The history of the Lázaro Galdiano Museum

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Museo Lázaro Galdiano

The history of the Lázaro Galdiano Museum

The Lázaro Galdiano Museum opened its doors to the public on the 27th January 1951. Emilio Camps Cazorla (1903-1952) had carried out the inventory of the collection in line with the wishes of José Lázaro Galdiano, who wanted his collection to be both educative and enjoyable for future generations.

The richness and eclecticism of the collection, and the way in which it was exhibited, was a great surprise to the general public and to art professionals alike. Jose Camón Aznar (1898-1979), the first director of the foundation and museum, and Fernando Chueca Goitia (1911-2004), the architect in charge of the renovation of the Parque Florido villa, worked brilliantly together to create the perfect exhibition space for the time. Despite occupying four floors of the old house, they did not set out to recreate the house as it had been, but rather to exhibit the collection according to different themes. Therefore, apart from the first floor, two rooms on the second and one on the third floor that were all kept as they were, the layout of the house was changed radically to showcase the many pieces in an effective, secure way, whilst maintaining the feeling of a private house.

First Phase

During the museum’s first phase (1951-2001) the ground floor displayed archaeological treasures and decorative arts (silver, enamel, jewellery, bronzes, ivory objects) together with a selection of works of the Italian school. The first floor was devoted to Spanish and European painting from the 15th to the 19th centuries, and had an armoury next to the former main entrance of the house. On the second floor paintings from different European schools dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries were on display, as were the Goya paintings and an impressive collection of watches. The top floor housed a selection of medals, coins, weapons and textiles, which closed a few years before the temporary closure of the museum in 2001.

The difference between the rooms of the museum before and after the renovations

Second Phase

Half a century after its initial opening the building, and the collection itself, were showing signs of wear and tear. Neither of them had undergone any form of refurbishment during this time. For this reason the director of the foundation at the time, Araceli Pereda Alonso, created an ambitious plan first to restore the part of the building in which the library, offices and the auditorium were located, and later to the renovate the entire building. This complex project was carried out by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport between January 2001 and the 13th February 2004, the date on which the museum was open to the public once again.

Fernando Borrego led the architectural part of the renovations, while Jesús Moreno and Associates took on the restoration of the collection. Letizia Arbeteta Mira, the new director of the foundation at that time, was in charge of the total overhaul of the technical installations of the building as well as selecting the pieces of art for display and its layout. An important innovation in this respect was the inclusion of information about the collector himself, which had previously not been included. Quality and not quantity was the focus during the selection process of the works for display, and it followed guidelines set out by the new catalogues of the collection, which had been written by leading specialists. The new installations also integrated the technical aspects required for the proper conservation of the works of art (temperature, humidity, lighting) and the necessary secutiry (windows, surveillance cameras or alarms). The team also worked hard to ensure that all visitors could access the different spaces of the museum.

The Lázaro Galdiano Museum today

The museum has a total of 4,820 pieces of art on display, distributed on four floors of the museum. The pieces are logically laid out and displayed with lots of information about the collection and the particular rooms in which they are in, helping the visitor to fully enjoy the richness and variety of the museum.

Plantas baja y primera del Museo Lázaro Galdiano. Sala I, Cámara del Tesoro y Salón de baile

The ground floor of the house used to be the servants area. It shows the many sides of José Lázaro, including his role as an art collector, an admirer of Goya, an editor, and an renowned bibliophile. It also defines the cornerstones of his collection: his commitment to Spanish art, the art he brought to Spain from Europe, and his passion for beauty. The ground floor also has a dazzling treasure chamber, which holds one of the finest collections of silverware in Europe and a jewellery collection dating from the 3rd century BC to the late 19th century. On this floor you will also find other key works of the collection, including works by Teniers, Mateo Cerezo, Lucas, Juan Hispalense, Sittow, Mengs, El Greco, Zurbarán, Cabezalero, Sánchez Coello, Reynolds, Walskappelle and Bosschaert. There are also unique pieces such as the Tartessic Jug, the Aldobrandini cup and the Tendilla sword.

The original décor and layout of the rooms on the first floor remain as they were: the painted ceilings by Eugenio Lucas Villamil, the marble pedestals, the wood and stucco detailing and the magnificent inlaid floors. The museum’s collection of Spanish art (from the 15th – 19th centuries) is on display in these nine rooms, including painting, sculpture, furniture and decorative arts. The pieces that particularly stand out are the collection of wooden panels (works by Blasco de Grañén, García del Barco, the Maestro of Parral and the Maestro of Astorga); the collection of silver and gold objects (mainly religious pieces of the Castilian, Aragonese and Valencian schools); paintings from the 16th century, (by El Greco and Sofonisba Anguissola); paintings from the 17th century (by Velázquez, Zurbarán, Ribera, Pereda, Murillo, Carreño, Claudio Coello, Antolínez and Rizi); paintings from the 18th century (by Meléndez, Bayeu, Inza and Paret); works from the first half of the 19th century (by Agustín Esteve, Zacarías González Velázquez, Vicente López, Federico Madrazo, Antonio Esquivel, Leonardo Alenza, and Eugenio Lucas); and the fantastic collection of paintings by Goya, including Witches’ Sabbath and The Spell, amongst others.

