In the latest post from my three week father/daughter trip to Portugal back in December 2022-January 2023, we return to our final stop, Lisbon (where our journey actually began) and explore a truly eclectic museum, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.
So here’s PART III of a series of photographs from our return to Lisbon (Check out PART I HERE and PART II HERE) as we bypass the hour+ walk and take an Uber about 3 miles north of our home base in Alfama to the Bairro Rego to peruse one of the world’s most important private art collections.
The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum includes works from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century, spanning the arts of the Islamic World, China and Japan, as well as the French decorative arts, the jewelry of René Lalique and some of the most important painters of all time; works such as Rembrandt, Monet, Rubens, Manet, Renoir, Degas and Turner.
Of Armenian origin, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was born in Üsküdar, in Turkey, in the middle of the Ottoman Empire. In 1896, due to the persecution suffered by the Armenian community, Gulbenkian left Turkey with his family. After a brief stint in Cairo, he established himself in London and acquired British nationality. Later, he bought a small palace located on Avenue d’Iéna, in Paris. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Gulbenkian moved to Lisbon, where he stayed until his death in 1955.
“The Spring: Homage to Jean Goujon” by French Art Deco sculptor Alfred-Auguste Janniot
Throughout his life, Gulbenkian assembled an eclectic and unique collection that was influenced by his travels and his personal taste, and sometimes involved lengthy and complex negotiations with the leading experts and specialist dealers. His collection now totals over 6,000 pieces from all over the world and dating from antiquity until the early twentieth century.
As his collection grew, Gulbenkian grew more concerned about how to preserve his achievement but also how to avoid paying taxes on his legacy. He considered the National Gallery in London and then the National Gallery of Art in Washington as potential homes for his collection. Gulbenkian wanted his collection brought together under one roof where people could appreciate what one man could achieve in his lifetime.
“Portrait of a young woman” (c. 1516-1525) by Italian painter Giuliano Bugiardini
At the time of his death, however, a home for his collection had not yet been realized so the decision was left to his British lawyer and confidante, Cyril John Radcliffe. And fourteen years after the death of this illustrious collector, his wish was fulfilled when the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum – specially built to house his collection – opened in Lisbon.
Bronze statue of Cleopatra (1852-1853) by French sculptor Daniel Ducommun de Locle
Images from the “Superstars Pharaohs” exhibition which offers a reflection on Pharaohs and their role as symbols of Ancient Egypt and icons of celebrity.
“The Mirror of Venus” (1877) by English painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones
“Les Bretonnes au Pardon” (Breton Women at a Pardon) (1887) by French painter Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
The museum was designed as a showcase for the collection, which was relatively unique for an art museum at a time when most museums were housed in buildings originally built for other purposes. It is a truly remarkable museum and one well worth a visit. Nuff said.
If you’ve been following this series of photographs from my three week father/daughter trip to Portugal from back in December 2022 – January 2023, you’ll remember that our journey actually began in Lisbon when we arrived in Portugal on December 14th.
We spent our first couple of days in the western Belém district of Lisbon before driving about 45 minutes NW to the city of Sintra. And that’s where the first two weeks of our journey really got started.
We then drove about 40 minutes north, stopping at the majestic Palácio de Mafra before continuing north to the Alcobaça Monastery, up to the city of Coimbra, a 90 minute drive up to the “Second City” of Porto, then north again to the city of Braga. We continued north, crossing the border into Galicia, Spain to spend Christmas with “miña familia galega”.
We then started our journey south, back into Portugal, stopping at the charming city of Guimarães, (The “Birthplace of Portugal”), the Dominican Monastery of Batalha, the medieval Convent of Christ (and Castle) in the city of Tomar before taking about a 90 minute drive back to where this whole journey started (and where it would end), Lisbon.