Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Views of Lisbon in October 2017

A restful week at the far edge of continental Europe


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Lisbon's Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga

We're still on our first full day's explorations, 27 October 2017, and bound for a couple of wandering hours in the national museum of non-contemporary art (i.e., 12th to mid-19th centuries). This page includes some of my favorites from the collections, those that survived, more or less, the necessary No Flash regulations.

That's nowhere enough time, so we went back four days later to finish it up (so to speak); some photos from that day's adventures and discoveries are appended here, thus the faulty logic of our procession through the centuries.

The brilliant lobby -- European paintings generally, as well as decorative arts and some furniture, are on this floor, art and other stuff from the Portuguese 'discoveries' (i.e., overseas possessions) are one floor up, and specifically Portuguese painting and sculpture on the top floor. Here we go.

The MNAA, as it's called, presently occupies the 17th century Palácio de Alvor-Pombal (also called the Palace of the Green Windows, Janelas Verdes), purchased by the government in 1884. The collections were begun around confiscations at the time of the abolition of the monasteries in 1833 and from unfortunate noble families in the aftermath of the Portuguese Liberal Wars (1828-1834).

Through the gift shop to the . . .

. . . Decorative Arts section -- period furniture and . . .

. . . a whacking great 18th century table centrepiece, all of silver, from Paris. Formerly a general art museum and academy for artists, in 1911 it was split into the museum of 'arte antiga', misleadingly 'ancient art' or antique art', and the museum of Arte Contemporânea, and the cutoff dates was set at roughly 1850.

Now for the good stuff: two neat painted alabaster pieces from 15th century Nottingham, England, St Catherine with her wheel and the virgin Mary taking her lessons from her mom St Anne.

A classic mystic marriage of St Catherine by the 'Master of the Embroidered Foliage' (ca. 1490)

A no-nonsense St Barbara, with the tower, with its three windows, of her imprisonment by her father, by an 'Unknown Italian Master', ca. 1500

St Augustine in full regalia, by Piero della Francesca, 1460s

Still another Madonna and Child nursing scene with improbable anatomy, by the Dutch Gerard David or his circle, here called 'Rest on the flight to Egypt', ca. 1500+.

Two takes on St John the Evangelist, him of the flowing locks -- on the left, with his chalice given to him as a test of faith by the priest of the temple of Diana in Ephesus, on the right, the same chalice, but with the snake or dragon in it, showing that it's poisoned (which didn't bother him at all). Triptychs associated with the Dutch Quentin Metsys, ca. 1510?

Virgin of the Sorrows, also by Quentin Metsys or his workshop, ca. 1510

One of the more interesting images of the Christ child, here being presented in the temple

A look at the commodious layout, two long parallel corridors extending away from the main four-story building.

A crowded Virgin with Christ child and saints, by the elder Hans Holbein, 1519

A lovely St Cecilia (patron saint of music) with two angels, by Antiveduto Grammatica (described on Wikipedia as 'a proto-Baroque Italian painter, active near Rome'), ca. 1620

By the great portraitist Antonis Mor (or his workshop), ca. 1555, this is labeled as a picture of 'Maria of Parma' -- presumably it must be Infanta Maria of Guimarães (1538-1577), or 'Maria of Portugal', who in 1565 married in Brussels the great soldier Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, governor of the Spanish Netherlands in the 1580s.

This is the classic portrait of Alessandro de' Medici, 'il Moro', the first Duke of Florence (from 1532), by Jacopo Pontormo. He was married in 1536 to the indomitable Margaret of Parma, then 14, illegitimate daughter of the emperor, but he was assassinated in the following year; she then married into the Farneses of Parma and was the competent Governor of the Spanish Netherlands for some years and mother of the later Governor mentioned just above. There is a fine new biography of Alessandro by Catherine Fletcher, The black prince of Florence: the spectacular life and treacherous world of Alessandro de' Medici (Oxford UP, 2016).

The museum's collections reflect a very strong historical alliance with 16th-17th century artists from the Netherlands, and there are some gems. This is by David Teniers the Younger, 'The armory', 1667.

And this is by Brueghel the Younger, 'The works of mercy' (there are traditionally seven; count them).

This is by Tiepolo, 'Triumph of the Arts', ca. 1730. Hmmmm.

This is a remarkable basalt lion dated to the Egyptian Ptolemaic period, the three centuries BC in Egypt.

A mildly curious look from the peasant girl with firewood, by the 18th century British portraitist John Hoppner

Two tondo portraits by Jòos van Cleve, 1530, of the Emperor Charles V and his sister Eleanor of Austria, who was married to the Portuguese King Manual I but widowed in 1521. At the time of these pictures, 1530, she was married to Francis I of France to seal the Treaty of Cambrai between France and the Empire.

