Monday, December 23, 2013

73. Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

Today I find my way to the National Museum of Ancient Art. It is located in the Palácio de Alvor-Pombal, a former palace of the Counts of Alvor ( who had their lands confiscated by the crown in 1758 following an attempted assassination of the King for which the Count's family were partly blamed - then executed  - but that's another long and intriguing story - look it up !! ...) .The collections are from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century, with a particular emphasis on artworks from the 15th and 16th centuries. 

My apologies to the Museum and to the artists - but I did not have enough memory on my camera to record the credits of each piece of artwork - so I'm afraid you'll just have to admire the work without knowing who the artisans were ...
The Museum has its roots in the 1833 abolition of religious orders and confiscation of the monasteries in Portugal, which brought a trove of religious art and ornaments into the public sphere. In 1836 the Academia de Bellas Artes ("Academy of Fine Arts") was founded and, although primarily dedicated to nurturing new artists, that same year, the Academia founded the Galeria Nacional de Pintura ("National Gallery of Painting") on the lower levels of the same building, as a subsidiary division to select, care for and display some of the better pieces of the expropriated monastic art then in government storage. An Academia panel selected some 540 paintings for the Galeria. Predictably, most of these were religious-oriented pieces of Portuguese origin.
In the chaos and aftermath of the Portuguese Liberal Wars, some of the private art collections of ruined noble families were expropriated or found their way on to the market. Of particular significance was the painting collection of the disgraced former queen, the late Carlota Joaquina, which was acquired by the Portuguese government and given to the Academia in 1859. The former king Ferdinand II of Portugal, a connoisseur of fine arts, took an interest in the budding organization, secured its royal sponsorship and, in 1865-67, made a series of substantial cash donations, giving the Galeria an independent acquisition budget, enabling it to purchase pieces on the art market.
In 1868 the Galeria's rooms were remodelled into a better exhibition space for its expanding collection and opened to the general public. Nonetheless, the facilities remained inadequate - it was terribly humid, cramped and still traversed by unrelated visitors to the Academia (which had, by now, become something of a social hang-out for dissheveled bohemian artists and students). In 1875, a government commission recommended the founding of a larger and more permanent museum away from the Academia's Chiado building.
In 1881, Academia officer Delfim Guedes rented the 17th-century Palace of Janelas Verdes ("Green Windows"), the former Lisbon residence of the Counts of Alvor that had been seized by the Marquis of Pombal after 1759 and sold to his own brother, who happened to be the Cardinal-Inquisitor Paulo Antonio.
Later the building was sold to the neighbouring Carmelite convent of Santo Alberto, and in 1833, following the dissolution, the palace returned to private hands. The government formally purchased the palace in June, 1884, and recast it as the Museu Nacional de Belas-Artes e Arqueologia ("National Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology"), formally founded on 11 May 1884, to house what where then known as the "Museus Centrais" of the State and placed it under the management of the Academia Real.
Following the republican 1910 revolution the museum's management stopped depending on the Academia Real (now renamed Academia Nacional de Belas Artes). By a decree of 26 May 1911, the collections were split up and two separate and independent museums created - the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga ("National Museum of Ancient Art"), at the Palace of Janelas Verdes, and the Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea" ("National Museum of Contemporary Art") at the old location of the Academia's Galeria at São Francisco da Cidade (since renamed the Chiado Museum - see previous blog post ...).





Whilst at the Museum I also visited a traveling exhibition of Nordic Landscapes from the Prado Museum in Madrid ... images from that exhibition will be another post ...