Plantas segunda y tercera del Museo Lázaro Galdiano

The second floor, which was formerly the private area of the house, was greatly transformed in the mid 20th century. Now there is a selection of works by major European schools on display such as the Italian, Flemish, German, Dutch, French and English scools. Although there are many paintings here (including works by Boltraffio, Samacchini, Clovio, Cavallino, Van Dornicke, Benson, Isenbrandt, Van Orley, Van Cleve, Bosch, Quellinus, Teniers, Cranach, Maes, Roepel, Lely, Constable, Romney and Stuart), the bronzes, enamels, watches, furniture collection, ceramics and silverware are also of great interest. We also have a selection of illuminated manuscripts and the most important collection of small portraits and miniatures in the country, and one of the most important in Europe.

The third floor houses our "Collector's Cabinet", displaying part of the collection in a novel and interactive way. The weapons, textiles, coins, ironwork and medals are all displayed in cabinets and drawers which the visitor can open to examine more closely. Here we also have pieces from the collections on the other floors on display, such as ivory objects, ceramics, silver, enamel, glass, sculptures, bronzes, seals and stamps. Of particular note are the collection of textiles, weapons and coins on this floor.

Exhibitions with pieces from the collection

Apart from lending some of our works of art to other national and international institutions, the museum has also organised exhibitions made up exclusively of works from our collection. From 1959 – 2012 these include:

  • Lázaro Galdiano Foundation. Exhibition of drawings (Madrid, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, 8th November de 1959 - ?)
  • ‘Arqueología en la Colección Lázaro Galdiano’ (Fundación Santillana. Santillana del Mar, 20th February– 4th April 1999)
  • ‘Goya: coetáneos y seguidores. Pinturas, dibujos y estampas de la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano’ (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Chile: 31st October 2000 – 14th January 2001)
  • ‘Obras maestras de la Colección Lázaro Galdiano’ (Fundación Santander Central Hispano, Madrid. 16th September 2002 – 9th February 2003)
  • ‘El arte de la joyería en la Colección Lázaro Galdiano’ (Caja Segovia. Torreón de Lozoya, 10th February – 21st April 2003)
  • ‘Grandes maestros del Museo Lázaro Galdiano’ (Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza. La Coruña, 14th October 2003 – 7th January 2004)
  • ‘Goya y lo goyesco en la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano’ (Caja Segovia. Torreón de Lozoya, 16th June – 31st August 2003)
  • ‘Maestros de la pintura española en la Colección Lázaro Galdiano (Fundación Caja Navarra. Archivo General de Navarra, Pamplona, 18th December 2003 – 15th January 2004)
  • ‘El capricho en el arte: los cinco sentidos (Fundación Bancaja. Casa Garcerán, Segorbe, 22nd April – 23rd May 2004 / Glorieta de Sagunto, 1st June – 4th July 2004)
  • ‘Goya: imaginación romántica y disparates en la Fundación Lázaro Galdiano (Fundación Caja Navarra. Sala de Cultura Castillo de Maya, Pamplona, 21st April – 5th June 2005)
  • ‘Arte, lujo y sociabilidad. La colección de abanicos de Paula Florido (Fundación Lázaro Galdiano. 25th May – 16th August 2009)
  • Eugenio Lucas Velázquez. Eugenio Lucas Villamil. Colección Lázaro (Caja Segovia. Torreón de Lozoya, 27th June – 4th November 2012)
The Lázaro museum: a centre for art collection

Last but not least, in recent years the foundation has become a point of reference for art collection, as specified so clearly in the foundation’s strategy: “The Lázaro Museum: a centre for art collection”. This has been reflected in the following projects:

  • ‘¿Qué hace esto aquí? Arte contemporáneo de la Fundación María José Jove en el Museo Lázaro Galdiano’ (Lázaro Galdiano Museum, 7th April – 20th June 2011)
  • ‘Coleccionismo al cuadrado. La colección de Leandro Navarro en el Museo Lázaro Galdiano’ (18th October 2012 – 7th January 2013)
  • ‘Bernardí Roig. El coleccionista de obsesiones’ (Lázaro Galdiano Museum, 25th January– 20th May 2013)
  • La colección de Alicia Aza en el Museo Lázaro Galdiano (Lázaro Galdiano Foundation, 6th March – 7th April 2013).

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