In the U.S. today, many of us feel overwhelmed by inanimate objects. Witness the scolding television show Clean Sweep, or the horror stories of Hoarding: Buried Alive. We’ve developed a narrative of simplification, exhorting us to jettison clothes we haven’t worn in the past year, to discard one item for every new thing we bring into our home, to re-purpose the attic storage space as a meditation room. The modern aesthetic craves clean lines, and I hasten to agree in theory—it’s much easier to dust an empty sideboard.
Then again, it’s easy to accumulate when you have servants to do the dusting for you. The seventeenth Marqués of Cerralbo, don Enrique de Aguilera (1845-1922) and the financier/publisher/art critic José Lázaro Galdiano (1862-1947) were both avid collectors of fine objects: paintings, books, arms and armor, ceramics, bronzes, antiquities…the list is long. The aristocrat Cerralbo inherited wealth, while Galdiano made it and then married into more. Each man sported the whiskers of a Victorian gentleman, built a mansion in Madrid around the turn of the twentieth century to hold his treasures, and later gave everything to the nation of Spain.
|The Marques of Cerralbo|
|Young Christ (1490-95)|