Ever since antiquity coral has been held to have magical or medicinal properties, and has been used throughout history as a
talisman to aid with problems of bleeding, fertility, and in the Renaissance, for the detection of poison in foods. Its mythical
origins were told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, for when Perseus slayed the gorgon Medusa, the blood that flowed from her
head turned to coral when it touched the ground.
Coral has also long been a prized material for the creation of works of art, and the production of coral items is documented in
European centres as far apart as Landshut, in Bavaria, and Sicily. Trapani, a small town by the sea near Palermo, was certainly
the most important centre of production, with its output supported by the court of the Sicilian Viceroy from the 16th to the 18th
centuries. Indeed it gave its name to a distinctive group of coral mounted objects which are often referred to as 'Trapani wares'.
The intensely calligraphic impact of Trapani wares, with dense patterns of intertwined enamel and coral foliage on a lustrous
gilt-bronze ground, betrays the strong Moorish influence on Sicilian art. Coral became one of the materials favoured for the fashioning of works of art for princely Kunstkammer principally due to its rarity and because of the burgeoning interest in the Natural Sciences throughout Europe.
The March family – a Spanish banking dynasty founded by Juan March Ordinas (1880-1962) – were one of Spain’s most important collecting families over three generations. It was Juan March who commissioned the architect Luis Gutiérrez Soto to design a Renaissance-inspired Palazzo between 1939-44 in the centre of Palma de Mallorca. It was Bartolomé March Servera (1917-1998), the youngest son, a financier and philanthropist, who forged the enduring and creative friendship with decorator Pierre Delbée and the Maison Jansen. As an avid collector, he expanded and refined the family's collection to include manuscripts, turned ivories, Old Master paintings and contemporary sculpture. Manolo March – the son of Bartolomé - inherited the same collecting gene and these objects formed an integral part of the interior he created at his summer home Son Galcerán, where he assembled both inherited and acquired works of art with a distinctive and unifying vision and refined artistic flair.