When you’ve had your fill of custard tarts and put the finishing touches to your tan, what better way to spend an afternoon than soaking up some of Lisbon’s artistic attractions? The collection of oil magnate and art collector Calouste Gulbenkian spans centuries, cultures, nations and artistic mediums and is, shall we say, comprehensive, totalling over 6,000 pieces in all. About a sixth of the collection is currently on display in the Gulbenkian’s permanent exhibition, but as that’s still over 1,000 pieces, we’ve selected some of our favourites to search out on your next visit. From Ruben’s famous portrait of Helena Fourment to ornamental jewellery by René Lalique and even an ancient Egyptian funerary mask, here are our top 10 things to see at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian.
Portrait of Helena Fourment
The only work by Peter Paul Rubens on display at the Gulbenkian, the striking Portrait of Helena Fourment depicts the artist’s second wife. Said to be one of Calouste Gulbenkian’s favourite pieces, this is definitely one to add to the itinerary.
“Dragonfly” Brooch by René Lalique
The museum has an entire collection devoted to the beautiful work of René Lalique, but his “Dragonfly” brooch has to be one of his most eye-catching creations. Presented at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition, the brooch is a sparkling hybridisation of woman and insect, made of gold, enamel, moonstones and diamonds.
Discovered in Aboukir in Egypt in 1902, no one knows what this “medallion”, and the other 20 found alongside it, were used for, but it’s thought that the iconography dates back to one of the immediate successors of Alexander the Great. This medallion shows the head of Alexander on one side, with a hunting scene on the reverse.
The Wreck of a Transport Ship
Turner’s chaotic and tumultuous seascape (c.1810) is indicative of the artist’s power with a paintbrush. A naturalistic scene, The Wreck of a Transport Ship shows a boat being battered and broken apart by fierce waves, as another attempting rescue also fights to stay afloat.
The Book of Hours of Isabel of Brittany
Also known as “The Hours of Lamoignon” (after one of the book’s previous owners), this ornate prayer book was created in Paris between 1420 and 1430, by one of the most revered illuminators in the city. The eponymous Isabel of Brittany was the granddaughter of King Charles VI of France and is depicted in several of the miniatures.