Calouste Gulbenkian, who long lived in Paris, devoted special attention to French art which occupies a place of honor in the museum. The galleries of the 18th century together paintings of Nicolas de Largillière of Louis-André-Gabriel Bouchet (Cupid and the Three Graces), of Hubert Robert (two studies representing the gardens of Versailles), by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, of Nicolas -Bernard Lépicié, Marc Nattier, Maurice Quentin La Tour, Nicolas Lancret (Galante)as well as a small painting by Antoine Watteau, among others.
There are also sculptures by Jean-Baptiste II Lemoyne, Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, Jean-Jacques Caffieri and Jean-Antoine Houdon, author of the marble statue “Diane”, one of the masterpieces of the collection. We can also admire tapestries from the Gobelins, of Beauvais and Aubusson and a set of furniture eras Regency, Louis XV and Louis XVI created by artists such as Charles Cressent, Jean-François Oeben, Jean- Henri Riesener,Georges Jacob, Martin Carlin and Claude Séné. The collections are also composed of goldsmiths, works of the best French goldsmiths such as François-Thomas Germain, Antoine-Sebastien Durant, Louis-Joseph Lenhendrick, Jacques Roettiers and Henri Auguste as well as porcelains of Sèvres.
The 18th century was also honored in the space specially dedicated to the great Venetian painter Francesco Guardi, with 19 paintings of views (vedute) and “whims” that mix real and imaginary architectures run from 1760 This group, unique in the world, illustrates Venice at the time of its splendor, its opulent festivals and its regattas on the bottom of lagoon or Grand Canal. One of his vedute draws particularly the draft Andrea Palladio for the second bridge over the Rialto.
The European decorative arts section is introduced by 16th tapestries from Flanders and Italy. Outstanding 18th century French works include Gobelins and Aubusson tapestries, very fine sets of furniture and also pieces in silver or gold.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was created in 1956 by the last will and testament of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, a philanthropist of Armenian origin who lived in Lisbon between 1942 and the year of his death, 1955.
Established in perpetuity, the Foundation’s main purpose is to improve the quality of life through art, charity, science and education. The Foundation directs its activities from its headquarters in Lisbon and its delegations in Paris and London, with support provided by Portugal in Portuguese-speaking African Countries (PALOP) and East Timor, as well as in countries with Armenian Communities.
The Foundation has a museum, which houses the Founder’s private collection, alongside a collection of modern and contemporary art; an orchestra and a choir; an art library and archive; a scientific research institute; and a garden, in a central area of the city of Lisbon, where educational activities also take place.
In conjunction with cultural activities, the Foundation fulfils its mission through innovative programmes that develop pilot projects and support, by providing scholarships and grants for other institutions and social organisations.
The building that houses the Founder’s Collection was designed by the architects Ruy Jervis d’Athouguia, Pedro Cid and Alberto Pessoa (1969) to accommodate around six thousand pieces amassed by Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. It is located in the north of the Gulbenkian garden.
The galleries of this building are home to displays of around a thousand pieces divided into groups corresponding to Egyptian art, Greco-Roman art, Mesopotamia, the Islamic Orient, Armenia, the Far East and, where Western art is concerned, sculpture, the art of the book, painting, eighteenth-century French decorative arts, and works by René Lalique. The collection of works by René Lalique, which Calouste Gulbenkian purchased directly from the artist, is considered to be unique in the world for its quality and quantity.