The Gulbenkian – Lisbon’s Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

The Gulbenkian has One of the Finest Art Collections in Europe:

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Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon..

Popularly known as the Gulbenkian, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is Lisbon’s premier art museum.

The museum is named after Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian oil entrepreneur active in the early 20th century. After making his fortune trading in oil in Turkey, Iran and elsewhere he began to gather an art collection comprised of a wide variety of styles. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Asian and European art all found their way into his rooms.

Later in life he turned his attentions to his beloved Lisbon. The city benefited in several ways, not least of which is the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Though not among the world’s largest museums, the quality of the works on display, spanning 4,000 years of artwork, is second to none. Gulbenkian’s motto was “Only the Best” and this is reflected in the masterpieces in the Museum’s collections.

A magnificent collection that spans the centuries.

In the Egyptian collection resides a famed gold mummy mask that would be the envy of the Metropolitan in New York, itself housing an outstanding wing of ancient artifacts. A well-preserved bowl from 4,000 BC is only one more of the many ancient treasures on display.

Not far away are Greek and Roman coins, statuary and other objects from the ancient world. Even the Getty, with its world famous collection in this category, would give an admiring nod to the Gulbenkian.

Following the geographical and chronological order of the displays is simple and it leads museum visitors gradually into the later eras. The 18th century works are particularly outstanding. Views of Venice from the period by Francesco Guardi compete well with his more famous fellow countryman, Canaletto.

Paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens dot the walls.

Paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens dot the walls. The Dutch master’s Portrait of an Old Man is as exquisite as any one could see in the galleries of Washington, D.C. or the Rijksmuseum. This and a few other works in the collection were bought during the Soviet sale of Hermitage paintings.  The Pallas Athene provides a different look into a variety that Rembrandt is not often given credit for. Ruben’s Portrait of Helen Fourment is not to be missed by any fans of this artist. Further on there are several works by Monet and Renoir.

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Rembrandt, Portrait of an Old Man

Besides paintings there are several other forms of art at the Gulbenkian. The Diana by Houdon is among his best works and was once owned by Catherine the Great. Rodin’s Blessings is also housed here. Then there are the delightful samples of French furniture that rival those found in the Louvre. The Italian and Spanish ceramics that sit on top are equally impressive.

Moving still later toward the modern era there are numerous textiles from the 19th century and beyond. The Art Nouveau jewelry nearby is not only lovely, but are excellent representatives of the style and the era. The Lalique glassware and jewelry, given to Gulbenkian by the artist who was a personal friend, are among the best examples to be found anywhere. Not least is his Dragonfly, which adorns many a book cover.

Gardens that are both beautiful and relaxing.

The exterior of the museum offers gardens that are both beautiful and relaxing, especially in the warm Lisbon air that hints of the sea nearby. To get an overall view of the gardens from above, the cafe balcony provides the best spot.

When Lisbon became Gulbenkian’s home during World War II the city was set to become the fortunate recipient of one of the world’s finest small collections of art. You can reach the Gulbenkian museum via the convenient metro, where you’ll exit at the S. Sebastião or Praça de Espanha Stations.

Address:
Avenida de Berna 45a
1050 Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon Map:

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