Lázaro Galdiano Museum, Madrid, Spain

The Museum of Lázaro Galdiano is a museum located in Madrid, Spain. It houses the art collection of José Lázaro Galdiano.

The Lázaro Galdiano Museum, located in Madrid (Spain), is a state museum of private origin, which houses a wide and heterogeneous collection, formed with encyclopedic interest in all the arts and techniques. This exceptional set of 12,600 pieces was brought together by the publisher José Lázaro Galdiano, who died in 1947 and left the Spanish state together with his Madrid residence, the headquarters of his publishing house La España Moderna and a library of 20,000 volumes.

The palatial building was constructed in 1903 as the residence of Lázaro Galdiano and his wife and is set within grounds that also hold the library containing Galdiano’s important collection of incunabula and manuscripts. The conversion to a museum has respected the original interiors, which feature elaborate baroque painted ceilings commissioned by Galdiano, and the building was declared Bien de Interés Cultural in 1962.

The museum contains important collections of valuable works from the prehistoric period to the nineteenth century, with a focus on Iberian work. Major categories include jewellery, small bronzes, both ecclesiastical and domestic silver, ceramics, carved ivory, and numismatics. Objects come not only from Iberia but also from major centers of medieval artistry, including Limoges and Egypt. While the Renaissance is especially well represented, the collection features important early medieval objects, including Visigothic work, and works crafted by Iberia’s ancient Celtic culture.

On display at the Lázaro Galdiano Museum is a large part of the private collection of José Lázaro Galdiano bequeathed to the Spanish State. The Lázaro Galdiano Foundation was established by the government in 1948. As well as administering directing the museum itself, the Foundation manages an important library, an archive, a study room containing prints and drawings and also edits the prestigious arts magazine “Goya”.

The art collection includes an excellent picture gallery, which is essential to the history of Spanish art and within which the work of Francisco de Goya stands out. Important European paintings are also included and are complemented by sculptures and decorative arts, dating from the 6th century BC up to the first half of the 20th century.

The conceptual display on the ground floor offers the key to understanding the collection, its origins and its importance in the history of art, and what is more, to take an aesthetic stroll amongst its most attractive pieces. The first floor is dedicated to Spanish art, the second floor to the European schools. On the third floor, a study gallery has been set up, holding the majority of the pieces from the collection, consisting of some thirteen thousand objects.

Among his most valuable works of art are the set of paintings, drawings and engravings by Goya, with pieces known worldwide. There are also relevant examples of El Bosco, Lucas Cranach the Elder, El Greco, Murillo, Zurbarán and Luis Paret, as well as a miniature parchment of Giulio Clovio and two statuettes of Giambologna. But possibly the most singular work of the museum is the painting on table El Salvador joven, from the circle of Leonardo da Vinci.

It also has a small set of British painting, a school very rare in Spain; In fact Lázaro Galdiano and Prado were (until the opening of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum) the only two Spanish museums with a significant collection. It includes examples of Lely (the only one of the seventeenth century, the others are from the eighteenth), Constable, Reynolds and Romney, plus a portrait of the American Gilbert Stuart.

The museum was completely renovated between the years 2001-2004, in order to make the visit more comfortable and focused on the pieces of the highest quality. There are four floors open to the public, entirely renovated respecting the original ceilings and carpentries.

Especially valuable is the painting collection, which includes relevant pieces of great Spanish and European masters between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. A methodical study of the collection has been scrutinizing the most dubious attributions, which meant discarding several flashy, such as that of a young Savior who in the life of Lázaro Galdiano was assigned to Leonardo da Vinci. Although not original, it is very relevant and now some experts attribute it to a painter close to him, such as Boltraffio (attribution in the explanatory chart of the work in the Museum) or Marco d’Oggiono, who was adjudicated in The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition: a painter at the Milan court for which he was loaned to the National Gallery in London in autumn.3 The names of Pseudo Boltraffio (painter active in Milan at the beginning of the 16th century) Ambrogio of Predis. It is the best Leonardesque work preserved in Spain and its high quality makes it highly demanded for exhibitions in other institutions, such as the one mentioned in the National Gallery or the one in three venues (Mantua, Padua and Verona), was held in Italy on Andrea Mantegna and its epoch (Mantua, Tea Palace, November 2006 to January 2007).

