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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Teles da Gama, MA

A Brief History of Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida in Lisbon

What is Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida?

Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida is a historic house, now hosting a museum established by 20th-century businessman and art collector António de Medeiros e Almeida.

Museu Medeiros e Almeida

Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida History

António de Medeiros e Almeida was born in 1895. His parents were from the Azores, an Atlantic archipelago settled by the Portuguese in the late 15th century; they had lived in Lisbon since an early age. Following in the footsteps of his father, a successful doctor, António enrolled in medical school in Coimbra, a city in central Portugal. Just prior to the completion of his course, however, he abandoned his studies, opting instead for a career in business. While successfully importing Morris cars from England, he acquired a majority stake in Aero Portuguesa – the first national airline operating flights between Portugal and Morocco – and rose to key positions in Portugal’s aviation industry. He simultaneously managed 20 companies, often in the business of importing. Yet his wide-ranging entrepreneurial accomplishments became a mere means to an end, ensuring he could dedicate himself to his true passion: antiques and art collection.

António became an expert navigator of Portugal’s auction houses; gradually he amassed a large private collection recognised as one of the finest in Europe at the time. He had no children, but nevertheless wanted to pass his collection on. The foundation he created in 1972, with the mission of ‘providing the country with a house-museum’ – the place you’ve come to – fulfilled his desire for his artefacts and paintings to be on display.

The foundation and museum are housed in a late-19th-century building, commissioned by a successful Lisbon lawyer. Sold to the Vatican (Portugal, after all, remains a bastion of Catholicism), it was eventually acquired by Medeiros e Almeida in the 1940s. When the esteemed art collector decided to leave the property to the foundation, he ordered that the garden be destroyed and replaced with a new wing dedicated to his decorative art collection. The museum’s interior comprises a total of 27 rooms, adorned with paintings, religious art, ornate furniture, detailed tapestries, and precious jewellery spanning more than 2,000 years.

As you wander through the building, you’ll notice some of the rooms are ordered by theme: the Watches and Clocks Room, with one of the largest watch collections in Portugal and a pocket watch owned by the first Duke of Wellington; the Porcelain Room, exhibiting Chinese wares from the ancient Han Dynasty; and the Chapel, which features a main altar from the 18th century with gilded decoration. In the Downstairs Gallery, meanwhile, you can admire the array of 18th-century blue-white tiles, called azulejos and prized as distinctively Portuguese, which create a sense of flow as you move towards the magnificent Atrium. The second floor appears more intimate and preserves the living room of António’s wife Margarida. Family photos offer glimpses of a marriage, and two personal lives. A visit to this eclectic and significant collection offers a fascinating insight not only into the history of European decorative arts, but also into the life of their collector.

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