2013
Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

2014
Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

2015
Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

2016
Latvia, Lithhuania, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, U.A.E. and Denmark.

2017
Panama, Colombia, Ecuador (inc. Galapagos), Peru, Bolivia, Chile (inc. Easter Island), Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico.

2018
France (Paris and Lourdes), Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Andorra, Morocco (Tangier), Gibraltar, Portugal and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

Monday, January 21

11/16: Madrid's Majestic Museo Cerralbo

On our way to visiting a museum, we couldn't help but notice the large demonstration by members of CSI-F, a government employees' union, as so many streets had been blocked off by the police. The demonstration was loud but we detected no sense of anger so weren't afraid.




Museo Cerralbo was an old home that belonged to Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, an archaeologist and the 17th Marquis de Cerralbo, who died in 1922. His house, built  between 1883 and 1893 according to Italian fashion, was bequeathed to the nation and became a museum in the 1940s. The home was designed from the beginning as a residence and a place to exhibit art, antiques and curios due to the owners' passion for collecting. 



The Main Doorway, like many other doorways in Madrid, had two enormous doors to allow for guests' and suppliers' carriages to enter through one and leave through the other to make it easier for the horses to maneuver. The house carriages then continued the journey to the foot of the stairs so the ladies and gentlewomen could alight comfortably!


The museum brochure indicated this was a 'collectors' museum' and reflected the artistic tastes of its time. The collection was considered, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, to be one of the most important private collections in the country and the most complete one at the time.


All the foregoing pictures were taken before we even reached the ticket office!


In the stately Summer Reception Area and Gallery, we saw that the Spanish and Italian schools of art predominated in the museum's painting collection. The former were mainly religious paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.




The 18th century iron and bronze English wall clock was a model for an alarm clock which worked with weights. It was the oldest of the seventy clocks in the museum. Just imagine their all ringing on the hour all day long. What a din they must make as they all still worked!


The landscaped Garden was a recreation from 1995 as no documentation remained about the garden except for a single note from the Marquis. It was described as being a classically romantic style.


The Red Room was the first of three with views of the garden. It obviously owed its name to the shades of red in the tapestries and wall hangings, following the custom of the time. The room was used an office where the Marquis received suppliers so they wouldn't pass through the rest of the home.


 I read that the wallpaper border at the bottom of the walls was an alternative to skirting board that was in fashion at the end of the 19th century.


The Ericsson telephone was a private telecom that most likely would have been connected to a similar telephone found in a tower in the attic area.


The Yellow Room was both a dining area as well as a private study. The French or Bohemian chandelier was made with double-walled glass with an outer layer of gold ruby crystal from 1830.


The chairs and sofas were covered with exquisite yellow silk damask to match the balcony curtains.


On the mantelpiece were an array of family photos and more clocks going tic toc, tic toc! The room's walls were the only ones in the entire home decorated with the original wallpaper. The paper, printed by a mechanical process, in fashion during the 17th century, was a practical solution compared with older and much more elaborate wall hangings. 


The Pink Sitting Room included furniture bequeathed to the Marquise, the wife of the Marquis, and was very much in the style of a 19th century lady's room. The writing desk had her initials on it. The balcony opened onto the garden.



The Marquis' Bedchamber was fairly austere compared to the opulence and showiness of the visitors' rooms. Several of the pieces in the room had been acquired on the current antiques' market or placed there from other rooms in the home. I was amused to find out the tall bedside table held a chamber pot. The Marquis died in the armchair at the foot of the bed on August 22, 1922.



The French portable table clock from the second half of the 19th century ran on six of the first batteries in France. It was equipped with an alarm, an on-off switch, and an incandescent light bulb to see the time.


The Main Staircase was one of the most picturesque spaces in any of the 19th century mansions as it was "important to praise the social prestige of the owners of the home."



The wrought iron banister used to belong to a monastery owned by a queen! 


The large stuccoed coat of arms represented the Cerralbo marriage and was framed by two 17th century tapestries.




The marble bust of a Roman Midwife from the second half of the 2nd century showed her with her head uncovered to highlight the recognition and liberty Roman women were gaining with the passage of time. It seemed impossible to think they were gaining freedoms as far back as the 2nd century. What has taken the rest of the world so long? We could now understand the rationale why no purses or bags were allowed in the home, so such valuable statues couldn't be toppled!


A view from the top of the magnificent staircase:


The Armory was the room designed for the reception of guests, i.e. where the greeting ceremony with the gentlemen kissing the ladies' hands took place! With weapons and armor lining the walls, I wouldn't have thought many women would have felt entirely comfortable there.