Time for a restorative snack in the gardens of the museum, overlooking the river

And now for the upstairs

Various Asian and African souvenirs from the age of Portuguese 'discoveries' (heroic explorations and centuries of pretty brutal trade relations)

On the top floor: specifically Portuguese paintings and sculptures

Hunh? (A two-headed fountain, Portugal, 1501-1515)

The legend of the martyrdom of St Ursula, daughter of the King of Brittany, and her 11,000 virgin followers

The Last Supper, from an altarpiece (retábulo) of 15 scenes from 1508-1511 by Francisco Henriques, a Flemish painter living in Portugal after 1500. We collect pictures of the Last Supper in order to find out what the disciples were having for dinner . . .

. . . but this one doesn't help us too much. To me, it looks like a turtle. More often, it looks like a rat or a badger.

'Hell', by Mestre Desconhecido [i.e., 'Unknown Master'], 1510-1520. The information panel points out that the 'torments of hell' motif is not common in Portuguese painting, but this one is particularly interesting because Lucifer is shown sitting on an African-style throne and dressed in a headdress and feathered suit worn by Brazilian Indians, holding a type of horn made in Benin. The Portuguese 'Age of Discoveries' indeed.

A St Roch (It. San Rocco, here São Roque) with a difference -- normally this saint, patron of plague victims, especially popular in northern Italy, is shown pointing to a plague bubo on his leg; here he's got a little kid to do it for him (German, first half of the 16th century).

St James (São Tiago), by a Flemish workshop in Portugal, early 16th century, walnut wood

Pause: three days pass in other endeavors

Fast forward: it's four days later, and we're back. This time we're coming through a different entrance, only to be confronted by THIS. We scurry behind it and dash up the stairs.

The Deposition or Descent from the Cross, by Bernardo Martorell of Barcelona, ca. 1440. It's always interesting to compare the inventive ways artists conceived of the mechanism for the deposition.

The Christ child with his bird, in this case a parrot (another one by the Mestre Desconhecido, 1510-1530)

More improbable anatomy, by an 'Unknown Netherlandish Master', ca. 1475-1500. By the 16th century, European painters seem to have got the nursing anatomy figured out, but not yet.

'Two bishops', both fun-loving ambassadors of the Good News (another one by the Mestre Desconhecido, early 16th century)

São Damiao, by Bartolomé Bermejo, ca. 1490. St Damian and his twin brother Cosmas were patron saints of physicians and surgeons (and of the Medici family) and were usually shown with scientific instruments; called the 'silverless' and 'unmercenaries' because they refused payment for their services. Bartolomé was a Spanish painter known for his skill with Flemish techniques.

The 'Miracle of St Eusebius of Cremona' raising three men from the dead by covering them with a cloak of his good friend St Jerome; not a very appealing picture, but it's by Raphael, ca. 1502, so there's that.

A more interesting Madonna and Child, also by the 'Circle of Quentin Metsys', 1510-1520, with an angel tempting Baby Jesus with a snack between meals

Also by Quentin Metsys or his 'circle', two scenes from the life of Christ, his disputations with the doctors in the Temple and, below, his presentation in the Temple. This depiction of Christ as a baby is probably unique.

He doesn't really look much like the Pantocrator yet.

Pride of place in the museum is given to this brilliant Hieronymus Bosch triptych of the 'Temptations of St Anthony', ca. 1500, like the 'Garden of Earthly Delights' in the Prado a worthy classic of the loopy religious imagination.

Bosch's crazy inventions are so haunting that . . .

. . . you can buy replica toys for your kids in the gift shop down the hall.

Dürer's St Jerome, dated at 1521

A remarkably composed Salomé with John the Baptist's head, by Cranach the Elder, ca. 1515

This is a dark and atmospheric Deposition of Christ by Jacopo dal Ponte, called Bassano, ca. 1580. We've recently been following the dal Ponte family's works around in the northern Veneto, and their home town Bassano del Grappa.

One of the two long parallel corridors extending more than 100 metres from the main building

The Soliloquy of the Axe, or 'I just can't take it anymore' . . .

. . . one of a life-size series of the Apostles by Francisco de Zurbarán, dated to 1633

The Della Robbia rooms . . .

. . . though to a great fan of Andrea Della Robbia and the family's glazed ceramics, nothing here was very appealing. Least of all that scary life-size monk.

'The Merry Company', by the Dutch domestic genre painter Pieter de Hooch, ca. 1664

The Philistines and the plague at Ashdod, labeled as by Poussin. So there's that.

Oh, we're back at the entrance/exit.

After a second pleasant afternoon in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, it's time to trudge back up the hill (a taxi, actually) to the Largo do Rato, freshen up, and head over to the restaurant Real Fabrica for food.


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 November 2017.


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