Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum

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Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Site of the Retiro and the Prado in Madrid 49 (29684554308).jpg
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Established1992 (1992)
Location Palace of Villahermosa
Paseo del Prado, 8. Madrid, Spain
Coordinates 40°24′58″N3°41′42″W / 40.41611°N 3.69500°W / 40.41611; -3.69500 Coordinates: 40°24′58″N3°41′42″W / 40.41611°N 3.69500°W / 40.41611; -3.69500
Collection size1,600
Visitors1.052.014 (2017) [1]
Founder Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon
DirectorGuillermo Solana (Artistic Director), Evelio Acevedo (Managing Director)

The Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (in Spanish, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza (pronounced  [muˈse.o ˈtisem boɾneˈmisa] ), [2] named after its founder), or simply the Thyssen, is an art museum in Madrid, Spain, located near the Prado Museum on one of the city's main boulevards. It is known as part of the "Golden Triangle of Art", which also includes the Prado and the Reina Sofía 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 20th century.


With over 1,600 paintings, it was once the second largest private collection in the world after the British Royal Collection. [3] A competition was held to house the core of the collection in 1987–88 after Baron Thyssen, having unsuccessfully sought permission to enlarge his Museum in Lugano (Villa Favorita), searched for a better-suited location elsewhere in Europe.


Venus and Cupid holding a mirror, by Peter Paul Rubens 0 Venus et Cupidon - P.P. Rubens - Musee Thyssen-Bornemisza (2).JPG
Venus and Cupid holding a mirror, by Peter Paul Rubens

The collection was 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 US during this period, one of the elder Baron's sources was the collections of American millionaires coping with the Great Depression and inheritance taxes. In this way he acquired old master paintings such as Ghirlandaio's portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (once in the Morgan Library) and Carpaccio's Knight (from the collection of Otto Kahn). [3] The collection was later expanded by Heinrich's son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921–2002), [4] who assembled most of the works from his relatives' collections and proceeded to acquire large numbers of new works (from Gothic art to Lucian Freud).

Portrait de paysan, by Paul Cezanne, 1905-06 Paul Cezanne - Portrait d'un paysan.jpg
Portrait de paysan, by Paul Cézanne, 1905-06

The collection was initially housed in the family estate in Lugano in a twenty-room 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 and 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 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. [5] These pieces are now in the purpose-built museum in Madrid. After the museum opened, in 1999, Cervera loaned 429 works of her own art collection to the museum for 11 years. The loan was renewed annually for free from 2012. [5]

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.

In 2015, the Baroness delayed the annual renewal of her loan while deciding whether or not to temporarily move her collection for a fee to a museum in Barcelona, the United States, or Russia. She eventually decided to keep the collection in Madrid, but in 2017, she again delayed signing the agreement. In 2021, the Ministry of Culture officially finalized an agreement to loan the collection for an annual fee of 6.5 million euros ($7.8 million) over the course of 15 years. [6]

The collection

Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1489-90 Ghirlandaio-Giovanna Tornabuoni.jpg
Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1489–90

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.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Giambattista Pittoni, 1725, oil on canvas, 108 x 135 cm 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, Luca di Tommè, Bernardo Daddi, Paolo Uccello, Benozzo Gozzoli and his contemporaries, and works of the early Flemish and Dutch painters like Jan van Eyck (Diptich of the Annunciation), Petrus Christus ( Madonna of the Dry Tree ), Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden, Gerard David and Hans Memling.

Other highlights include works by leading Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo painters, including Antonello da Messina ( Portrait of a Man ), Francesco del Cossa, Bramantino ( Christus Dolens ), Fra Bartolomeo, Giulio Romano, Giovanni Bellini, Palma il Vecchio, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Jacopo Bassano, Sebastiano del Piombo (Portrait of Ferry Carondelet ), Bernardino Luini, Agnolo Bronzino, Domenico Beccafumi, Albrecht Dürer ( Christ among the Doctors ), Hans Baldung Grien, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein (Portrait of Henry VIII), Albrecht Altdorfer, El Greco, Caravaggio (Saint Catherine), Guercino, Sebastiano Ricci, Rubens, Van Dyck, Murillo, Rembrandt, Frans Hals ( Family Portrait in a Landscape ), Simon Vouet, Claude Lorrain, Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, Tiepolo, Giambattista Pittoni, Watteau, François Boucher, 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, including Copley, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent.

View of Vessenots, Auvers, by Vincent van Gogh, 1890 Vincent van Gogh - Les Vessenots a Auvers - Google Art Project.jpg
View of Vessenots, Auvers, by Vincent van Gogh, 1890

The display of the European 19th century starts with works by Francisco Goya, Thomas Lawrence, Delacroix, Géricault, Corot and Courbet. There are Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by the artists Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Pierre Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh. The large collection of twentieth century modern art includes Cubist works by Picasso, Braque and Juan Gris, as well as paintings by Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, James Ensor, Kandinsky, Salvador Dalí, Paul Klee, Chagall, Magritte, Piet Mondrian, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon. The selection of German Expressionism is extensive, and includes Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, and 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.

