|Robert Hughes, Barcelona: the Great Enchantress:|
The Casa Batllo, on Passeig de Gracia, was not done from scratch. It was a drastic conversion of an existing apartment building from the late 1870s. By the time Gaudi was through with it, little survived of the original except the floor levels, and not all of those either. Jujol and Gaudi produced a new facade, an undulant sheet of mosaic wrapping around the windows (whose framing columns resemble bones) a five story crust of shifting, aqueous color which resembles nothing so much as one of Claude Monet's "Nympheas," those enormous, shimmering paintings of light on water.
It is one of the most exquisite sights in Spain, this jewelbox fantasy of a street wall surmounted by a roof made of what seem to be giant ceramic scales which they are. The facade of Casa Batllo was meant to be read as an homage to Sant Jordi, patron of Barcelona. The scales belong to the dragon he killed, as does the serpentine hump in the roof. The white balconies, pierced with holes for eye sockets, are the skulls of the horrid reptile's victims. The half round tower set in the facade ends in a form like a garlic bulb (Catalans, one should remember, can never get enough garlic) surmounted by a cross. This is St. George's lance, and its tip is inscribed with the holy and efficacious names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.