The Cambó legacy, National Art Museum of Catalonia

The Cambó legacy is a collection of paintings with their own identity that embraces the history of European painting from the 14th century until the beginning of the 19th century and is permanently exhibited in the rooms of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The de Francesc Cambo is an example of collecting scheduled reflects more than just taste and personal satisfaction is a collector that aims to bring together works of the great masters to complete the series of medieval MNAC.

The Cambó Legacy is a collection of works from the particular collection of the Catalan politician and patron Francesc Cambó, of significant importance, as he integrates European painting from the fourteenth century to the early nineteenth. It is the most selfless contribution of the highest value that the MNAC has received throughout its history and which has enriched the Renaissance and Baroque collections more. Artistic movements are represented as diverse as the Italian Quattrocento and the masters of the Cinquecento, such as Sebastiano del Piombo or Titian, passing through the Spanish painting of the Golden Age to the rococo.

It is a repertoire with its own identity that embraces the history of European painting from the fourteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century. These are works that mark the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance, which speak of the perfection of the Italian Quattrocento, the sensuality of the great Venetian masters of the Cinquecento, the economic boom of the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, without forgetting the greatness of the Century Spanish gold, until reaching the fullness of the European rococo. Out of the artists represented at the MNAC thanks to this magnificent collection, names of universal relevance stand out, such as Sebastiano del Piombo, Tiziano Vecellio and Giandomenico Tiepolo, great painters, all from Italy; Peter Paulus Rubens and Lucas Cranach, exponents of Flemish school art; Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Maurice Quentin de la Tour, who represent the French Rococo, and finally Francisco de Goya, the renewing genius who closes the chronological arc that embraces the Cambodian Legacy.

In Catalonia after modernism the concept of classic with the noucentisme is recovered. It is a time of worship of Romanesque and Gothic.

The National Palace made by the International Exhibition of Barcelona in 1929 becomes the headquarters of the Art Museum of Catalonia, a museum containing the Romanesque and some Picasso. Between the Romanesque and the avant-garde there was nothing reborn or baroque. Francesc Cambó wanted to fill the void.

This collection was formed in only 10 years and ended abruptly in 1936 without completing the planned. This was a planned collection, wanted to fill a void. In Chapter 24 of the Memoirs the Cambó himself writes:

“It arose in me the desire to equip the city of Barcelona with a museum of Renaissance works”
– Francesc Cambó

Indeed, Cambó wanted to link the Romanesque and Gothic collections with the collection of Modern Art.

Some of the paintings were meant to be kept others had been bought to be exchanged or as currency for other pieces. Not being able to close the project was a collection possibly uneven or uneven but in any case of extraordinary quality.

The acquisition and the ups and downs of some wartime works fill a very long anecdote that can be found both in the catalog published by the MNAC and in the Memorias themselves or in the Meditaciones de Cambó.

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Initially it was a set of 60 works that Cambó bought to complete his collection. Some stayed in Paris, others in Switzerland. Several circulated separately, until one day Cambó allocated 7 works to the Prado Museum and 50 to Barcelona, which he left in the hands of his testamentary executors. A work was also donated to the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland, in gratitude for the fact that during the war they agreed to keep the entire collection at no charge.

He also gave a picture to the Capuchin of Sarrià, a Botticelli to his daughter, as well as a Zurbarán to his lawyer.

1991 – Prado Museum, Madrid
1991 – Room Sant Jaume of the Caixa de Barcelona Foundation.
Exhibition commemorating
In 1997, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the politician and patron Francesc Cambó (1876-1947), the MNAC presented a collection of paintings that the patricio bequeathed to the museum. This collection constitutes the largest contribution of the Renaissance and Baroque works in Catalonia. There are European works from three hundred to seven hundred, with such significant names as Francesco del Cossa, Quinten Metsys, Lucas Cranach, Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo, Tintoretto, Rubens, Zurbarán, Tiepolo, Quentin de La Tour, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Francisco de Goya. Apart from the cataloging of the Cambó legacy, it is classified into several sections (Italian, Spanish, Germanic, Flemish and Dutch, French and English). A book was also published analyzing the figure of the Catalan patrician through a biographical note signed by his daughter, and which was supplemented with a bibliography.

These are a series of works that mark the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance, which speak of the perfection of the art of the various schools of the Italian Quattrocento, of the sensuality of the painting of the great Venetian masters of the Cinquecento, of the moralizing satire indebted to the Reformation, to the economic boom of the Netherlands in the 17th century, and to the grandeur of the Spanish Golden Age, and which reach the fullness of the Rococo, both Venetian and French, to close the artistic discourse with the renewal genius of Francisco de Goya.


Sebastiano del Piombo – Vittoria Colonna
Tiziano Vecellio and workshop – Woman in front of the mirror
Giandomenico Tiepolo – The charlatan
Pieter Paul Rubens – Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John
Lucas Cranach, “the Old Man” – Uneven loving couple
Jean-Honoré Fragonard – Jean-Claude Richard, the abbot of Saint-Non, dressed in Spanish
Francisco de Goya – Allegory of love (Cupid and Psyche)

National Art Museum of Catalonia
The National Art Museum of Catalonia, also known by its acronym MNAC, is a museum of art in the city of Barcelona which brings together all the arts whose mission is to preserve and exhibit the collection of Catalan art ‘s most important world, showing everything from Romanesque to the present. Its current director is Josep Serra.

The MNAC is a consortium with its own legal personality constituted by the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Barcelona City Council and the General State Administration. In addition to the public administrations, individuals and private entities collaborating with the administration are represented on the museum’s board of trustees.

The main headquarters are located in the National Palace of Montjuïc, opened in 1929 on the occasion of the International Exhibition. Three other institutions are also part of the museum as a whole: the Víctor Balaguer Museum Library in Vilanova i la Geltrú, the Garrotxa Museum in Olot and the Cau Ferrat Museum in Sitges, whose management is independent and its ownership is based on the respective councils.