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
Site of the Retiro and the Prado
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
Interactive fullscreen map
Established1992 (1992)
Location Palace of Villahermosa
Paseo del Prado, 8. Madrid, Spain
Coordinates 40°24′57.748″N3°41′41.730″W / 40.41604111°N 3.69492500°W / 40.41604111; -3.69492500
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 (Spanish: Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, pronounced  [muˈseo ˈtisem boɾneˈmisa] ; [lower-alpha 1] named after its founder, Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza), 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 Sofía 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. [2] 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). [2] The collection was later expanded by Heinrich's son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921–2002), [3] 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. [4] 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. [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.

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. [5]

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 [6] shortly after Kristallnacht in 1939. [7] By 2015, her descendants had filed a lawsuit against the museum, on the grounds that it was looted by the Nazis. [7] [8] On May 1, 2019, a California judge determined that the museum held the right to keep the painting, despite international agreements to the contrary. [9] The case was heard before the United States Supreme Court on January 18, 2022. [10]

Selected collection highlights


In 2011, due to "a lack of liquid funds", Cervera decided to sell The Lock by the English artist John Constable. [11] [12] 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. [13]

See also


  1. In isolation, Thyssen is pronounced [ˈtisen] .

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza</span>

Hans Heinrich August Gábor, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, an industrialist and art collector, was a Dutch-born Swiss citizen with a Hungarian title and heir to a German fortune, 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Museo del Prado</span> Spanish national art museum in Madrid, Spain

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lorenzo Lotto</span> Italian painter (c. 1480–1556/57)

Lorenzo Lotto was an Italian painter, draughtsman, and illustrator, traditionally placed in the Venetian school, though much of his career was spent in other north Italian cities. He painted mainly altarpieces, religious subjects and portraits. He was active during the High Renaissance and the first half of the Mannerist period, but his work maintained a generally similar High Renaissance style throughout his career, although his nervous and eccentric posings and distortions represented a transitional stage to the Florentine and Roman Mannerists.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Petrus Christus</span> Flemish painter (c.1410–1475)

Petrus Christus was an Early Netherlandish painter active in Bruges from 1444, where, along with Hans Memling, he became the leading painter after the death of Jan van Eyck. He was influenced by van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden and is noted for his innovations with linear perspective and a meticulous technique which seems derived from miniatures and manuscript illumination. Today, some 30 works are confidently attributed to him. The best known include the Portrait of a Carthusian (1446) and Portrait of a Young Girl ; both are highly innovative in the presentation of the figure against detailed, rather than flat, backgrounds.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jan Provoost</span>

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Heinrich Thyssen, after 22 June 1907 Heinrich, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva, was a German-Hungarian entrepreneur and art collector.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marinus van Reymerswaele</span> Dutch painter

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<i>Young Knight in a Landscape</i> Painting by Vittore Carpaccio

Young Knight in a Landscape, or Portrait of a Knight, is an oil on canvas painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Vittore Carpaccio, now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid. Dated 1510, this is the earliest full-length portrait in Western painting—on the assumption that it is a portrait, as it seems likely. It is characteristic of Carpaccio that apart from this important innovation, the style of the work seems in other respects to look back to the previous century. From some time until the 20th century the painting had been given the monogram of Albrecht Dürer, and Carpaccio's signature had been overpainted. The realism and detail of Carpaccio does in fact show Northern influence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hans Maler zu Schwaz</span> German painter

Hans Maler zu Schwaz (1480/1488–1526/1529) was a German painter born in Ulm and active as portraitist in the village of Schwaz, near Innsbruck. Maler may have trained with the German artist Bartholomäus Zeitblom, who was chief master of the School of Ulm between 1484 and 1517. He painted numerous portraits of members of the Habsburg court at Innsbruck as well as of wealthy merchants such as the Fuggers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carmen Cervera</span> Spanish socialite, art dealer and collector

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carlos de Haes</span> Spanish painter from Belgium

Carlos Sebastián Pedro Hubert de Haes was a Spanish painter from Belgium. He was noted for the Realism in his landscapes, and was considered to be the "first contemporary Spanish artist able to capture something of a particularly Spanish 'essence' in his work". He was cited along with Jenaro Perez Villaamil and Aureliano de Beruete as one of the three Spanish grand masters of landscape painting, the latter of which was his pupil.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carmen Thyssen Museum</span> 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.

<i>Madonna of the Dry Tree</i> Painting by Petrus Christus

Madonna of the Dry Tree or Our Lady of the Barren Tree is a small oil-on-oak panel painting dated c. 1462–1465, attributed to the Early Netherlandish painter Petrus Christus. Itt shows the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child standing on a disembodied dead tree trunk. The painting's imagery is unusually dark and dramatic and shows a encircled woman within folds of black and withered branches that may represent a crown of thorns.

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>Landscape with Venus and Adonis</i> Painting by Tobias Verhaecht

Landscape with Venus and Adonis is an oil on canvas painting by Flemish painter Tobias Verhaecht. The work was probably painted in the 1600s, and is now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

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

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.

Hugo Erfurth with Dog is a tempera-and-oil-on-panel painting executed by German painter Otto Dix in 1926. It depicts his personal friend, the photographer Hugo Erfurth, who also would take several pictures of the artist. The portrait is part of the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, in Madrid.

<i>Portrait of a Young Woman Known as "La Bella"</i> Painting by Palma Vecchio

Portrait of a Young Woman Known as "La Bella" is an oil painting attributed to Palma Vecchio, and dated to around 1518 to 1520, in the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. It was formerly attributed to Titian.


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  2. 1 2 Jonathan Kandell, "Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Industrialist Who Built Fabled Art Collection, Dies at 81," New York Times, 28 April 2002.
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  4. 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 .
  5. Shanti Escalante-De Mattei (June 29, 2021), Spain Finalizes Agreement to Pay to Keep Baroness Thyssen's Collection in Madrid ARTnews .
  6. Cascone, Sarah (6 December 2016). "Art and Law Case Over $30 Million Camille Pissarro Painting Comes to a Head in Appeals Court". Artnet Worldwide Corp. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  7. 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.
  8. "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.
  9. "Judge rules museum 'rightfully owns' Nazi-looted painting". BBC News. May 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  10. Sneed, Tierney (18 January 2022). "Pissarro painting confiscated by Nazis at center of Supreme Court arguments". CNN. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  11. Brown, Mark (2012). "John Constable's The Lock to be sold at auction". The Guardian. Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  12. Garcia, Angeles (2012). "No soy gastosa. Los ricos también están en crisis" . Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  13. "Constable's The Lock sells for a record £22.4million". The Telegraph.