The present work is a painting executed for one of the masks designed for the theatrical production Merma Never Dies. Conceived in 1978 by Joan Miró in collaboration with La Claca, an experimental theatre troupe from Barcelona headed by Joan Baixas, the show was created in response to the death of Franco three years earlier and the end of his autocratic regime in Spain. Originally titled Mori el Merma (Death to Merma), the pièce sought to reflect upon the trauma of Spain’s recent history and also to celebrate the country’s release from Franco’s rule; this took the form of an avant-garde theatre production, using puppets designed by Miró to tell an allegoric tale of despotic rule characterised by greed and cruelty that was eventually overthrown by the public.
The plot revolved around the adventures and misadventures of the central character Merma, a fictional crazed king, representative not only of Franco but also of all tyrannical leaders throughout history. The production also featured an array of colourful supporting characters, including Merma’s wife and court, and a mob of angry, oppressed peasants, who eventually succeed in bringing down King Merma. Ranging from seven-foot giants with heads of monsters to diminutive creatures that whispered and squealed, the entire production looked as though it had sprung from the canvas of one of Miró’s paintings, of which the present work is one of very few examples.