19 November 2002
The retable of Sant Pere de Púbol forms the epicentre of the exhibition Bernat Martorell and the Late Period of Catalan Gothic, which can be seen at the Art Museum of Girona up to 16 March 2003. Usually on view in the Throne Room of the museum, this time the retable is shown in a fragmented way so that visitors have a chance to examine at close hand the magnificent details of the work as a whole, gleaming splendidly after the recent restoration work done on it.
The montage work designed for this exhibition also allows us to see for the first time the secrets lying concealed on the hidden side of the retable: an exceptional series of drawings, sketches perhaps, drawn with charcoal and chalk on the tables themselves. Through a small but significant selection of pieces belonging to the catalogue of Martorell and leading contemporaries of his who were working in the Girona counties (such as Joan Antigó and Honorat Borrassà) the exhibition affords an opportunity to discover the power to convey, the universal fascination, that some of the finest masters of Catalan mediaeval art can still exercise nowadays. It was doubtless that same fascination that also captivated Salvador Dalí when he purchased Púbol Castle.
The retable was made under commission for the Lords of Púbol Castle in 1437, and for centuries it presided over the apse of Sant Pere de Púbol church, which forms part of the castle complex. When Dalí bought the castle he lost no time in inquiring after the status of the retable, which had been moved to Girona in 1936 to protect it from the ravages of the Spanish Civil War. Dalí believed that it was only being kept under deposit in Girona, and that as soon as the castle was inhabited once more he could apply for its return. Indeed, Dalí had a letter that Bishop Cartañà of Girona had sent to the last Earl of Púbol, in which the bishop stated that "I have had no change of view about the Púbol retable being placed once more in the Parish Church, for I feel this to be a requirement of the rule imposed upon me by the sacred canons and respect for the wishes of the donors." The retable never did return to its church, however. In any case, for some years now a magnificent, real-size photographic reproduction has been installed in its place.