From Lugano with Love

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

More familiarly known as “the Thyssen,” the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza is part of the Golden Triangle of Art, which also includes the Museo Reina Sofía and the Museo del Prado.

The Rainbow, Autumn, Catskill by Worthington Whittredge
Expulsion – Moon and Firelight by Thomas Cole
Lake George by John Frederick Kensett

The collection began in the 1920s privately, gathered by Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a German-Hungarian entrepreneur and art collector. During the Great Depression, he acquired many paintings from American millionaires trying to make ends meet due to inheritance taxes and the ongoing recession. In this way, he purchased Ghirlandaio’s Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, which was once in the Morgan Library, and Carpaccio’s Knight, which once belonged to Otto Kahn, a German-born American investment banker.

Orion in Winter by Charles Ephraim Burchfield
July Drought Sun by Charles Ephraim Burchfield
Summer Days by George Inness
Number 11, 1950 by Jackson Pollock
The Fort and Ten Pound Island, Gloucester, Massachusetts by Fitz Henry Lane
Falls of Saint Anthony, Upper Mississippi by Henry Lewis
Portrait of Millicent Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland by John Singer Sargent
A Girl in Japanese Gown – The Kimono by William Merritt Chase
Sunday After Sermon, 1969 by Romare Bearden

Heinrich’s son, Baron Hans Heinrich, continued to expand the collection in the following decades. Initially housed in the family home in Lugano, Switzerland, in a building modeled after the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. After failing to acquire a permit to extend this twenty-room building from the Lugano City Council in 1988, the Baron began to seek a new place to house his collection. As he had married Carmen “Tita” Cervera, a Spanish socialite and art collector, three years prior, he was easily persuaded to relocate the collection to Spain, into an available building near the Prado – the Palacio de Villahermosa.

Girl with Red Hat by Raphael Soyer / The Girl at the Window by Eastman Johnson
Wet Day, Columbus Avenue, Boston by Childe Hassam
The Abundance of Summer by Paul Lacroix
Identity by Ben Shahn
Hotel Room by Edward Hopper
Bunny in the corner by Roberto Bernardi
Woman in Bath by Roy Lichtenstein
Cataln Peasant with a Guitar by Joan Miró

The Palacio de Villahermosa was built in the 18th century as the home of the Dukes of Villahermosa, and was remodeled in 1805 in the Neoclassical style by Antonio López Aguado. In the 1970s the building served as the site of the López Quesada Bank until it went bankrupt in 1980, when it became the property of the Spanish State. In 1984, it became an extension of the Museo del Prado and housed temporary exhibitions. It was after this that it became the home of the Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Painting on White Ground by Joan Miró
The Forest by Natalia Goncharova
The Machine Drill by František Kupka / The Staircase by Fernand Léger

The museum first opened in 1992, showcasing 715 pieces. The following year, the Spanish Government purchased 775 works, and Cervera loaned 429 pieces from her own collection to the museum in 1999. The last time the loan was renewed was in 2021, for a period of 15 years.

Häuser am Fluss by Egon Schiele
Gaston Bonnefoy by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Rocking Dancer by Edgar Degas
The Woods at Marly by Camille Pissarro
Horsewoman, Full-Face (L’Amazone) by Édouard Manet
Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon – Effect of Rain by Camille Pissarro
Galatea by Gustave Moreau
The Park of the Lions at Port-Marly by Camille Corot
Portrait of a Lady as a Vestal Virgin by Angelica Kauffmann
Arab Rider by Eugène Delacroix
Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nimes by Hubert Robert
Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nimes by Hubert Robert
Portrait of David Lyon by Thomas Lawrence
The Dutch Fleet in the Goeree Roads by Willem van de Velde II
Winter Landscape by Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael
Portrait of a Man Aged Fifty-Eight by Cornelis Ketel / Portrait of a Woman Aged Fifty-Six by Cornelis Ketel
Self-Portrait Wearing a Hat and Two Chains by Rembrandt
Interior with a Woman Seated by a Hearth by Jacobus Vrel
View of the Binnenhof, The Hague by Gerrit Adraensz Berckheyde
The West Façade of the Church of Saint Mary in Utrecht by Pieter Jansz Saenredam
Interior of a Gothic Church by Peeter Neeffs
Interior of a Gothic Church by Emanuel de Witte
Portrait of a Man by Govert Flinck
The Grand Canal with San Simeone Piccolo and Santa Lucia by Francesco Guardi
Capriccio with a River and Bridge by Bernardo Bellotto
Saint Casilda by Zurbarán
Saint Casilda by Zurbarán
Saint Catherine by Caravaggio
San Sebastian by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Fish Ewer
Young Knight in a Landscape by Vittore Carpaccio
Annunciation by El Greco
Annunciation by El Greco
Annunciation by El Greco
The Annunciation by Jan de Beer

The museum’s collection spans a total of eight centuries of European painting. Painting from the trecento and quattrocento find representation in Duccio, Paolo Uccello, and Bernardo Daddi, and early Flemish art in Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling. Its Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo collections include Titian, Veronese, Bronzino, Dürer, El Greco, Chardin, and Caravaggio, and its American collection holds work by Copley and John Singer Sargent. Works from the 19th and 20th centuries include pieces by Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Lichtenstein, and some pieces from the collection are housed in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona.

The Massacre of the Innocents by Lucas van Valckenborch I
Portrait of Anne of Hungary and Bohemia by Hans Maler
The Annunciation to Saint Anne by Bernhard Strigel
Portrait of a Man (Georg Thurzo?) by Master of the Monogram TK
The Visitation by Jakob and/or Hans Strüb
Carla Hayes Mayoral

I was lucky enough to catch Mestiza Memories when I visited, which was an exhibition showing work by the Afro-Andalusian artist Carla Hayes Mayoral. She uses raffia in her work, a material characteristic of African culture, and mixes visual references from the West in order to examine Spain and Europe’s colonial past.

Carla Hayes Mayoral
Carla Hayes Mayoral
Triptych of the Rosary by Hans Suess Kulmbach
Portrait of Doge Francesco Venier by Titian
Saint Sebastian by Bronzino
The Annunciation by Gentile Bellini
Pietà Triptych by Master of the Saint Lucy Legend
Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio
The Annunciation Triptych
by Anonymous German Artist
The Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Dominic and Martin, and Two Angels by Master of the Magdalen
Triptych with the Virgin and Child by Anonymous Venetian Artist
Paradise by Tintoretto

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