The albums of Bellezas (Beauties) by the photographer Joan Martí i Centellas

Yolanda Ruiz
The Sea Wall

The Sea Wall that began to be demolished in 1881 to enlarge the Port of Barcelona

The photographer Joan Martí i Centellas, who was born in L’Alcora in 1832 and died in Camprodon in 1902, began his professional career in Barcelona, where he worked in different places according to the Directorio de fotógrafos en España.

He is the author of three of the most renowned picture albums in the history of photography in Catalonia: Bellezas de Barcelona (1874), Bellezas de Montserrat (1875) and Bellezas de Gerona (1875), published by Pere Vives Llorens. The ones of Barcelona and Girona contain a magnificent selection of monuments and buildings of the period in both cities, while the one of Montserrat is inspired by the iconography of the sacred place, and is a world away from the urban landscapes that appear in the other two.

These photographs have to be understood in the context of the period: in the last quarter of the 19th century, thanks to the technological progress represented by the use of glass plate negatives, many photographers who up to then had based their business on studio portraits decided to go outside and take photographs of monuments and landscapes. The album was an ideal way of presenting them, although it was not always the one most used, seeing as it was a refined product that required a certain degree of financial solvency, and it was more usual for single photographs to be sold to the general public periodically.

For the publication of the “Bellezas”, various methods were chosen:

  • presenting the photographs in albums decorated with expensive gold lettering
  • producing an inexpensive, smaller edition
  • offering people the possibility of buying the photos one by one and having the option of binding them.

The museum Library conserves the albums devoted to the cities of Barcelona and Girona. Here is a small sample of the images in them, which are a graphic testimony of these cities in the late 19th century, when they were in the midst of a profound urban transformation, as a consequence of the demolition of the city walls and the coming of industrialization.

Bellezas de Barcelona

This album contains 50 albumen prints on a secondary cardboard support. Several editions were produced of them with variations in the decoration of the edges of the support, and even with different compositions of the buildings pictured.

View of the city of Barcelona

Plate 1. View of the city of Barcelona

Plate 9. The Sant Josep Market, known as ‘La Boqueria’

Plate 9. The Sant Josep Market, popularly known as ‘La Boqueria’, before it had the metallic structure dating from 1914

Casa Gibert

Plate 11. Casa Gibert, designed by the architect Josep Oriol Mestres and demolished in 1895, after the definitive plan for the redevelopment of Plaça Catalunya was passed.

North Station

Plate 17. North Station, previously known as Saragossa Station.

The Ciutadella fort

Plate 27. The Ciutadella fort prior to the 1888 Universal Exhibition.

The Barcelona University building

Plate 39. The Barcelona University building, built by the Catalan architect Elies Rogent i Amat, which was officially opened in 1874.

Bellezas de Gerona

Entre els mesos de desembre de 1876 i el maig de 1877, per encàrrec del Capítol de la catedral de Girona, Joan Martí i Centellas va romandre a la ciutat per realitzar fotografies que veurien la llum en un nou àlbum. L’obra, que consta de 50 còpies en paper a l’albúmina, va ser presentada a l’Exposició Universal de París de l’any 1878, on va obtenir una medalla.

Vista general de Girona

Làmina 1. Vista general de Girona

Estació de ferrocarril inaugurada l’any 1862

Làmina 3. Estació de ferrocarril inaugurada l’any 1862

Pont de pedra de Girona inaugurat l’any 1856

Làmina 5. Pont de pedra de Girona inaugurat l’any 1856

Pont de ferro inaugurat el 1877

Làmina 6. Pont de ferro inaugurat el 1877

Enllaços recomanats:

Exposició sobre Joan Martí a l’Arxiu Fotogràfic de l’Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona l’any 2008

Bellezas de Barcelona

Bellezas de Montserrat

Bellezas de Gerona

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Yolanda Ruiz

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