Important paintings of the Spanish school of the sixteenth century are a portrait of Dona Ana de Austria by Sánchez Coello, and two works by El Greco: an Adoration of the Magi of his Venetian stage and a San Francisco in ecstasy of his first stage in Toledo. You can also see a Noli me tangere painted by his son Jorge Manuel Theotocopuli.

The Spanish painting of the seventeenth century has more examples: the Countess of Monterrey by Juan Carreño de Miranda, a magnificent San Diego de Alcala de Zurbarán, Santa Rosa de Lima de Murillo, and examples of Claudio Coello, Mateo Cerezo, Juan Martín Cabezalero, Alonso del Arco, José Antolínez, Francisco Rizi … From the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the famous Shop of the antiquary Geniani de Paret, and authors such as Agustín Esteve, Zacarías González Velázquez, Alenza, Eugenio Lucas, Vicente López and Federico de Madrazo (Portrait of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda).

A Pedro Berruguete Self-portrait continues to receive divergent opinions from critics regarding his authorship. It is surpassed by several Spanish Gothic tablets that Lázaro collected at a low price when they were despised as “barbarian art”. It was a collector’s facet that brought him criticism, exchanged in praise decades later, when Spanish medieval art was gaining esteem. Some expert said then that in this plot of art, the Lázaro Galdiano Collection surpassed the Prado. Today it has works by artists such as Miguel Ximénez, Diego de la Cruz, a triptych signed by Juan de Sevilla or the famous Virgin of Mosén Esperandeu de Santa Fe de Blasco de Grañén or Maestro de Lanaja, unique example of the author conserved In a museum in Madrid.

The group of works of Goya alone would be enough to open a small monographic museum. They stand out: The Bruges and the coven of 1798, a Burial of Christ painted for the private oratory of the Counts of Sobradiel in Saragossa and a penitent Magdalena of its youthful stage. Also it owns the small canvas Threshing, reduced model for the famous carton of tapestry The era (Museum of the Prado), as well as several engravings in very rare editions, drawings or letters autographs.

From the foreign schools the Flemish and the Netherlands stand out, with two tables by Adriaen Isenbrandt, an interesting Virgin with the child of Ambrosius Benson and another by the Master of the Golden Foliage, as well as one of the rare preserved paintings of Michel Sittow (La Virgin with Child and St. Bernard) and various works attributed to Hans Memling and Quentin Massys. A San Juan Bautista in meditation has been unanimously recognized as a safe original of the Bosco and figured as such in the anthological exhibition that the Prado dedicated to the artist in 2016. There are also several portraits of Antonio Moro, Joos Van Cleve and Bernard Van Orley, two triptych wings attributed to Marten de Vos (portraits of Martín Rodríguez de Arbieto and his wife Catalina as donors), Archduke Leopoldo Guillermo in his painting cabinet of David Teniers the Younger and a great Virgin with the Child of Erasmus Quellinus II, among many other masterpieces. A portrait of Saskia attributed to Rembrandt was discarded as a copy, although the museum has two female effigies of the Baroque Holland painted by Nicolaes Maes and Ludolf de Jongh.

Italian painting includes a Sagrada Familia by Giulio Clovio (miniature made for King Charles I of Spain), a monumental Baptism of Christ attributed to Orazio Samacchini, a Stigmatization of St. Francis of Assisi by Jacopo da Empoli, and the splendid San Lorenzo Of Bernardo Cavallino, masterpiece of the Neapolitan author (for the collection of Italian baroque painting can be seen annex: Italian painting of the Baroque in the public collections of Madrid). There are also eighteenth-century masters such as Alessandro Magnasco, Gregorio de Ferrari, and Lorenzo Tiepolo, of whom there is a great representation of male and female portraits.

Relatively numerous is the representation of British painting, very scarce in Spain, with works by Lely, Reynolds, Constable, Romney, etc. Their presence in the collection is due to the personal taste of the wife of Lázaro Galdiano, the Argentine Paula Florido. Most of these works were acquired in the first decade of the 20th century at the Galerie Sedelmeyer in Paris. It should also be mentioned the table El Niño Jesus and St. John of Lucas Cranach the Elder and a Calvary attributed to his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger, as well as a Portrait of Man of Ulrich Apt formerly attributed to Hans von Kulmbach, an effigy of Carlos III painted by Mengs and an allegorical scene attributed to the French Charles-François de la Traverse, one of the few French examples that are preserved in the museum that is not anonymous.

