“…and he is only completely a man when he plays” are the words of the German poet Friedrich Schiller on “The Aesthetic Education of Man” take shape in a museum which is part of a 19th century mansion in Sa Pobla in the north of the Mallorca island. The art and culture rooms of Can Planas give us an insight into the correlation of human playing, culture, and art.
They had to listen and comfort, they were loved and carelessly thrown into a corner until one day they were pushed aside in a box in the attic or in the cellar. I’m talking about teddy bears and dolls, that are brought to life again when a child digs them out of their dark and forgotten corners and begins to play. Or when a grown-up, like Ton Boig Clar, seeks to discover old toys at flea markets, private households, and antique dealers. His collecting passion led to one of the largest and finest toy collections in Europe.
Today there are more than 4,000 objects in Can Planas. The collection includes toys and learning material – today we tend to call this edutainement, a neologism made up from education and entertainment – from the 19th and 20th century.
The exhibits are arranged according to subject: Mechanical toys, sound and musical instruments, board and card games, doll’s houses and fully functional doll’s kitchens, bicycles and tricycles, karts and trains. As the collection is extensive, exhibits are taken out of the museum at times to be rearranged in different groups or various theme collections.
Dwelling houses have been reproduced true to scale and with great effort and love of detail. Many a door of a wardrobe opens to reveal a doll’s house. They offer interior views of Mallorcan houses. Just as in real life the mini-washing is on the line in the attic, the dolls play with their wooden kitties, the sewing-machines chatter along in the garret.
A Mallorcan wedding couple is standing in the living-room, and the bride does not suspect that in the bedroom next door a young ballerina is lolling in front of the bed. Those who so far have only known rocking horses will stand and stare in amazement in Can Planas.
Nurseries used to have rocking donkeys and rocking zebras as well, and big round pink pigs to trail along. And the particularly Spanish version is a bull that has wounds complete with blood streaming down painted upon him – a bull for practicing how to stab the banderillas, spears with a decoration of long coloured ribbons, into the purposely drilled hole in his body.
Playing has always included practicing social norms. In the 1930s Johan Huizinga, expert in cultural studies, invented the term Homo ludens, the playing man. Man develops by playing, training his abilities in the process. Children and adults alike find out about their characteristics and grow by this. Playing means freedom of action and autonomous thinking. Man becomes the person that his playing experiences promote.
Put into simple words we could say: The rocking horse served as a means of education in the early childhood of a squire, the bull for the training of a young torero, and the doll’s kitchen was to prepare the future housewife for her task. Catholic parents could fall back on nun’s dolls or children’s altars with mini-candles as can be seen in the exhibition in Sa Pobla, and Franco followers on rag dolls of the Spanish Falangists – an obviously political version of the “Action Man” in the 1930s.
Playing is always associated with creativity releasing innovations. Thus playing comprises the potential to break up common structures and create something unknown. The connection between play and art – and also science, by the way – is the development of something new. What seems unrelated at first sight, makes sense in the end.
In the art and culture rooms of Can Planas the ground floor is dedicated to Modern Art from the 1970s to the 1990s. Works of Mallorcan and foreign artists that have been living on the island for a long time are exhibited in these light and extensive rooms. Temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists round off the programme. The museum in Sa Pobla is small and familiar, just the right choice for a family excursion. And those who are (still) capable of playing can go straight from the museum to play on the beach.
Toys Museum Sa Pobla
Calle Antoni Maura, 6
07420 Sa Pobla
Tuesdays to Saturdays 10 – 14.00 & 16.00 – 20.00
Sundays/Sonntag 10 – 14.00.