Calouste Gulbenkian was an Armenia who made his fortune in petroleum. He amassed a fabulous collection of art and decorative arts during his lifetime. He was able to take advantage of many people’s bad luck to add to his collection. His amazing Rembrandt of the old man was originally part of the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, He came to Portugal in 1942 escaping from Paris and looking for a place far away from the ravages of the World conflict, he found it in Lisbon.
This museum is located a little out of the center. There are two museums here, one of modern and contemporary art which appeared to be very popular and the more classical museum. The collection spans ancient times to the Impressionists.
You begin your journey through the museum chronologically. Entrance 4 Euros, audio guide also 4 Euros, the guide is a good one and highlights important pieces in the collection. Some of the items also include more in detail information.
The collection begins in ancient Egypt with items in the first room and moves into the art of Islam and the Far East. The Chinese porcelain collection is outstanding with some of the largest ginger jars I have ever seen and they are gorgeous in a rose medallion pattern.
There is also an outstanding collection of furniture. The highlights are a chest by the French master cabinet maker Boulle. There are also some outstanding tapestries. There is a case filled with Sevres china and some pieces that belonged to the French royal family. There is an entire room of silver that will impress. One of the silver lids was commissioned by the Duc Orleans. There are Aubusson tapestries and much more to keep you enthralled as you walk around.
But what we came to see was the art. It begins with early Flemish works including St Catherine by Rogier Vander Weyden. There are many Guardi paintings of Venice and the 3 Rembrandts. There are also a fine collection of English portraits by Romney, Gainsborough and Lawrence.
The Impressionists are well represented here with several very fine still lives from Fantine Latour and portraits by Manet, Degas, and Mary Cassatt. There is a wonderful painting by John Singer Sergeant. The last room you visit is the Rene Lalique room. It includes some outstanding pieces of Art Deco jewelry pieces with gems and semi precious gems.
There is a gift store on the lower level with a small select group of offerings. This is a shop where the rest rooms are and the cafeteria. This is a great place to have lunch; they offer hot meals, soup, sandwiches, quiche and fresh fruit and dessert. You can eat outdoors on the patio and enjoy the general feel of the location.
There is a small garden in front and on the side of the museum. Taxis are easy to find and inexpensive. This will take about an hour to see and if you add the contemporary museum another hour. On a Saturday it was a very popular place and stays open until 6pm. There is free entrance on Sunday morning.