Museum Calouste Gulbenkian – Lisbon, Portugal

A Billionaire’s Art Collection in Its Own Museum

When Calouste Gulbenkian, an unashamedly rich Armenian oil tycoon, died in 1955, he bequeathed one of the world’s greatest private art collections to Portugal, which had been his home since WW II.

Art Nouveau jewelry and objets by Gulbenkian’s friend Rene Lalique are some of the highlights of this remarkable collection of more than 6,000 pieces amassed during fifty years of astute and passionate collecting.

Many of these spectacular works were purchased from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg in the 1920s, when the Soviet Union needed hard currency. The collection spans the period from 2700 B.C Egypt to the early 20th century and represents Gulbenkian’s wide inter­ests and deep pockets.

Star works by Ghirlandaio, Rembrandt, Renoir, and Manet are displayed cheek by jowl with countless exquisite objects that captivated this connoisseur’s eye—includ­ing illuminated medieval manuscripts, ancient Greek coins, and Middle Eastern carpets.

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