Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, 17th Marquis of Cerralbo, was no doubt a passionate man. An inspiring politician, he was a close friend of King Carlos VII; as a keen archaeologist he contributed to excavation methodology and introduced new technics which were considered ground-breaking at that time; and as a member of several scientific institutions published articles on paleontology and history. Nevertheless, Marquis’s greatest passion was collecting pieces of art and antiquity.
After having travelled for several years, he had finally decided to settle down in Madrid with his wife. Their residence, on Calle de Ventura Rodríguez – sometimes referred to as a palace – was meant to reflect Marquis’s fondness for fine arts, history and antiques. The “palace” was designed by a group of renowned architects in eclectic style; soon after Aguilera moved here, his house became an epicenter of social and political life, with meetings and debates being reported by the press. However, Marquis himself had cherished an idea of turning the house into a private collection – after all, the years of traveling and hunting for antiques at auctions and museums across Europe permitted him to boast an immense collection of almost 50 000 objects!
In 1944, already after his death, the doors of Aguilera’s former residence were opened to public – and now, anyone could find out how the 19th century bourgeoisie lived. Gold sparkles everywhere; particularly in a ballroom and a gala dining room on the upper floor. Oriental motifs shine in full swing in the themed Arab room, with the 18th century Japanese suits of armor, Moroccan kilims and carpets, Chinese musical instruments and weapons from the Philippines and Japan. Excavated relics from Ancient Greece and Rome; Murano glass and Bohemian crystal; French furniture from the 18th century and paintings by Goya, El Greco and Zurbarán – although all of the items listed above are worth the visit, they do not represent even a half of this impressive collection!