One painting, Rue Saint-Honoré in the Afternoon, Effect of Rain by Camille Pissarro, belonged to a Jewish woman, Lilly Cassirer who was compelled by a Nazi official to exchange it under duress for an exit visa to escape Nazi Germany [7] shortly after Kristallnacht in 1939. [8] By 2015, her descendants had filed a lawsuit against the museum, on the grounds that it was looted by the Nazis. [8] [9] On May 1, 2019, a California judge determined that the museum held the right to keep the painting, despite international agreements to the contrary. [10] The case was heard before the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 2022. [11]


In 2011, due to "a lack of liquid funds", Cervera decided to sell The Lock by the English artist John Constable. [12] [13] 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. [14]

See also

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Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

Hans Henrik Ágost Gábor, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva, an industrialist and art collector, was a Dutch-born Swiss citizen with a Hungarian title and heir to a German fortune, a legal resident of Monaco for tax purposes, with a declared second residency in the United Kingdom, but in actuality a long-time resident of Spain, and son of a German father and a Hungarian and English American mother. His fifth and last wife, Carmen "Tita" Cervera, is a former Miss Spain titleholder.

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Private collection Privately owned collection of works, usually a collection of art

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<i>Young Knight in a Landscape</i>

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Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza Austrian archduchess

Baroness Francesca von Thyssen-Bornemisza, formerly Francesca von Habsburg-Lothringen, is an art collector. By birth, she is a member of the House of Thyssen-Bornemisza. She is also the former wife of Karl von Habsburg, current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Carmen Cervera

María del Carmen Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra, Dowager Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva, popularly known as Carmen "Tita" Cervera or Carmen "Tita" Thyssen, is a Spanish socialite, and art dealer and collector.

<i>Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni</i>

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<i>The Lock</i> (Constable) Painting by John Constable

The Lock is an oil painting by English artist John Constable, finished in 1824. It depicts a rural scene on the River Stour in the English county of Suffolk, one of six paintings within the Six-Footer series. It was auctioned for £22,441,250 at Christie's in London on 3 July 2012.

Darío de Regoyos Spanish painter (1857–1913)

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Carmen Thyssen Museum Art museum in Málaga, Spain

The Carmen Thyssen Museum is an art museum in the Spanish city Málaga. The main focus of the museum is 19th-century Spanish painting, predominantly Andalusian, based on the collection of Carmen Cervera, fifth wife of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Carmen Thyssen Space

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Rudolph J. Heinemann, also known as Rudolf J. Heinemann, was a German-born American art dealer and collector of Old Masters. He was an advisor to Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who established a museum in Lugano, Switzerland with his help. Heinemann and later, his wife Lore, donated works of art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the National Gallery of Art and the Morgan Library & Museum.

<i>Rue Saint-Honoré, dans laprès-midi. Effet de pluie</i>

Rue Saint-Honoré, dans l'après-midi. Effet de pluie is an 1897 oil painting by Camille Pissarro. The work was made towards the end of Pissarro's career, when he abandoned his experiments with Pointillism and returned to a looser Impressionist style. It is part of a series of works that Pissarro made in 1897-98 from a window of the Hôtel du Louvre, looking down across the edge of the place du Théâtre Français and along the rue Saint-Honoré, portraying the people, carriages and buildings, the trees, fountains and streetlamps, in an early afternoon shower of rain. Other paintings in the series depict a similar scene in morning sunlight, or in the shadows of the evening. The painting measures 81 cm × 65 cm.


  1. "Visitor Figures 2015" (PDF). The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  2. In isolation, Thyssen is pronounced [ˈtisen] .
  3. 1 2 Jonathan Kandell, "Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Industrialist Who Built Fabled Art Collection, Dies at 81," New York Times, 28 April 2002.
  4. Tomàs, Llorens (1998). Guide to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Laura Suffield (trans.) (2nd ed.). Spain: Lunwerg editores SA. ISBN   84-88474-48-2.
  5. 1 2 Laurie Rojas (February 2, 2015), Thyssen-Bornemisza keeps Spain in suspense over loan Archived 2015-02-04 at the Wayback Machine The Art Newspaper .
  6. Shanti Escalante-De Mattei (June 29, 2021), Spain Finalizes Agreement to Pay to Keep Baroness Thyssen’s Collection in Madrid ARTnews .
  7. Cascone, Sarah. "Art and Law Case Over $30 Million Camille Pissarro Painting Comes to a Head in Appeals Court". Artnet Worldwide Corp. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  8. 1 2 Torok, Ryan (December 12, 2016). "Pasadena trial focuses on Nazi-looted masterpiece". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  9. "A Spanish museum may have the legal right to keep art stolen by the Nazis. That doesn't mean it should". Los Angeles Times. 2016-12-14. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 2017-04-24.
  10. "Judge rules museum 'rightfully owns' Nazi-looted painting". BBC. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  11. Sneed, Tierney. "Pissarro painting confiscated by Nazis at center of Supreme Court arguments". CNN. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  12. Brown, Mark (2012). "John Constable's The Lock to be sold at auction" . Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  13. Garcia, Angeles (2012). "No soy gastosa. Los ricos también están en crisis" . Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  14. "Constable's The Lock sells for a record £22.4million". The Telegraph.