Lisbon’s Ancient Art Museum houses a vast collection of ancient art and artefacts dating from the 14th to the 20th century. Located in the Lapa district on the Rua das Janelas Verdes (road of the green windows), the Ancient Art Museum is located in a beautiful 17th-century palace, which was constructed for Francisco de Tavora, the first Count of Alvor.
The palace was purchased by the Marques of Pombal in 1770 and was used to house an exhibition of Iberian art in 1882. It was the success of this exhibition that led to the creation of the Ancient Art Museum as an entity in its own right, in 1884.
The building was originally built with green windows, giving rise to the present-day street name and the museum’s alternative name, the Museu das Janelas Verdes.
The Ancient Art Museum is one of Lisbon’s must-visit attractions for anyone with an interest in art and design. It houses an important collection of ecclesiastical art and artefacts, much of which was confiscated from the monasteries after the abolition of religious orders in 1834.
There are many paintings with a religious theme, some by renowned masters such as Durer, Raphael, Nuno Goncalves and Bosch.
Highlights of the museum include the Temptation of St Anthony, by Bosch – a triptych which vividly displays the hallucinations endured by St Anthony during his pilgrimage in the desert.
Other major pieces include the Panels of Sao Vicente de Fora, a 15th-century masterpiece by Nuno Goncalves. Created as an altarpiece, the panels depict the adoration of St Vincent of Saragossa, Lisbon’s patron saint, with some 60 people highlighted in intricate detail.
In addition to the ecclesiastical pieces, there is also a large collection of non-European art, collected by Portugal’s intrepid explorers who headed out to explore the new world and expand Portugal’s growing empire.
These include works from as far afield as Japan. The collection is not just limited to painting however, with many silver and gold artefacts including intricate jewellery on show, as well as furniture, sculpture, tapestry, glass and ivory.
The impressive permanent collection fills an astonishing 70 rooms, spread over three floors. The first floor is given over to European art and a collection of Portuguese furniture, the second houses much of the jewellery along with ceramics and glassware, and the third is dedicated to painting and sculpture from Portugal.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Ancient Art Museum also holds temporary exhibitions, details of which can be obtained in the building itself or at the local tourist information office.
No trip to Lisbon, Portugal, would be complete without a trip to explore the delights of this wonderful collection, not just for its historical and cultural relevance, but also for the beautiful landscaped gardens that surround the museum.
Known as the Sculpture Garden, this attractive open area is adorned with sculptures and greenery, and makes the perfect place to relax with a drink or a snack from the Museum café and enjoy the delightful views on offer down over the rooftops to the Tagus River.
Ancient Art Museum
Rua das Janelas Verdes
Tel: +351 213 912 800
Fax: +351 213 973 703