Pablo Neruda, a self-called “cosista”

Celebrating the legacy of Pablo Neruda, we look back at the things that he loved and collected during his life.

Dranish | Flickr
Dranish | Flickr

Throughout his whole life, Pablo Neruda had the chance to travel to different countries and places in the world, whether as a world famous poet or doing his duty as a consul. It was during these trips that the artist began to collect different objects that caught his attention, due to their beauty or what they made him feel.

In order to appreciate most of the collections of the artist, it is possible to visit the different houses of Neruda that today function as museums; La Sebastiana in Valparaíso, La Chascona in Santiago, and his getaway house in Isla Negra, which holds most of his collections.

When visiting these places it is possible to witness the deep love and respect that the artist had towards the ocean, through the architecture of the constructions or the objects found in them. One of the most interesting collections is the one composed by several boat mascaron; figures that often go on the front part of the ship. He even wrote a poem to one of his favorite figures, María Celeste; who has the unique characteristic of “dropping tears” due to the condensation caused by the chimney over its glass eyes and the wood. Other figures are Medusa, Guillermina, the Victoria mermaid, María Rapa Nui and the Riding Venus.

Other of his prominent collections are the seashells that he gathered throughout his life. Neruda appreciated the simplicity, texture and unique colours that each of these pieces had; for him, each shell represented a door to a underwater world. His first collection was given to the Universidad de Chile, university where he studied, and it had more than 15.000 pieces. There is a second seashell collection formed by over 600 pieces, which is currently under the protection of the Pablo Neruda Foundation.

One of Neruda’s collections that is present in all of his houses are his bottles, from different parts of the world. You can find bottles of different colours, sizes, shapes; some of them have even small boats inside or are shaped as women. But for Neruda nothing was random, he developed an unique way of organizing them; those bottles that were blue were located at the windows, facing the ocean, whereas the brown ones faced the sand or the garden.

His wooden mask collection, and his great admiration towards them, developed during the time that he lived in Africa. The shapes, colours, sizes and uniqueness of them, inspired the author to acquire several pieces from different parts of the world; most of them were Oriental, African or from Easter Island. This collection can be seen at his house in Isla Negra.

His last collection was strongly connected to his interest towards entomology. Placed perfectly in glass boards, Neruda classified a great variety of insects and weird beetles; but had a special and unique place for his butterfly collection; all of them different colours, sizes and origins.

Despite creating the most beautiful and unique collections of objects, Pablo Neruda never considered himself a collector, he liked to call himself a “cosista”, as he explained several times. He only liked to gather things (“cosas” in spanish). Among other special things that he gathered are a tooth of a narwal, a giant oyster, little wooden boats, bells, and of course, thousands of books.

This post is also available in Spanish