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    Sale 12273

    Historical Design

    26 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 37

    ANTONI GAUDÍ 1852-1926


    Price Realised  


    ANTONI GAUDÍ 1852-1926
    walnut, painted wrought-iron
    33 in. (83.8 cm.) high; 45¼ in. (115 cm.) wide; 22 in. (55.9 cm.) deep

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    This bench is among the few remaining examples from the original commission of twenty for the crypt of the church of Colonial Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervelló (1898-1917), by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí for one of his most important and intriguing works. Gaudí participated in every aspect of his buildings and this highly original liturgical bench, with its sinuous frame, complemented its setting in Gaudi's neo-gothic cave-like crypt with its striking mosaics, brick arches and robust, roughly hewn basalt columns evoking the underground roots of a tree.

    First intrigued by the display cabinet Gaudí designed for the Esteban Comella glove company on view in the Spanish Pavilion at the 1878 Paris World's Fair, the wealthy Spanish industrialist and textile magnate, Count Eusebio Güell i Bacigalupi became Gaudí's leading patron and lifelong friend. In 1898 Güell commissioned Gaudí to construct a Catholic church for the model worker's colony he was planning 20 miles south of Barcelona in Santa Coloma de Cervelló. Gaudí's spent ten years planning an extraordinary structure; it was to include a lower and an upper nave, topped by numerous towers and a 40-meter high central dome. Construction began in 1908, but in 1914, because of his own financial situation, Güell stopped funding the project. The already completed lower nave, known as the crypt, is unquestioningly one of Gaudí's most original and astonishing works.

    A devout Catholic, Gaudí was drawn to the medieval period and the Gothic style as well as the Neo-Gothic movement of his time. Also a strong influence was the animal, vegetal and mineral world, as well as earth formations such as caves and mountains all of which can be seen in his magical, often bizarre and eerie forms which he imbues with a mystical presence.

    The twenty original benches at the Colonia Güell crypt were executed between 1913 and 1914 by the carpenter Tomàs Bernat under Gaudí's direction (for 20 pesetas each as the original receipts in the Diocesan Museum of Barcelona document). The iron armatures were made from the straps on the bales of cotton from Egypt, and the majority of the seats and backs were constructed from the wood shipping crates that came from England filled with machinery parts for the factory. This was not Gaudí's only use of recycled materials at the Colonia Güell church with other examples including the bars for the stained glass windows recycled from the needles of the loom and the slag from the factory used for the walls of the crypt.

    The last few benches were made not from the oak of the English boxes, but instead from hardwood left over from the construction at Colonia Güell. Executed in walnut, the present bench, as well as the examples in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Museu Nacional d'Art Cataluña, Barcelona, is from the last group to be completed. With the religious setting in mind, Gaudí designed the bench without the ergonomic considerations he incorporates in other furnishings. Here he introduces a stark stiffness to resist somnolence; just slightly less than comfortable it would keep the congregant alert. And, as a seat for two, each spot is deliberately divided by a central carved scallop shell -- symbolizing the patron saint of Spain, St. James (Santiago) -- and angled just slightly away from the other to discourage chatter and physical contact.

    Other benches from the original set of twenty are located in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museo Casa Gaudí, Barcelona, the Museu Nacional d'Art Cataluña, Barcelona and The Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

    We would like to thank Antonio Sama and Miguel Saco for their assistance with this catalogue entry.

    Special Notice

    These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. This VAT is not shown separately on the invoice. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.


    Church of Colonia Güell, Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Spain;
    Sotheby's, New York, 29/30 March 1979, lot 803.

    Saleroom Notice

    Please note the seat and seat back are of carved olivewood and not walnut as is stated in the catalogue.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Judith Young-Mallin Archive


    J. Sweeney and J.L. Sert, Antonio Gaudí, New York, 1960, pl. 84;
    R. Pane, Antonio Gaudí, Milano, 1964, p. 197, pl. 274;
    E. Casanelles, Antonio Gaudí: A Reappraisal, Barcelona, 1965, p. 102, pl. XCII and XCIII;
    J. Perucho, Gaudí, Una Arquitectura de Anticipacion, Barcelona, 1967, pl. 13, 27, 28;
    C. Martinell, Gaudí. Su vida, su teora, su obra, Barcelona, 1967, Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Cataluña y Baleares, p. 149;
    N. Pevsner, The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design, London, 1968, p. 86, pl. 84 and 106;
    J. Bergos Masso, Gaudí. El hombre y la obra, Barcelona, 1974, p. 87;
    R. Dalisi, Gaudí furniture, London, 1980, pp. 78-85;
    J. Bassegoda Nonell, El Gran Gaudí, Sabadell, 1989, p. 373;
    J. Clair, "Sam Safran entretien", Rendez-vous en France, Institut Français de Barcelona, n. 4, March-April 1989;
    J. Matamala Flotats, Antonio Gaudí. Mi itinerario con el arquitecto. Barcelona, Claret, 1960/1999, p. 75;
    J. Padro Margo, Colonia Güell. Industria, arquitectura y sociedad, Barcelona, 2002, p.61;
    B. Montobbio i Martorelli, "Els bancs liturgics de Gaudí", Taull 27, October-November 2009, pp. 13-14.