The National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Portuguese) in Lisbon is considered to be among one of the most important art museums in Europe. Works in the museum span a period from the 12th to 19th centuries, and are as remarkable in their creativity as they are in their record of time. All together, the collection reflects the history, culture and role played by Portugal in the world during those eight centuries.
The museum was founded in 1884. It occupies the Palácio de Alvor-Pombal a space that in itself is a work of art. It was built in the late 17th century by Dom Francisco de Tavora, the first Earl of Alvor. A convent and chapel were later erected next to the main residence of the structure. Today, the chapel represents a fine example of 18th century art and architecture, and is incorporated into the museum exhibition space. (Note: as of 12 December 2012, the chapel is temporarily closed for due to conservation works.)
The museum collection includes painting, sculpture, metalwork, textiles, furniture, drawings, and other decorative art forms from the Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century.
Perhaps the most famous work in the museum are the Saint Vincent Panels, which date from before 1470 and are attributed to Nuno Gonçalves, court painter of King Afonso V. The six large panels show people from all levels of late medieval Portuguese society venerating Saint Vincent, in one of the first collective portraits in European art. There are sixty portraits on the panels.
Important Portuguese painters are well-represented including:
Jorge Afonso ■ Vasco Fernandes ■ Garcia Fernandes ■ Francisco de Holanda ■ Cristóvão Lopes ■ Gregório Lopes ■ Cristovão de Figueiredo ■ Francisco Henriques ■ Frei Carlos ■ Josefa de Óbidos ■ Bento Coelho da Silveira ■ Vieira Portuense ■ Domingos Sequeira ■ Morgado de Setúbal.
Portuguese metalwork is another highlight of the museum. Among its collection are outstanding pieces from the 12th to the 18th centuries. One of the most notable examples is the famous monstrance of Belém. It might have been made by the playwright, actor, and poet, Gil Vicente. According to an inscription on the monstrance, it was created out of some of the first gold brought back to Portugal from India by the explorer, Vasco da Gama.
The European painting section of the museum is significant and is represented by:
Jacob Adriaensz Backer ■ Bartolomé Bermejo ■ Hieronymus Bosch ■ Pieter Brueghel the Younger ■ David Gerard ■ Albrecht Dürer ■ Lucas Cranach ■ Piero della Francesca ■ Jan Gossaert ■ Hans Holbein the Elder ■ Pieter de Hooch ■ Adriaen Isenbrandt ■ Quentin Metsys ■ Hans Memling ■ Antonis Mor ■ Joachim Patinir ■ Jan Provost ■ Raphael ■ José Ribera ■ Andrea del Sarto ■ David Teniers the Younger ■ Tintoretto ■ Anthony van Dyck ■ Diego Velázquez ■ David Vinckeboons ■ Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom ■ Francisco de Zurbarán.
The museum is organized across three floors. On the ground floor, together with the convent’s former chapel, are decorative arts, furniture and European paintings. A grand staircase leads to the first floor which holds the collections of gold and silverware, jewellery, ceramics and Oriental arts, resulting from the overseas discoveries undertaken by the Portuguese. On the second floor are collections of Portuguese Painting and Sculpture. Download a Floor Plan of the National Museum of Ancient Art here.
For more information, visit the MNAA website.
National Museum of Antique Art
Rua das Janelas Verdes
1249 – 017 Lisbon
Phone: +351 21 391 28 00
Tuesday through Sunday – 10:00 to 18:00
Closed on Mondays all day and Tuesday in the morning. Also, January 1, Easter, May 1 and December 25.
€6.00 – standard ticket
Free for children under 12