It also highlights the rich collection of painted miniature illuminations, which rivals that of the Prado; Including the aforementioned of Clovio and Giovanni Castello and Juan de Salazar. Also worthy of mention is a portrait of George Washington, based on a famous portrait of Gilbert Stuart, and another effigy of the I Duke of Fernan-Nunez painted by Jean-Baptiste Isabey.

On the other hand, it is very remarkable both by number and quality, the vast collection of Spanish painting of the nineteenth century. Among the collected pieces are the works by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez, as well as Eugenio Lucas Villaamil’s son, and those of Leonardo Alenza and Federico de Madrazo.

Sculpture and decorative arts:
The sculpture background is smaller, although it has unique pieces such as a Christ tied to the marble column of the Italian Michelangelo Naccherino, a full-size life-size statue. One must mention a Roman bust of Lucio Vero of the second century, two saints evangelists fused by Giambologna, Madonna Cernazai, by Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino, who belonged to the magnate William Randolph Hearst, and terracotta sculptures by Venancio Vallmitjana and the French Carpeaux .

The enamels are one of the great attractions of the museum. The collection has very valuable and rare specimens, from some Byzantine alveolates on 10th century gold, to gray of Limoges from the 16th century. Also notable is the collection of ivories, which include several Arab and Byzantine coffers, a Burgundian Virgin from the 12th century, another French Gothic from the XIV, as well as diptychs from the Paris school and from medieval Italian altars.

The jewels have a multiple representation of Hellenistic and Roman works, Arab, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque and romantic. Very important for the diversity of types is the set of bronzes of Antiquity, of the Middle Ages and, in great abundance, Italians of the Renaissance. There are also numerous and select samples of religious jewelry of all styles. The medal fund includes examples of Pisanello, Pompeo Leoni, Jacome da Trezzo and other masters of the genre. It is displayed on the top floor of the museum, enabled as a visitable warehouse.

There are also valuable pieces of ceramics, Italian and Spanish from different times, as well as Greek amphoras and oriental porcelain. Also worthy of mention are the ancient Italian and Arab textiles and the collection of weapons with a rich sample of swords, presided over by the stock that Pope Innocent VIII gave to Íñigo López de Mendoza and Quiñones, second Count of Tendilla. Fans and jewelry are also exhibited by the wife of Lázaro Galdiano. All this forms one of the most important displays of sumptuous arts that can be contemplated in Spain.

In the former headquarters of the publishing house La España Moderna, annexed to the museum, the archives of José Lázaro Galdiano, with incunables and manuscripts of incalculable value, are kept in custody. It emphasizes the original manuscript of the true portraits … with effigies drawn by Francisco Pacheco.

The site is endowed with lush gardens, with centuries-old trees, which make up an unusual corner for its tranquility in an area as busy as the Salamanca neighborhood.

The Collector
José Lázaro y Galdiano (Beire, Navarre 1862-Madrid 1947) was an editor, a bibliophile and art collector. He had studied law at Valladolid, Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela and initiated a career in journalism. He began as an art critic and chronicle writer for the Barcelona based newspaper “La Vanguardia”. When he moved to Madrid, at the end of 1888, he founded his very own editorial company, named La España Moderna, and started his art collection, which had already become important by the end of the 19th century.

In Rome, 1903, he married an Argentine lady by the name of Paula Florido y Toledo (1856-1932). The following year the newly married couple embarked upon the project of the construction of the “Parque Florido” palace, the museum in which Lázaro would shelter his collection, which was becoming ever more enriched by continuous purchases that were made by Lázaro with the financial support of his wife.

The outbreak of the civil war forced Lázaro to abandon Spain. He left for Paris, where he resided and formed a new collection. In 1940 he moved on to the United States, continuing there his purchase of art pieces. In 1945 Lázaro returned to Madrid and began to install all those pieces acquired in Paris and New York into the Parque Florido palace, alongside his former possessions. Thereby, he had formed what is probably the greatest private art collection of Spain.