of the Gothic tradition, but with more architectural rigour and  more symbolic decoration: such as medieval arches, repetitions of decorative symbols inspired by medieval coasts of arms: "Lleons" (lions) and the "Morera” (Mulberry tree), and the myth of the dragon. The fairies represent the legendary tradition of the country and of women. 

If you look at the first floor balconies you will see four female figures which represent progress. Each of them is holding what were some of the biggest technical advances of the time – a gramophone, a camera, a light bulb and a telephone. And crowning the balcony you can see the busts of the Lleó-Morera couple. 

Today the building houses one of the most valuable, complete and best preserved examples of modernist decoration: mosaics, stained glass, marquetry, flooring and sculptures as well as original period furniture, lamps and carpets. 

Unfortunately, though, the Casa Lleó Morera is not open to the public, although you can see a large part of the original furniture in the National Museum of Art of Catalonia at Montjuïc. 

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