The Museo Cerralbo is
special in that it is one of the few examples in Madrid of a 19th
century mansion which preserves its original décor. It was the
residence of the 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, don Enrique de Aguilera
(1845-1922), and his family, comprised of his wife, doña Inocencia
Serrano y Cerver (1816-1896), widow of don Antonio del Valle, who
brought two children to the marriage, don Antonio del Valle y Serrano
(1846-1900), 1st Marquis of Villa-Huerta, and doña Amelia (1850-
1927), Marquise of Villa-Huerta upon the death of her brother.
As a House-museum it is a
must-see for learning about the lifestyle of the aristocracy in
Madrid in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Moreover,
as a collector’s Museum it reflects the artistic tastes of its
time, a collection that was considered, at that time, to be one of
the most important private collections in the country and, without a
doubt, the most complete of its time.
About the Marquis
Don Enrique de Aguilera y
Gamboa, 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, was born in Madrid on 8 July
1845. From his teens he showed a leaning towards the Fine Arts with a
gift for drawing, poetry and painting. His enthusiastic and
altruistic spirit led him to found the
Young Catholics and to join the Carlist party at age twenty four.
Three years later he was elected as a member of parliament for the
province of Ledesma in Salamanca.
He studied Philosophy,
Arts and Law at the Universidad Central of Madrid. On 25 August 1871
he married doña Inocencia Serrano y Cerver.
he was appointed Senator of the Kingdom in his own right. From April
1890 he would be don Charles of Bourbon’s representative in Spain.
In honour of his dedication and services rendered, he was awarded the
Order of the Golden Fleece in 1895 and, in 1896, he was awarded the
Collar of the Order of the Holy Ghost.
Don Enrique combined his
dedication to politics with his devotion to literature, art and his
passion for collecting; a restlessness that would lead him to go on
many trips throughout Europe with his family. Together they visited
museums and monuments and acquired many of the artworks, antiques and
decorative objects which are housed in this house-museum today.
In addition, he devoted
himself to historical investigations. In 1900 he published the study
Doña María Henríquez de Toledo, mujer del
Gran Duque de Alba, and years later, in 1908, his
acceptance speech to the Royal Academy of History: El
Arzobispo Don Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada y el Monasterio de Santa María
de Huerta. It was at this time that his interest in
several archaeological and palaeontological sites in the Castilian
He returned briefly to
politics in 1912, acting this time as the representative of don
Jaime of Bourbon, a position he would hold until 1919 when the party
split up after the First World War.
sixty-four years of age, having definitively abandoned Carlist lines,
he devoted himself completely to Archaeology. Around 1903 he met Juan
Cabré, a young artist and archaeologist, with whom he would
collaborate and maintain a close friendship. From his mansion at
Santa María de Huerta in Soria he directed and financed over
a hundred digs around the river Jalón. The results of the first
excavations are published in his work Páginas de la Historia
Patria por mis excavaciones
arqueológicas, a five-volume study
for which he received the Martorell International Award in 1912.
Bearing in mind that the
law of the time permitted those who had carried out archaeological
digs to keep of some of the objects found on them, don Enrique
accumulated thousands of pieces in his mansions in Madrid and Soria
which, in the end, went to the Museo Arqueológico Nacional and the
Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales of Madrid.
1912 he went to the International Congress on Prehistoric
Anthropology and Archaeology in Geneva as a representative of the
Real Academia de la Historia, where he presented his studies on
Torralba and Iberian burial grounds. From then on he collaborated
with the most prestigious European scientific and cultural
institutions, such as the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in
Paris, the Academia Pontificia Romana dei Nuovi Lincei and
Imperial Insititute in Berlin.
kept in contact with H. Breuil, H. Obermaier, L. Siret, E. Tormo, J.
Amador de los Ríos, A. Schulten and É. Cartailhac, among many
others, on a scientific basis. His passion for collecting began at an
early age with the world of Numismatics; years later, his marriage to
doña Inocencia, the inheritance from his grandfather and his
investments, although cautious, in the stock market and the railway
allowed him to amass a varied and important artistic heritage. A
tireless curios and collectables hunter in auctions and antique
shops, mainly in France and Italy, he bought twenty-one paintings
from the Michiele from Venice antique shop in 1883, works by Ruschi,
Tintoretto and Palma el Joven among them. In Paris, he often went to
auctions in the Hotel Drouot and acquired drawings, prints,
marble busts, European and Oriental porcelain, clocks, rare books and
manuscripts, as well as coins from the Belgian colonel P. Maillet’s
collection. In the Hotel des Ventes in Rue Rossini he obtained
several Oriental musical instruments which came from Adolphe Sax’s
museum of instruments; Adolphe Sax being the inventor of the
Due to large collections
going on sale in Spain, such as the Marquis of Salamanca’s, he had
the opportunity to obtain pictorial works which, in turn, had come
from José Madrazo’s collection and before that, from the houses
belonging to the Marquis of Leganés and the Marquis of Altamira.
Cerralbo also went to the
large national and international exhibitions held in Paris and other
European cities in search of decorative elements for his mansion. A
wide range of decorative objects which drew inspiration from former
times, such as dinner and tea services, glassware, sculptures,
porcelain, lamps, mirrors, clocks, furniture, rugs,
tapestries and painted papers, were shown and commercialised in these
In the end, he was able
to amass an important and varied collection, considered one of the
most complete in Spain at the time.
The Marquis’s zeal for
collecting was not an isolated occurrence, but a hobby that became
popular in principal European cities during the mid-nineteenth
century, especially among the wealthy bourgeoisies.
connoisseur were the terms of the period
used to define the profile of professional collectors; wealthy
gentlemen with enough free time to travel, take part in auctions and
visit antique shops in search of art works, objets of art, antiques
and curios. To the initial interest in owning such items was later
added that of research; collectors became, by dint of looking,
buying and studying, true specialists who needed to share their
findings in scholarly publications.
concern that a collection brought together with such passion,
dedication and effort could be scattered led him to create a Museum.
Thanks to his initiative, the Spanish national heritage includes the
testimony of a period, a lifestyle and artistic preferences that
would have otherwise been lost. Don Enrique expressed his
desires in a will written in 1922: “Throughout my life I have spent
much time collecting works of art, archaeological pieces and curios.
Having been able to bring together important and valuable
collections, and given that I don’t have obligatory heirs, I have
decided to keep these collections in such a way that they shall
always remain together and be there to be studied by science and art