SMU’s Meadows Museum will present the first major U.S. exhibition of works from one of the oldest and most significant private art collections in Europe.
Treasures from the House of Alba: 500 Years of Art and Collecting will feature more than 100 European works – from paintings by Goya and Rubens to 16th-century tapestries by Willem de Pannemaker and 19th-century furniture created for Napoleon III – most of which have never been on public display or seen outside of Spain, as well as illuminated manuscripts, books, historic documents, miniatures, antiquities, prints, sculpture, drawings, and other objects.
Curated by Fernando Checa Cremades, former director of the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Treasures from the House of Alba will be on view at the Meadows from April 18 through August 16, 2015, and will serve as the cornerstone to the Museum’s 50th anniversary celebration, which will continue throughout 2015.
The House of Alba – for centuries the most illustrious household in Spain, with close ties to the monarchy – remains one of the foremost noble families in Europe, with roots dating back to the mid-15th century when Fernando Álvarez de Toledo was named Count of the town of Alba de Tormes. The Albas have since forged connections with members of some of the most prominent dynasties in European history, including the House of Stuart; the Count-Dukes of Olivares; the Duchy of Veragua, (descendants of Christopher Columbus); Napoleon III and his wife, Eugenia de Montijo; and the Churchill family.
Over the past five centuries, the Alba family’s patronage, connoisseurship, and ties to Western royalty have shaped the growth and trajectory of the Alba collection, which is now one of the greatest private collections in the world. The current head of the Alba family is Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, the 18th Duchess of Alba, who bears more recognized titles than any other noble living today.
“Our will is to share the works and pieces that make up the collection of the Foundation House of Alba with an increasing public, each time more knowledgeable and more interested in culture and history. This sample allows us to present different works and documents that have survived the vicissitudes of history and that make the greatest treasure of the legacy of our family. It is also an extraordinary opportunity for making visible the steady and silent work of preservation and upkeep that the house of Alba has developed for centuries,” said Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo, Duke of Huescar.
“The Meadows Museum is incredibly grateful for the generosity of the Duchess of Alba and the entire Alba family, who have so graciously agreed to lend a range of preeminent works from their collection for this groundbreaking exhibition. These extraordinary works of art, many of which have never left the Alba family’s personal estates, are a treasure trove and a fount of new art historical knowledge,” said Mark Roglán, Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum and Centennial Chair in the Meadows School of the Arts.
“We are honored to present the first exhibition of this outstanding collection in the United States, sharing these works of art that tell the story of a remarkable family and provide an unprecedented opportunity to explore the panoply of cultural achievement and European history. We are honored that Fernando Checa Cremades will be curating Treasures from the House of Alba and working with the Museum to present the collection in a way no one has experienced before.”