At turn of the 19th century, modernist Barcelona, along with Paris and Vienna entered its peak. Barcelona was at the centre of European avant-garde in many fields, including architecture, art, theatre and design. At the forefront of jewellery design was the great Spanish goldsmith Lluis Masriera i Rosés, who played a pivotal role in the “Modernism” movement and style.
Family of Goldsmiths
Amazing Barcelona, it is such fascinating city. Always friendly to the stranger, so full of life, beauty and art. It is here that I revisited the incredible art of master goldsmith Lluis Masriera i Roses. His designs are so original and beautiful! Lluis comes from three generations of artists and jewellers. His father Joseph and his uncle Francesco Masriera were both painters as well as silversmiths. Therefore, the small Lluis grew up in a privileged artistic environment. He started out as an apprentice at age 15, in his father and uncles jewellery company. In 1889 Masriera studied at the Academy of Beaux Arts in Geneva, where he was taught by the famous enameller, Edward Lossier. Studying so close to Paris enabled Masriera to frequent the salons. In these legendary gatherings, Masriera i Rosés was introduced to the idea of Art Nouveau and the work of René Lalique.
Knowing the best was the key to inspiration
One of his earliest known works was a glazed vase exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. It was at that time that Lluis Masriera met René Lalique and was totally fascinated by the lines and forms used by the French goldsmith.
Masriera combined the shapes and lines of Art Nouveau, followed by the Lalique aesthetic, with the aesthetics of the Catalan avant-garde. Antoni Gaudí buildings, for example, were in perfect harmony with the lines proposed in the jewellery. He returned to Barcelona deciding to completely change his style and create jewellery according to the prevailing Modernism. As the newly appointed director of the family business, Masriera literally melted down the old stock, closed the business and worked feverishly seeking his own identity. Finally, he re-opened the business with the new collections, only days before Christmas 1901 and within one week all of the pieces were sold out.
At this turning point, the Masriera name spread like wild fire, with exclamations of respect and admiration throughout Europe and South America. He devised a new and delicate enamel technique, known as “Barcelona Enamelling” and only few goldsmiths in the world continue this technique to this day. His work was part of a revolutionary and beloved moment in art history.
His success as a goldsmith was very important as well in that he devised a mould system. The existence of these moulds making it possible to reproduce the pieces today. Masriera’s notebook with details of his process and colours suitable for each design was also preserved. Naturally, the original Masriera i Roses pieces that are presented at auction, are sold at exorbitant prices. Lluis Masriera i Roses remained on the crest of the Art Deco wave, continuing to present innovative designs. He was as well a playwright, set designer and a talented painter.
As a painter, he showed a unique decorative character. His jewellery designs were inhabited by nymphs, flowers and dragonflies, while many of the canvases having figurative, portraiture, orientalist and landscape themes, all showing an exquisite hand and colour palate.
It is a pleasure to discover strolling through Barcelona’s modernist spirit, imagine the time and evoke that sensational jewellery that went around the world.