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"Only the Best": Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

"Only the Best": Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Baetjer, Katharine, and James David Draper, eds., with essays by João Castel-Branco Pereira and Nuno Vassallo e Silva
176 pages
130 illustrations
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This volume and the exhibition it accompanies bring together eighty of the finest masterpieces in the collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. All of the works of art are richly illustrated in color and described in authoritative texts by the curators of the Gulbenkian Museum. These magnificent pieces, which reflect the renowned art collector Calouste Gulbenkian's eclectic taste, include paintings by Rubens, Fragonard, Gainsborough, Turner, and Manet; silver from services created for the nobility of Russia and Western Europe; Roman medallions; Ottoman ceramics; Japanese lacquerware; jewelry by Lalique; and books and textiles from both East and West. These works of art offer dazzling testimony to Gulbenkian's devotion to the quality of the individual object and to his refined connoisseurship.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum was created under the terms of Gulbenkian's will in order to preserve under one roof the artworks in his collection—one of the preeminent art assemblages of the first half of the twentieth century. Gulbenkian, a successful businessman who was born in 1869 in Ottoman Turkey to an Armenian family, made his fortune in the oil industry. In April 1942, in the midst of World War II, he arrived in Lisbon seeking a peaceful place to live. Portugal had remained neutral in the conflict that was engulfing the world. Gulbenkian spent the rest of his life in Lisbon, where he died in 1955. As a collector—whether of ancient Egyptian art, Islamic art, or European painting and decorative arts—Gulbenkian acquired "only the best."

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Baetjer, Katharine, James David Draper, and Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), eds. 1999. Only the Best: Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.