Anne’s Pocket Guide to…Modernisme Valencià

This post is one of a series looking at Art Nouveau Architecture. They complement my book on Art Nouveau Architecture published by Crowood (2020).

Barcelona was not the only Catalan city to respond to modernity and nationalism at the close of the 19th century. Modernisme Valencià is the name given to the new art and literature associated with the Valencian Community:  the architects Demetrio Ribes Marco (1875-1921) and Francisco Mora Berenguer (1875-1961), who was appointed the municipal architect, transformed the regional capital, Valencia, while Vicente Pascual Pastor (1865-1941) and Timoteo Briet Montaud (1859-1925) worked in Alcoy. Alongside Alcoy, Novelda (Alicante) and Sueca are all members of the Art Nouveau European Route.

Typically, Modernisme Valencià used modern materials, iron, glass and ceramics.  As in Barcelona, mosaics played their part in decorating exteriors and interiors. Local motifs include oranges, fishermen and the fallera, girls dressed in traditional costumes and jewellery, that parade during Las Fallas, Valencia’s spectacular festival of fire on the 19th March.  Hundreds of giant papier-mâché figures – the actual fallas – are set alight. 

Route: Modernism in Valencia

We begin at the Estacion del Norte or North Station opened in 1917 (architect Demetrio Ribes Marco). The exterior is covered with oranges, as Valencia was the ‘fruit bowl’ of Spain. The eagle is said to represent speed.

The city’s coat of arms bears a distinctive double L for ‘doubly loyal’ and the red and yellow strips of Catalonia. Above the crown you often see a bat, an emblem that harks back to the Battle of Valencia in 1238. Just before the battle, which would drive out the Moors, a bat is said to have landed on the standard of James I the Conqueror. Even since it has been Valencia’s good luck charm.

Inside we find various mosaics that welcome or bid farewell to travellers in different languages.

Note the use of trencadis, or broken tiles, on the ceiling and columns, as you would find on Modernista buildings in Barcelona.

In the central section note the girl in colourful Valencian costume (a ‘fallera girl’) and the octagonal El Miguelete/ Micalet bell tower, a famous landmark in the old town.

We pass through the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Town Hall Square) [1931, planned by Javier Goerlich Lleó], with the grandiose Post Office Building on the right hand side. Construction started in 1915 and its inauguration dates to 1923. Miguel Ángel Navarro Pérez (1883-1956)created a flight of fancy topped with a dramatic iron tower-Valencia’s very own Eiffel Tower! Its worth checking out the central hall, capped with a magnificent dome.

The City Hall is made up of two connected blocks: the Casa de la Enseñanza (the old Mayoral School) and the section that was added by the architects Francisco de Mora y Berenguer and Carlos Carbonell Pañella at the beginning of this century.

Modernist neo-gothic buildings facing Plaza del Ayuntamiento, the Suay building on the corner by Francisco Mora dates from 1910.  

On the road opposite Reina Victoria Hotel by Luis Ferreres Soler c. 1910, Corner of Las Barques and Alfredo Calderon Streets. With its elabourate glazed canopy this building has a French feel to it.

From here we head for Calle Colon, one of the main streets of Ensanche, which takes us into the extension to the old city, an area comparable to the Eixample of Barcelona. As we enter Sorní Street, we find the House of Dragons designed in 1901 by José María Manuel Cortina Pérez (1868-1950). As St George is the patron saint of Catalonia, the dragon was a national emblem. This also explains the love of roses. The blood from the slain dragon caused a rosebush to grow. St George offered one of its roses to the princess he had rescued.

The Mercado de Colon (Christopher Columbus Market), built in 1914, was completely restored in 2003 and has become an up-market meeting point with shops and bars. The building was inaugurated on New Year’s Eve 1916 and was designed by the City architect, Francisco Mora, who was influenced by Catalan Modernisme.

The spandrels are filled with mosaics, beautifully over-dressed girls (fallera) picking flowers, oranges and grapes. I love the bulls heads at the top reminding you this was originally a food market.

The area around the Mercado is where you will find the best Modernista residential buildings.

Carrer del Comte de Salvatierra 9

Casa SJ, Carrer del Comte de Salvatierra 23, Viennese style façade 1915-20. This is an example of the Vienna Secession style, that became popular in Spain after the International Congress of Architects in Madrid in 1904.

Carrer del Comte de Salvatierra 25, 1912

On the Calle Cirilo Amorós 74, Casa Peris, 1913 by architect Carlos Carbonell. This apartment block has plenty of sculptural details, including nymphs holding jars of cascading water. The tripartite windows echo those of Victor Horta in Brussels.

On Gran Vía Marqués del Turia, Casa Ortega (1906) by Manuel Peris Ferrando.

On Calle de la Paz/Carrer de la Pau you will find a clutch out outstanding apartment blocks.

Casa Sancho is a mix of different architectural styles, known at the time as Eclecticism. It would be fun to sit in that tower on the corner and watch the world go by on the street below. It was built in 1901 by Joaquin María Arnau Miramón. The blue and white sgraffito frieze around the top of the façade is eye catching.

