What moves us as antique dealers is the passion for owning works of art; although we are aware that we can only enjoy them for a short time, we are ephemeral collectors. Curiosity is linked to that vocation of hunters where chance plays a primary role. The unforeseen, which makes each day of our work exciting and different, a job that never knows routine or boredom.
In the middle of the pandemic, when confinement had just been withdrawn, the antiques dealer Sergi Clavell, by chance, found a small sculpture in a house, a marble head, a fragment of feet from a relief and a fragment of a column with plant decoration by the Master of Cabestany. While this happened, the art historian and friend Jaume Barrachina, one of the Master’s great experts and collector of four of his works, left us prematurely as a result of a major illness.
Through Sergi Clavell we found out that three of these pieces had appeared, and we immediately realised that we were facing a unique discovery. After three years of persistence and a little bit of luck, we can finally show them to the world in order to find them a new home, ideally one with glass walls. The incorporation of Albert Martí Palau, owner of the only other piece by the Master that has been on the market in the 21st century, rounded off the project.
The Master and Chance have brought together three antique dealers who represent a new professional generation through four pieces that not even in the best of our dreams we would have aspired to have. We have always been fascinated by the Master of Cabestany, his primitivism and at the same time delicacy that associate him with the Italian artists we admire in Parma, mainly Benedetto Antelami. Making an easy but understandable simile, if the Master of Taüll were the equivalent of Michelangelo, the Master of Cabestany would be Donatello. We would never have thought that his works would pass through our hands. In fact, in Catalonia we only know of his masterpiece, The Appearance of Jesus to His Disciples in the Sea from the Museu Frederic Marès, a head of the Oleguer Junyent collection in Barcelona, the pieces from the Museu del Castell de Peralada together with the recently bequeathed Barrachina and the pieces in Girona. That is all.
Jaume Barrachina was the person who told us about the Master the most, since he dedicated him almost his whole career. We dedicate this exhibition to him, which will feature four pieces by the Master that he bequeathed to the Museu del Castell de Peralada. We are very grateful to Mariben González, the director of the Museum, who has very kindly donated us the pieces for the purpose of this exhibition.
Around these works we have structured a curatorial project and a scientific catalogue. And that is why we wanted to surround ourselves with the best specialists. We appreciate the enthusiasm that Dr. Manuel Castiñeiras and Jordi Camps showed us from day one, without whom this proposal would not have the solid and intellectual content it deserves.
This exhibition intends to explain the need of the antiquarian profession in the protection and dissemination of our heritage. The tasks that it performs, sometimes complementary to the institutional ones, are not usually highlighted by those who, without the will to get to know us, still sees us from the prejudices of yesterday’s world, with a narrow-minded vision of art being unattached to the market. If, with this project, we are only able to gradually disintegrate this topic, while we get the pieces to reach the best possible port, we will be satisfied. Because deep down, as the cultural professionals that we are, beyond the market, what is most exciting to us it the adventure of discovering new pieces. Rebuilding their identities, studying and disseminating them, preserving them and taking them to the best destinations is what moves us. This is the reason why we are what we are: antique dealers.
Artur Ramon Navarro Sergi Clavell Pi-Sunyer Albert Martí Palau