The sculptural ensemble remained hidden for years in the gardens of the Pedralbes Palace
The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Güell Park, Casa Milà … The work of Antoni Gaudí is world famous. His legacy remains more alive than ever and a century later Catalan is able to attract millions of people who crowd at the doors of these – and other buildings – to delight in his talented modernist style. The legacy of Gaudí is broad, with great works that elevated him and other more unknown that surprise those who discover them for the first time. Is this the case of the Hercules Fountain of the Palau Reial de Pedralbes?
It is, surely, one of the most secret works of Antoni Gaudí. So much so, that for many years was ignored, remaining hidden behind the vegetation of the place for those who worked for much of the twentieth century in maintaining the palace. Until 1984: since then, the source of Hercules, or of Gaudí, can be visited, restored and functioning, in the gardens of this emblematic corner of the city.
The story of this ‘forgotten’ work of Gaudí goes back to 1884, when the artist was commissioned by the politician Eusebi Güell, his patron, to design the gardens of the estate of 30,000 square meters he had acquired a few months earlier in the area Diagonal . To reform the exteriors of the old farmhouse of Can Feliu, Gaudí opted for mythology, recreating the legend of the garden of the Hesperides.
This tells the story of Heracles (or Hercules), who was able to steal golden apples from the garden of the goddess Hera, which, according to beliefs, guaranteed immortality. This idyllic and magical place was guarded by a dragon, Ladon, who after falling defeated by the god Atlas began to shed tears of blood. From every tear, by the way, a dragon was born. Hence Hercules and this animal are the two protagonists of this source realized in the most orientalist stage of the sculptor, and that is marked by the artistic influences of regions like Persia or Japan.
Most of the recovery of this work is the architect Ignasi Serra, who discovered during a cleaning project in the exterior of the palace this source hidden among the vegetation. The source had a curved bench and a stone sink with the coat of arms of Catalonia, a central column with a pedestal -empty- and a spout with the morphology of a wrought iron dragon.
All the elements of the source found are original, except the bust of Hercules. There are old photographs showing a large bust of the god on the pedestal, figure that was not found during the discovery of Ignasi Serra. In this way, the image of Hercules is the most recent of a sober sculptural set that integrates with the nature of the gardens of the Palace of Pedralbes and that since 1984 returns to emanate water after many years of silence.