Even in the midst of the civil war, the people of Republican Spain still found time to enjoy cultural events and celebrations. Such events would have been crucial to keeping morale high. This 1937 poster is advertising a village ball to occur in Barcelona. The celebration would have been well timed since Barcelona increasingly became subject to aerial bombardment by the Nationalists as they drew nearer to the city.
This poster is also an expression of Catalan regional identity. What is depicted in the poster is a performer from a cobla ensemble, in the foreground, and a group of people dancing the sardane or sardana in the background. Sardana is a traditional communal dance that reflects the fierce national consciousness and independence in the region of Catalonian. It is believed to be based on a similar older dance the contrapás and was probably developed in the nineteenth century. The dance is performed by men and women, who alternatively join hands in a closed circle. The leader of the circle determines the steps of the dance and communicates the steps to other dancers through a hand squeeze that is passed around the circle.
The musician pictured here is the leader of the cobla ensemble as indicated by his instruments, the pipe or fluviol and tabor. The pipe is a type of shawm and a pre-cursor to the oboe that is believed to have originally been introduced to Europeans during the Crusades. A tenora, a larger shawm in the same family as the leader's pipe, protrudes into the frame. A typical cobla ensemble has approximately eleven members with many of them playing some type of woodwind or brass instrument. Here, the ensemble is accompanying the sardana dancers in the background. The musicians outfit was the standard uniform for the member of a cobla ensemble. The artist may have chosen to accent the musician's red cap to reflect the revolutionary character of the political culture in Barcelona at the time.
The artist is Ricard Fábregas (1906-1947). Little is known about Fábregas except that he created posters for the Generalitat de Cataluña during the Spanish Civil War.