"Only the Best": Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum - Lisboa,Portugal
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member manchanegra
N 38° 44.268 W 009° 09.234
29S E 486624 N 4287691
Quick Description: The Gulbenkian Museum is one of the best art Museums of Portugal if not the best.
Location: Lisboa, Portugal
Date Posted: 11/21/2011 5:27:28 AM
Waymark Code: WMD5BC
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member lumbricus
Views: 7

Long Description:
It all started with the passion of a men for art. That man? Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian.

Calouste Gulbenkian revealed his passion for art at an early age. This reflected his origins in Cappadocia--a major crossroads of religions and art--and Constantinople--another crossroads of civilizations and the capital of the Romans, Greeks, and Ottoman Turks. Throughout his life, he 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 (including examples from ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, Babylonia, Armenia, Persia, Islamic Art, Europe, and Japan). His attachment to the pieces that he acquired was so strong that he even called them his "children".

Calouste Gulbenkian's collection of paintings includes works by Bouts, Van de Weyden, Lochner, Cima de Conegliano, Carpaccio, Rubens, Van Dyck, Frans Hals, Rembrandt, Guardi, Gainsborough, Romney, Lawrence, Fragonard, Corot, Renoir, Nattier, Boucher, Manet, Degas and Monet. A favourite sculpture of his was the marble original of Houdon's famous Diana, which had belonged to Catherine of Russia and which Gulbenkian purchased from the Hermitage Museum in 1930.

The collection grew over the years. The Paris collection was divided for security reasons and part was sent to London. In 1936, the collection of Egyptian art was entrusted to the care of the British Museum while the finest paintings went to the National Gallery. Later, in 1948 and 1950, the same works would be sent on to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

As his collection grew, Gulbenkian grew more concerned about how to preserve his achievement but also how to avoid paying taxes on his legacy. In 1937 he started discussions with Kenneth Clark, who had advised him in assembling his collection, about a “Gulbenkian Institute” at the National Gallery in London. However he was declared an “enemy under the act” by the British Government during the Second World War because he had followed the French Government to Vichy as a member of the Persian diplomatic delegation. The British temporarily confiscated his share of the oil from the Iraq Petroleum Company. Although this was a technical legal decision--and after the war the concession was returned to him with compensation--this action of his adopted country irritated him as he suspected that his partners were using the British Government to squeeze him out of the partnership.

Consequently he then considered the National Gallery of Art in Washington as a potential home for his collection and in 1943 Lord Radcliffe, his British lawyer, became his chief discussion partner and confidante. At the time of his death Gulbenkian does not appear to have decided where he wanted his collection to be housed and finally left it to Radcliffe to decide. However it was clear that Gulbenkian wanted his collection brought together under one roof where people could appreciate what one man could achieve in his lifetime.

After his death, arduous negotiations with the French Government and the National Gallery in Washington ensued. In 1960, the entire collection was brought to Portugal, where it was exhibited at the Palace of the Marquises of Pombal (Oeiras) from 1965 to 1969. 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.

The Collection

The permanent exhibition galleries are distributed in chronological and geographical order to create two independent circuits within the overall tour.

The first circuit highlights Oriental and Classical Art on display in the Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Mesopotamian, Eastern Islamic, Armenian and Far Eastern Art.

The second covers European Art with sections dedicated to the Art of the Book, Sculpture, Painting and the Decorative Arts particularly 18th century French art and the work of René Lalique.

In this circuit a wide-ranging number of pieces reflect various European artistic trends from the beginning of the 11th century to the mid-20th century.

The section begins with work in ivory and illuminated manuscript books, followed by a selection of 15th, 16th and 17th century sculptures and paintings.

Renaissance art produced in Flanders, France and Italy is on display in the next room. French 18th century decorative arts have a special place in the museum with outstanding gold and silver objects and furniture, as well as paintings and sculptures. These decorative arts are followed by galleries exhibiting a group of paintings by the Venetian Francesco Guardi, 18th and 19th century English paintings, and finally a superb collection of jewels and glass by René Lalique, displayed in its own room.

From the Museum website

The Book "Only the Best": Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is a journey across eighty masterpieces in the collection of the Calouste GUlbenkian Museum. The book is richly illustrated in color and described in authoritative texts by the curators of the Gulbenkian Museum. (from Amazon).
It was published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000.
ISBN Number: 9780300086485

Author(s): Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper

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