The UB rescues the figure of Clotilde Cerdà from oblivion

News in brief | 29-09-2020

This is the last week to visit the exhibition “Clotilde Cerdà/Esmeralda Cervantes, una mujer ante una época” in the room 2 in Palau Robert. This is a detailed reconstruction of the life of this extraordinary harpist, composer, writer and activist, who fought for women’s rights and against the exploitation of human’s vulnerability, through photographs, letters and news.

The exhibition, which provoked interest among the audience and the media since its opening on July 21, has been commissioned by À. Lorena Fuster, lecturer of Philosophy and Feminist Theory at the University of Barcelona, and researcher at ADHUC - Research Center for Theory, Gender, Sexuality. The exhibition will be open until Sunday, October 4, and it is the first result of the research project “Clotilde Cerdà’s forgotten legacy/ Esmeralda Cervantes (1861-1926). An international presence in the avant-garde period” (University of Barcelona, in collaboration with Mir-Puig Private Foundation), which rescues the forgotten legacy of Cerdà under the supervision of À. Lorena Fuster.

“What the feminists from the seventies fond out when looking back is that there were many important and distinguished women of the time, but since they are not part of the canons of the time, they have been forgotten –notes Fuster–. The fact that Wagner called Clotilde Cerdà a genius was not enough for her to enter the golden book of music”. In fact, not even Cerdà’s family was aware of the international relevance of her figure.


An activist committed to women’s emancipation and anti-colonialism

Clotilde Cerdà, daughter of the painter Clotilde Bosch and urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, was re-baptized with the artistic name of Esmeralda Cervantes, probably because of a proposal by the queen Isabel II and Victor Hugo. She embodied the idea of a child prodigy for her musical skills playing the harp, although her real interests were not only in this artistic virtue. To understand the relevance of this woman at her time we need to look at her activism at an international scale against exploitation of vulnerability, as well as her ability being a mediator between different environments and people.

Cerdà acted in the best interests committed to women’s emancipation and the redefinition of gender roles, pacifism, anti-slavery, anti-colonialism, children care, and the improvement of work conditions for the female workers in the industry. She was regarded as one of the best harpists in the world, for what she received many honors and awards from high political and artistic institutions in several continents.

Thanks to the reputation she got for her musical virtues and charming personality, she could launch the edition of international journals (L'Etoile Polaire/La Estrella Polar and El Ángel del Hogar), and in particular, she could carry out an intense philanthropist activity: she promoted and founded institutions in both sides of the Atlantic, such as the Acadèmia de les ciènces, arts i oficis per la dona, with its headquarters in Les Rambles 10, and the Asilos Internacionales de Lactancia in Belém de Pará (Brazil). Also, she was the patron to many cultural, professional and political associations and gave many charity concerts while she also carried out diplomacy tasks in representation of Catalonia, Spain, Turkey and other countries.