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Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Established 1992
Location Paseo del Prado, 8, Madrid, Spain
Director Guillermo Solana

The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (in Spanish, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, named after its founder), or simply the Thyssen, is an art museum in Madrid, Spain, located near the Prado Museum at one of city's main boulevards. It is known as part of the "Golden Triangle of Art", which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofia national galleries. The Thyssen-Bornemisza fills the historical gaps in its counterparts' collections: in the Prado's case this includes Italian primitives and works from the English, Dutch and German schools, while in the case of the Reina Sofia it concerns Impressionists, Expressionists, and European and American paintings from the second half of the 20th century.

With over 1,600 paintings the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection.[1] A competition was held to house the core of the collection in 1987-88 after Baron Thyssen, having tried to enlarge his Museum in Villa Favorita, searched for a location in Europe.

The museum received 945,000 visitors in 2013.


The collection started in the 1920s as a private collection by Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon. In a reversal of the movement of European paintings to the United States during this period, one of the elder Baron's sources was the collections of American millionaires coping with the Great Depression and inheritance taxes, from which he acquired such exquisite old master paintings as Ghirlandaio's portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (once in the Morgan Library) and Carpaccio's Knight (from the collection of Otto Kahn).[1] The collection was later expanded by Heinrich's son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921–2002),[2] who assembled most of the works from his relatives' collections and proceeded to acquire large numbers of new works (from gothic to modern) to produce what is one of the world's finest private art collections.

The collection was initially housed in the family estate in Lugano in a twenty-rooms building modelled after the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. In 1988 the Baron filed a request for building a further extension designed by British architects James Stirling e Michael Wilford but the plan was rejected by the Lugano City Council.

In 1985, the Baron married Carmen "Tita" Cervera (a former Miss Spain 1961) and introduced her to art collecting. Cervera's influence was decisive in persuading the Baron to relocate the core of his collection to Spain where the local government had a building available just next to the Prado. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum officially opened in 1992 showing 715 works of art. A year later, the Spanish Government bought 775 works for $350 million.[3] These pieces are now in the purpose-built museum in Madrid. After the museum opened, Cervera started her own collection and loaned 429 works to the museum in 1999 for 11 years. The loan has been renewed annually since 2012.[4]

The Baroness remains involved with the museum. She personally decided the salmon pink tone of the interior walls and in May 2006 publicly demonstrated against plans of the Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón to redevelop the Paseo del Prado as she thought the works and traffic would damage the collection and the museum's appearance.

The collection

The Old Masters were mainly bought by the elder Baron, while Hans focused more on the 19th and 20th century, resulting in a collection that spans eight centuries of European painting, without claiming to give an all-encompassing view but rather a series of highlights.

File:Giovanni Battista Pittoni - The Rest on the Flight into Egypt - WGA17975.jpg
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Giambattista Pittoni, 1725, Oil on canvas, 108 x 135 cm

One of the focal points is the early European painting, with a major collection of trecento and quattrocento (i.e. 14th and 15th century) Italian paintings by Duccio, Taddeo Gaddi, Lorenzo Monaco, Fra Angelico, Paolo Uccello, and his contemporaries, and works of the early Flemish and Dutch painters like Jan van Eyck (Diptich of the Annunciation), Petrus Christus, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Albrecht Dürer (Christ among the Doctors), Hans Baldung Grien, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Hans Holbein (Portrait of Henry VIII).

Other highlights include works by the most famous Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo painters, including Antonello da Messina (Portrait of a Man), Fra Bartolomeo, Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Sebastiano del Piombo (Portrait of Ferry Carondelet), Bernardino Luini, Agnolo Bronzino, Domenico Beccafumi, Caravaggio (Saint Catherine), Rubens, Van Dyck, Murillo, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Giambattista Pittoni, Tiepolo, Watteau, Chardin, Fragonard, Gainsborough and Pompeo Batoni, as well as two famous portraits by Domenico Ghirlandaio (Giovanna Tornabuoni) and Vittore Carpaccio (Knight in a landscape).

The Museum houses a display of North American paintings from 18th and 19th Centuries, unique in European museums: Copley, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent...

Also important for the Museum's collection are Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by artists like Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Pierre Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh, as well as twentieth century masterpieces, like Cubist works by Picasso and Braque, or works by Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, James Ensor, Kandinsky, Salvador Dalí, Paul Klee, Chagall, Magritte, Piet Mondrian, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Roy Liechtenstein, Willem De Kooning and Francis Bacon. The selection of German Expressionism is relevant and comprehensive: Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, Otto Dix...

A collection of works from the museum (Fra Angelico, Cranach, Titian, Canaletto...) is housed in Barcelona in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya.


In 2011 due to "a lack of liquid funds", Carmen "Tita" Cervera decided to sell The Lock by English artist John Constable.[5][6] The painting, which belonged to her private collection, was sold in London the following year for £22.4 million, more than doubling the price paid for it in 1990.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Jonathan Kandell, "Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Industrialist Who Built Fabled Art Collection, Dies at 81," New York Times, 28 April 2002.
  2. ^ Tomàs, Llorens; Laura Suffield (translator) (1998). Guide to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (2nd edition ed.). Spain: Lunwerg editores SA. ISBN 84-88474-48-2. 
  3. ^ Laurie Rojas (February 2, 2015), Thyssen-Bornemisza keeps Spain in suspense over loan The Art Newspaper.
  4. ^ Laurie Rojas (February 2, 2015), Thyssen-Bornemisza keeps Spain in suspense over loan The Art Newspaper.
  5. ^ Brown, Mark (2012). "John Constable's The Lock to be sold at auction". Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  6. ^ Garcia, Angeles (2012). "No soy gastosa. Los ricos también están en crisis". Retrieved June 23, 2012. 
  7. ^ Daily Telegraph, "Constable's The Lock sells for a record 22.4 million

External links

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