The Balearic Islands, before and after
“The Balearic Islands, before and after” is a project born from the desire to create tools to make people aware, in an engaging and accessible way, of the effects of human imprint on the environment.
Entrance to the port of Maó from the tower of Sant Felipet. Lazareto Island. Original print from Die Balearen geschildert in wort und bild. Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria. Photo taken in October 2003. © Lluc Julià
The Balearic Islands, before and after is a project created in 2002 by the content designer Lluc Julià Fàbregues. It consists of photographing a representative selection of the places or objects illustrated in the prints contained in the work Die Balearen in Wort und Bild Geschildert (The Balearics described by word and image), by the Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1847-1915). The aim is to compare the state of conservation of the cultural heritage and the evolution of the landscape of the Balearic Islands between the end of the 19th century and the 21st century..
The Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria
The Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1847-1915), third son of the Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany and María Antonia de Borbón, was born in Palazzo Pitti (Florence) on August 5, 1847. Before he was 12 he had to leave his home, together with his family, due to the fall of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany which culminated in the unity of Italy and the end of Austrian domination. Thus began the adventure of his life that would take him to many different corners of the world, which he always wanted to explore with encyclopedic eagerness and the intensity of the great romantics.
The Die Balearen
The Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria arrived in the Balearic Islands in 1867, when he was barely 20 years old. In love with Mallorca because of the charm of its northern coast, he lived on the island for almost the rest of his life. He faithfully portrayed the Balearic Islands in his magnum opus Die Balearen in Wort und Bild Geschildert, structured in nine volumes: six dedicated to Mallorca, two to Menorca and one to the Pitiusas. The author devoted much of his life to the elaboration of this monumental work, which collects detailed information about the Balearic Islands in fields as diverse as anthropology, geography, art, ethnology, folklore, natural sciences, and literature. All the information is illustrated with prints made from notes by the Archduke himself, or from photographs, in order to faithfully reproduce the reality of the Balearic Islands in the late 19th century. This gives them a documentary value that goes beyond the pictorial value. In this sense, the illustrations constitute a graphic material with enough accuracy to draw objective conclusions about the reality of the Balearic archipelago at the end of the 19th century..
The Balearic Islands, before and after
The prints of Die Balearen illustrate landscapes, monuments, everyday scenes, traditions and other aspects of the Balearic Islands. While inevitably modified by the passage of time, many of them are still observable today. With this work in hand, the motivation was born to go and look for the illustrated locations in order to see the extent to which the prints are faithful to reality and to ascertain the current state of the illustrated spaces. The comparison of photographs and prints reveals the few artistic licenses that the Archduke allowed himself, such as some small modifications of scale or the addition of some trivial elements. The interest of contrasting the past and the present justifies the laborious task of searching for these sites and photographing them while remaining faithful, whenever possible, to the perspective in which the original prints were made. Another basic aspect that has been tried to respect is the solar time in which the different locations are illustrated, since the shadows generated by human constructions and geographical features, depending on the time of the day or even the year, can considerably change the perception of the different volumes of the set.
Present and future of the project
This work aims to pay tribute to the Archduke’s legacy and awaken an interest in learning about the cultural heritage of the Balearic Islands, as well as stimulating a critical thinking about the present by comparing the state of conservation and the evolution of the island’s landscape between the late 19th and 21st centuries.
Although Die Balearen is a work that covers the entire Balearic archipelago, the project has begun in Menorca, the island that occupies the first two volumes of Die Balearen. The aim, however, is to continue with the other islands as well: the Pitiusas and especially Mallorca, the island where the Archduke lived and which occupies most of the volumes of the encyclopedic work. Therefore, what you can see right now is a tasting of a much more ambitious project, which in the long run wants to offer the opportunity to compare, individually and as a whole, the evolution of the landscape and the state of the heritage of the Balearic Islands in an engaging and understandable way.
With the nearly 50 images that have been located, portrayed and subsequently compared since 2002, we can highlight six very illustrative aspects of the changes that the Balearic Islands have experienced over the last 150 years: the urban pressure, the densification of urban centres, the decrease in the water level of natural ports, the recovery of the forest, the marked inequality in the conservation of the architectural heritage and the abandonment or transformation of agricultural and livestock activity.
- Paisajes, pasado y presente. Ultima Hora. Mallorca. 8 de desembre de 2021. PDF
- La petjada de l’home a l’illa. Es Diari. Menorca. 17 d’octubre de 2020.
- Menorca entre dos segles. L’illa de Menorca de l’arxiduc Lluís Salvador d’Àustria, avui. Mètode núm. 58, Estiu 2008. Revista de Difusió de la Investigació de la Universitat de València.
- La isla de entonces y la de ahora. Es Diari. Menorca. 29 d’abril de 2006.
- Una muestra compara la Menorca de mediados del siglo XIX con la actual. Ultima hora. Menorca. 30 de abril de 2006.
Lluc Julià Fàbregues is a content designer. He started the project “The Balearic Islands, before and after” in 2002 as a result of his concern to create tools to become aware, in an engaging and understandable way, of the effect of man’s imprint on his own environment.