Leading immediately from the armory was the Bathroom where exhibition took priority over the practical as it wasn't until the late 19th century that rooms designed as independent bathrooms became more common. Having an exclusive room with a marble bath, hot and cold faucets and a drain meant a display of comfort that the owners of the house wanted to show off. Oh, the items we take for granted nowadays!



The Sun Room, also known as the Arab Room, was originally designed as a conservatory but the Marquis covered up the windows overlooking the garden and transformed the room into an antiques study. The exotic and Oriental decor arose from the heart of Romanticism which proliferated in European salons in the middle of the 19th century and extended until well into the 20th century. 



The room contained a Chinese opium smoking set from the Qing Dynasty made out of glazed pottery and metal. Arab rooms were in fashion in European homes at the end of the 19th century where the gentlemen gathered to smoke.



The set of Japanese containers called a Bento were used to store and transport food prepared for later consumption. The use of boxes placed on top of each other began in Japan around 1610 and is still common today. 


The next room was known as the Small Columns Room because of its collection of them on the central table. It was fascinating looking at the wide variety of terracotta, marble  and bronze figurines from the Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman cultures as well as some from the Middle Ages mounted on the alabaster, colored marble and wood columns. 


The opulence and abundance of objects and the proliferation of paintings completely covering the walls was reminiscent of the 17th century. The room was used as a fumoir or smoking room where gentlemen gathered to talk business or speak about the turbulent state of 19th century politics while they smoked.



The Banquet Room was where formal dinners took place. The furniture was a Spanish interpretation of the French Baroque style which was very in vogue in 19th century Spain. On the sideboards and serving tables were gold and silver plated objects used in the dining room.



Of course, the mansion wouldn't have been complete without a Billiards Room that was dedicated to one of the favorite activities of 19th century gentlemen! The overhead horizontal light focused the light on the French table but left the rest of the room in semi-darkness. Apparently, the table was prepared for King Ferdinand VII to play billiards on. Ladies sat on the footstools and watched their men play! 



I loved reading how the Chamfered Corner Room was used for gossiping and for rests between dances. Its decor was inspired by the French 18th century.


On the table was an exquisite Chinese bronze Bell with cloisonne enameling, again from the Qing dynasty, and made for export. Fine sheets of metal made up the design and separated the different colored enamels containing images of a plum tree and peony branches. It reminded me of a similar Chinese enameled blue cup my maternal grandfather brought home to England from China after one of his seafaring voyages. I was lucky enough to inherit it after my mother died; Steven and I now use it to store pens in the study!


The Marquis' Office was designed for entertaining and the reception of his most illustrious visitors without any pretense of the practical. The items on his desk, for instance, were there to be admired, not to be used. He placed paintings he considered the most important from his entire collection in this room.


The adjacent Library contained objects related to the Marquis' intellectual pursuits. In the room, I could almost imagine the Marquis spending time consulting the nearly 7,000 volumes on display and classifying his collection of coins and medals. The tomes were still in the order he had placed them on the shelves.



The library held another of the home's intriguing collection of clocks.



In the First Gallery which led to the Ballroom were Murano crystal lamps from Venice that illuminated this and the next two galleries. Portraits of the Marquis' grandparents and great grandparents adorned the walls.


If you look closely, you'll see yours truly in the mirror! I just noticed my reflection the first time a couple of minutes ago.


The spectacularly beautiful Ballroom was decorated with agate panels from Granada, marble from the Pyrenees and large mirrors that infinitely reflected light and reflections. In addition to being used for balls, soirees, archaeological exhibitions and literary evenings took place here. I'd had to race through the last few rooms before being the last ones to be kicked out at closing time.


I was really drawn to the mansion as the owners were such collectors we felt we'd traveled the world, by just looking at and admiring the gorgeous and interesting artifacts displayed throughout their home. Surprisingly, the home was nearly empty, and, as almost none of the treasures displayed were roped off or behind glass, it was like walking through the Marquis' home and not through the Museum Cerralbo.

We'd seen so much that day, beginning with the superb Sorolla Museum followed by the lovely domed Real Basilica de San Francisco and the almost cheerful Cathedral Crypt, that we were very ready for a relaxing dinner and wine that only set us back a comparatively paltry $12.


Next post: The Descalzas Royal Monastery and the queenly Reina Sofia Museum, the last of the top notch art museums in Madrid.

Posted on January 21st, 2019, from our home in Denver's suburbs.