On the corner facing, Calle de la Paz No.31.

Gómez II building or Casa Sagnier II, 1905, by Francisco Mora and Enric Ferran Josep Lluís Sagnier. This also has a striking oriel window dominating the corner.

Gómez I building, (1903) by Francisco Mora and Enric Ferran Josep Lluís Sagnier. Also known as Casa Sagnier I. It was influenced by Valencian Gothic architecture and Gaudi’s Casa Calvet in Barcelona. 

Edificio Grau, built in 1905 by Pelegrín Mustieles Cano, was originally a private residence for Ángeles Grau. It is now home to the Red Nest Hostel.

Now head back towards the Old Town.

In the Plaza de la Reina (Queen Square), in front of the Cathedral, there are two complimentary Modernista buildings.

At the start of Calle de la Paz, Edificio Monforte begun in 1895 by Lucas Garcia Cardona is another architectural mix, blending Eclecticism with Art Nouveau. It pays homage to Ancient Greece, with a frieze of bacchante, female followers of the God Dionysus, interspersed with blue pillars, running around the top of the façade. It was once a famous department store, Almacenes Isla de Cuba (Department Store Island of Cuba) as it opened when the the Cuban Independence War broke out.

On the opposite corner, in a similar style is Edificio Sánchez de León, also built by Lucas Garcia Cardona in 1896. 

In the Market Square you will find the Casa Ordeig built c.1907, by architect Francisco de Mora y Berenguer. Its neo-Gothic motifs are inspired by the nearby La Lonja de la Seda (1483-98, Pere Compte), the late medieval Market Hall and Silk Exchange.

Mora’s building is topped by a complimentary neo-gothic tower. The façade is decorated with blue and white coloured tiles. A distinguishing feature in the box bay-window or mirador.

In front of  La Lonja, we find the Central Market built between 1910 and 1928. The commission was awarded to Alexandre Soler March and Francesc Guàrdia Vidal. It has a dramatic dome 30 meters high. 

Ceramics, iron, stone and stained glass decorate the building’s exterior and interior. Its also has two distinctive weathervanes: a swordfish and a parrot, known by the name of ‘Cotorra del Mercat’.

Saving one of the best buildings to last…on the Plaza de la Almoina we find the quirky Punt de Ganxo. The pilasters on its façade mimic branching trees. The floral sgraffito decoration on a red ground really stands out. The architect is Manuel Perris Ferrando.

Further Reading


Valencia History of the City Walks and Routes. Valencia: Ajuntament de Valencia

Perio, Javier Garcia. 2015. Benlliure House-Museum. Valencia: Ajuntament de Valencia

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923)

Colomer, José Luis; Pons-Sorolla, Blanca; Roglán, Mark A. (eds.) 2015. Sorolla in America: friends and patrons. Dallas: Meadows museum.

Díez, Jose Luis; Barón, Javier (eds). 2009. Joaquín Sorolla: 1863-1923. London: Thames & Hudson.

Facundo, Tomás (ed.) 2007- 2009. Epistolarios de Joaquín Sorolla. 3 v. Rubí: Anthropos.

Garcia-Bermejo, Jose Maria Faerna. 2015. Masterpieces Joaquín Sorolla. Barcelona: ediciones poligrafa. In Spanish and English editions.

Garcia Sanchez, Laura. Sorolla. Madrid: Susaeta Ediciones.

López Modéjar, Publio. 2017. Sorolla en su paraíso: álbum fotográfico del pintor. Madrid: Fundación Sorolla. In Spanish and English. 

López Fernández, María. 2016. Sorolla and the Paris years. New York: Skira Rizzoli. 

Menéndez Robles, María Luisa (ed.). 2015. Joaquín Sorolla: técnica artística. Madrid: Tecnos.

Pons Sorolla, Blanca. 2012. Sorolla: obras maestras. Marid: El Viso. 

Exhibition Catalogues

Cazando impresiones: Sorolla en pequeño formato. Madrid: El Viso, 2019. 

Fiesta y color: la mirada etnográfica de Sorolla. Madrid: Fundación Museo Sorolla, 2013.

Sargent / Sorolla. Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2006.

Sorolla: Spanish master of light. London: National Gallery, 2019. 

Sorolla: un jardín para pintar. Madrid: El Viso, 2017. 

Sorolla y la Hispanic Society: una visión de la España de entresiglos. Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 1998

European Naturalism/Impressionsim/Modernisme

Donate, Merce; Fondevila, Mariangels; Mendoza, Cristina; Quilez I Corella, Fransesc. 2010. Modernisme in the MNAC Collections. Barcelona: MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

Thompson, Richard. 2012. The Art of the Actual Naturalism and Style in Early Third Republic France, 18880-1900. New Haven

3 thoughts on “Anne’s Pocket Guide to…Modernisme Valencià

  1. Just Fantastic! Always fascinated & intrigued by Catalonia & hope one day to visit. The architecture is superb, the tile work, the trencadis & sculpture amazing. Would love to stay at The Red Nest Hostel. Photography most excellent & I really appreciate your attention to detailing the history & symbolism. Well Done. Many Blessings


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