Can Balaguer

Portrait of an era

The musician, collector, entrepreneur and patron Josep Balaguer (Inca, 1869 – Palma, 1951) was a key figure in the cultural stimulation of Palma during the first half of the 20th century. A visit to the house he lived in, Ca’n Balaguer, is a trip to a bygone, silent and different age.

The building we now know as Can Balaguer, located in Calle Unión in Palma, occupies half of a property that belonged to the Gual-Sanglada family and their descendants from the 17th century to the end of the 19th century. In the late 19th century, the heirs sold the building to the Blanes, a well-known bourgeois family. The musician Josep Balaguer bought it in turn from this family in 1927. On his death, in keeping with his will, his sisters donated the building to the city on the condition that it should house the Círculo de Bellas Artes.

THE PATIO. This Baroque building was organised around a large courtyard. Set around this feature, four rooms followed on from one another on the first floor, comprising the public part of the house, accessible only during big receptions and with a clearly symbolic function: to demonstrate the position of wealth and power of the owners. Today, the main floor of Can Balaguer is a museum that is open to the public through the permanent exhibition, “La casa possible”

The patio is remarkable for its large size, recovered after the comprehensive rehabilitation of the building that was completed in 2016, carried out by the architects Francesc Pizá, Se Duch, Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores. The alterations give one an idea of the grandiosity of the original courtyard in the project commissioned centuries ago by Mateu Gual-Sanglada.

THE COLLECTOR’S GALLERY. As a protector of the fine arts, Josep Balaguer compiled a small collection with the outstanding feature of a series of works by the Mallorcan painter Antoni Gelabert (1877 – 1932). In times of the Balaguer family, this space was divided into two rooms which connected the entrance area of the house to the most important rooms, where there was a large music room. It was in one of these rooms, which everyone who visited the house passed through, where Josep Balaguer hung the paintings of Antoni Gelabert. These works are now presented along with some modernist pieces by Santiago Rusiñol, William Degouve de Nuncques, Hermenegild Anglada Camarasa, Francisco Bernareggi and Roberto Montenegro, from municipal collections. 

THE BED CHAMBER. In the wealthiest homes, the bed chamber was not used for sleeping, but simply formed part of the luxurious ensemble of rooms where visitors were received and the main events were organised. As a result, they were also decorated to be seen, and to show off the family’s wealth and power. 

From the Baroque age on, the bed chamber area began to be separated by a lintel with a golden frame with carved finishing details, and may have included curtains or glass doors. The chamber or alcoba represented in Can Balaguer is a construction based on the furnishings, tapestries and other elements from the Balaguer collection, along with important paintings from the municipal reserve, most outstandingly La batalla de la Conquista, attributed to Honorat Massot, which depicts the entry into Mallorca of King Jaume I in the year 1229. 

THE MUSIC ROOM. Originally the south corridor of Can Balaguer was occupied by a single space known as the gallery in its day. This room was one of a succession of rooms with these characteristics which made up the public route through the house, along with the chamber and the bedroom. These spaces were the main stage for the family’s social status, which is why they had the most luxurious décor, with furniture and fabrics of exceptional quality. 

In around 1930, Josep Balaguer acquired a state-of-the-art organ for the large music room of his new residence. Maestro Balaguer purchased the instrument from E.F. Walcker & Cie. of Ludwigsburg, through the instrument shop that he owned in Calle Colom in Palma, formerly Antiga Casa Banqué. 

The Walcker organ of Can Balaguer was and is a technical wonder, capable of reproducing the most varied registers, including those that imitate percussion. Actually, it would seem that what maestro Balaguer was seeking – as director of the number 1 Band of the Regional Infantry Regiment of the Balearic Islands from 1897 to 1920 – in acquiring this instrument, was to reproduce the different registers of a music band. 

Image modal Image modal
Suscríbete a nuestra Newsletter