Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Jose Lázaro Galdiano (1862-1947) was a wealthy art collector and with his wife Paula Florido, purchased about 12,600 art pieces and 20,000 books to showcase the most relevant European artists from the Antiquity to the early 20th century.
Today, about 3,000 of these are displayed in the Lázaro Galdiano museum in Madrid hosted in Galdiano’s mansion which interior decoration, hardwood floors and painted ceilings are pieces of art by themselves.
After losing Cuba in 1898, the last piece of a vast Spanish empire, Spaniards turned to the greatness of the past to look for national pride, and Galdiano acquired one of the finest private collections of Spanish masters. The masters of the Spanish golden century are displayed on the walls of the music room, reception area, or Galdiano’s office: El Greco, Ribera, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, as well as masterpieces by Goya.
This avid collector did not stop there, and classic European painters are also honoured in his mansion. The Adolescent Saviour by Boltraffio, one of the most gifted students of Da Vinci gives the museum a Mona Lisa-like painting that had been thought to be executed by the master himself for many years. The Meditation of Saint John the Baptist by Bosch is admired by a few visitors while others contemplate a landscape by Constable.
Beyond paintings, some other rooms showcase weapons, jewellery, fabrics, tableware, coins, sculptures, ceramics… Maybe Galdiano bought some of these fine enamels, from Frick or some of his 20,000 books from Morgan while he was living in New York City? If this is uncertain, what is sure is that these three men had the same delicate taste, passion for the arts, and vast resources they had devoted to gathering some of the finest art collections.
With some high-quality temporary exhibits (like Rembrandt’s delicate etchings on which emotions are shown), the Lázaro Galdiano museum is mostly off the beaten path and surprisingly quiet compared to El Prado or the Thyssen Bornemisza. It makes it a real pleasure to enjoy the art and take in the atmosphere of the mansion: a must-visit in Madrid!
- For more details, check out the website of el Museo Lázaro Galdiano.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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