Rodin in Mallorca

The Caixà Bank has brought from the Rodin Museum in Paris to Palma, and installed on the promenade leading to the seaside cathedral seven masterpieces of Rodin, the six figures of the Burghers of Calais and the Thinker. A gesture of grand seigneur, the more so because at this time, in January there are hardly any visitors in Mallorca: this gift is addressed to the city. As on the way from the airport at the cathedral we wind upwards on the Passeig des Born, the seven statues are standing there on the promenade, so naturally as if they had been intended for here, mingling with the burghers of Mallorca. Their black surface that after moulding had been polished to mirror-like finish through weeks by Rodin, comes into such a new life in the light of the early spring Mediterranean sunshine that has never been suspected in cloudy Paris.

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker on the Passeig des Born of Palma de MallorcaAt four o’clock in Saturday morning I cut across the promenade on my way to the fish market in the port. As a guest coming from a country without a sea, I am irresistibly attracted by the spectacle as the boats arriving from the night fishery sail in on the oily black water, the dripping cases are taken out on the quay, and in the building of the wholesale fish market the early rising commissaries of the restaurants and supermarkets survey the catch spread out, the greatest part of which has even no name in our language. The only bar of the city that is open at this time is the sailors’ pub in front of the fish market where the exhausted fishermen draw up the balance of the night while nursing a drink. Disciplined sailor dogs are lying at the feet of some of them, wiry creatures with weather-beaten skin like their masters.

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker on the Passeig des Born of Palma de MallorcaThe city is still sleeping, the statues stand solitarily on the promenade. Lampions have already been stretched out between the trees and stages have been erected at the two ends of the esplanade for the three days feast of Saint Sebastian, the saintly protector of the city. This night light softens the statues, their surface becomes oily and slippery like that of the sea and of the freshly caught fishes.

Rodin, The Burghers of Calais and The Thinker on the Passeig des Born of Palma de Mallorca in the nightSunday evening, at five o’clock the parade begins. The burghers of Mallorca who in the previous night lit a bonfire on the main square and roasted meat at the free braziers set up throughout the city, and kept eating, drinking and dancing until early morning while each square gave home to a different concert, have already had a rest in the morning, and now they gather with renewed strength for the continuation. The crowd swarms onto the square and is looking forward with excitement to the arrival of the flaming charriots.

From the whole Mallorca, but even from continental Catalonia several groups of dimoni who usually play the role of tempters at the feast of Saint Anthony of the various settlements have come together in Palma. Each of them marches with their fire-vomiting monster-charriots, drummers and dancers from the center of the city to the cathedral on the sea-front where they will launch the festive fireworks.

The nearly five thousand dimoni march for four and a half hours through the host of a hundred and thirty thousand spectators. The square illuminated in a ghostlike manner by the fires and torches is dominated by the dark marble obelisk topped by the bronze bat with outspread wings, the heraldic animal of King James I who had conquered this island from the Arabs. The Thinker – the figure of Dante looking in the gate of Hell and the 19th-century icon of rationality – is sitting sunken into himself in the middle of the crowd.

Rodin's Thinker during the feast of San Sebastià in Palma de Mallorca
Goya, Caprichos 43, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters

3 comentarios:

d.tertön dijo...

I wish I lived in such a country where spending energy on such things (touring Rodin - or how should I call this)(and Rodin is really really heavy! to tour) is normal. When I was in Paris I ve spent days among Rodin s work, taking hundreds and hundreds of photos of his statues. The Thinker is still the best and heaviest thought-in-bronze I ve ever met.

d.tertön dijo...

Though I also noticed the dualism (or what should I call it) in your story/post, the situation you re talking about. Still, it talks about a very sharp eyesight. (I might comment here more often: not only because communicating with a Hungarian in a foreign language is an interesting experience in itself, but also to practice some English. I hope it will not cause you any problem. :)

Studiolum dijo...

Absolutely no problem. As a French friend of mine writes in the appendix to his blog: "Commentaires en anglais, mais aussi russe, chinois, français, espagnol, allemand et toute autre langue, sont les bienvenus!!!" Even in Romanian, I'd add, but in that case please forgive me - and if you were an ethnic Romanian I'd say feel honored - for replying in Latin :)

Yes, I myself was overwhelmed by the generosity of the gesture of the city of Palma de Mallorca and the Caixà, and imagined how it were if the Major of Budapest, instead of a dozen of painted plastic cows they finance every year, would finance the exposition of just one of these or similar statues in the main square of Budapest. True, the problem begins somewhere at the point that we have neither main square nor promenade :(

And yes, these statues are exquisite, but the first thing I perceived was how much the various lights of the Mediterranean open air add to their impression. I have never seen them like this either in the museum of Paris or in the open air of Calais.

And just as light, so this kind of contrast is omnipresent, but much sharper here in the Mediterranean.