The first circuit highlights Greco-Roman art from classical antiquity, as well as art from the ancient Near East and the Nile Valley. Among the artworks are ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian, and Armenian pieces, as well as Persian art from the Islamic period.
The works in the first room bear witness to different historical and artistic moments of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. Egyptian art is represented in particular by a rich collection of polychrome statues and funerary statues, a solar boat bronze (Djedher) of the 15th dynasty and a mask mummy gilded silver. Testimonies of Mesopotamian art and Greco-Roman, and in particular a selection of Greek coins and medallions of Aboukir followed by a monumental Assyrian bas-relief in alabaster from the palace of Nimrud (9th century BC.), are exposed in the next gallery. One can also admire a female head in white marble attributed to the Greek sculptor Phidias (5th century BC.).
This group of varied pieces documents the artistic periods that most marked Egyptian civilisation from the Old Empire to the Roman Era.
This group has an extraordinary collection of Greek coins and medallions that are part of the treasure found in Abuquir, Egypt in 1902, as well as sculptures, ceramics, glass, jewellery and gems.
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.