With this article about the Medeiros e Almeida House-Museum we want to draw your attention to this young and discrete, but also surprising museum.
There you can find an eclectic collection of both national and foreign art pieces, of incalculable value, gathered by a great collector that left his collection for everyone’s appreciation.
If you like decorative arts and curious stories then you won’t want to miss this peculiar House-Museum, located in a small palace near Liberdade Avenue in the centre of Lisbon.
The Medeiros e Almeida House-Museum owes its name to António Medeiros e Almeida (1895-1986), a prestigious Portuguese businessman, as well as a well-known international collector of artwork.
From the Azores, but born in Lisbon in Rua do Salitre, he moved at an early age with his parents to Rua Mouzinho da Silveira no.12, a beautiful house projected by the prestigious architect Ventura Terra and decorated by the painter Veloso Salgado, a friend of the family.
His father was a doctor but took part in gatherings of artists. Thus, this proximity and interest for art were from early on a constant in the life of the future collector.
He still attended medical school, but his talent was made for the business world.
His entrepreneurial spirit and his passion for automobiles led him to venture into the importation of Morris automobiles from England to Portugal, when he was still very young. He quickly realised that the cars weren’t tailored for the poor conditions of the national roads so he suggested adjustments to them to the English brand, resulting in large sales.
From then on he went on to work in diverse businesses such as aeronautics and the Azorean industry of sugar… always very successfully.
The Story of the Medeiros e Almeida House-Museum
António Medeiros e Almeida was married since 1924 to Margarida Pinto Basto (1898-1971), with whom he never had kids. In 1943 they moved to a small palace from the expansion period of Liberdade Avenue, in the crossing of Rua Mouzinho da Silveira with Rua Rosa Araújo, very close to his parents’ house.
The first artworks he ever acquired were to decorate his house. However, his passion for collecting quickly scaled due to not only his financial success, but also due to the easier access to the international art market after World War II.
He thus became a famous collector among the antique shops and the European auction houses and in the early 1960s he started transforming his house in a house-museum, with the aim of ensuring the preservation of his valuable collection.
In little time the house needed to be expanded in order to be able to fit such a large quantity and variety of valuable pieces.
For that, in 1968 the architect Alberto Cruz was in charge of not only expanding it but also adapting it to a future museum, following the owner’s orders, who two years later moved to a new house.
The Foundation named after him was created in 1972, ensuring support and continuity to the House-Museum Medeiros e Almeida that became ready two years later but that was only opened to the public in 2001.
The Collection of the House-Museum Medeiros e Almeida
The collection of the House-Museum is divided in two distinct areas: the house of the owners and the new space that resulted from the expansion and adaptation of the house into a museum.
While on the former we find the hall, the dining room with a table set to receive guests, the library and the room, on the latter we find reconstitutions of a harmonious decoration, composed by furniture and other artistic pieces of different times and origins.
Very much opposite to the banker and collector Ricardo do Espírito Santo e Silva (1900-1955) that was focused on the recovery of national art pieces spread across the world, which he gathered and formed a collection of great unity and artistic coherence in the Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts.
Medeiros e Almeida was a collector of eclectic taste both when it comes to typologies and to times and origins. The unity of this collection consists in the constant high quality of the pieces that are part of the collections: watches, porcelain, hand fans, furniture, paintings, textiles, jewellery, boxes…
One of the peculiar aspects of this collection are objects that in addition to their artistic quality, have stories and/or illustrious personalities associated to them, which consequently add value to them. These are the cases of the tea set made of Portuguese silver that belonged to Napoléon Bonaparte during his exile; a porcelain bidet from China that belonged to the royal French family; a pocket watch that has belonged to both general Junot and general Wellington; and of a fireplace from the writer Somerset Maugham’s house.
The storage of the House-Museum Medeiros e Almeida keeps surprises that are revealed as they are discovered and studied. A recent example were the three ushabtis funerary figurines in faience, dated between 380 and 343 BC, which led this museum to be listed in the museums of Lisbon that preserve and exhibit art from Ancient Egypt.
From the collection of religious art, among many other gems, we highlight an Indo-Portuguese polichrome pulpit from the 1st quarter of the 18th century, due to its impactful size and originality. Nowadays it is known that it is originally from the Chapel of Senhora do Monte in Goa, where the remaining pieces that completed the set still are.
We also highlight two curiosities that integrate the collection of silverware: a set of trays and mugs found in Lisbon in the rubble of the earthquake of 1755 and that were engraved with the explanation of this fact; and a set of twelve Aldobrandini Tazze.
These tazze from the 16th century, made of gold silver, were produced in honour of the first Roman Caesars and are constituted by a high foot, a shallow bowl decorated with four scenes of the life of the emperor and a standing figurine of the emperor in the centre.
In the 19th century the bowls and the figurines were inadvertently mixed up. Today they’re spread across museums and private collections and despite the inherent difficulties, the idea of fixing this unusual mistake still stands for the owners.
From the porcelain room, whose collections englobes twenty centuries of terracottas and chinese porcelain, we cannot miss to highlight one piece that is considered to be one of the most important of the House-Museum Medeiros Almeida. It is one of the first European orders, from the 1st half of the 16th century, a wash jug decorated with the armillary sphere, the coat of arms of King Manuel I.
Are these enough reasons for you to visit this fantastic museum? We promise there are many more… 🙂