The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, or National Museum of Ancient Art, is a must-see destination for art lovers visiting Lisbon. Founded in 1884 and housed in the Palácio Alvor for the past 130 years, the museum is home to the most important public collection of art in Portugal, with over 40,000 items ranging from paintings and sculptures to gold and silverware, and decorative arts from Europe, Africa, and the Far East.
In addition to its impressive collection of national treasures, the museum is also home to a number of major works of art that are recognized as part of the world's artistic heritage. The collection has been enhanced over the years through generous donations and important purchases, showcasing some of the best artistic work produced or accumulated in Portugal between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era.
One of the highlights of the museum is its beautiful garden, which overlooks the River Tagus and is the perfect spot for a coffee break. The museum itself is housed in a 17th century palace, built on the site of a 16th century Carmelite convent, the remnants of which can still be seen in the Baroque chapel.
Inside the museum, visitors can see a range of paintings by Portuguese artists such as Nuno Gonçalves, Frei Carlos, Vasco Fernandes, and Gregório Lopes, as well as works by European masters such as Memling, Bosch, Dürer, Holbein, Gerard David, Lucas Cranach, Morales, Pieter de Hooch, Zurbarán, Piero della Francesca, Rafael, Fragonard, and Courbet. There are also collections of religious sculpture from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period, including beautiful cribs by Machado de Castro, as well as decorative art such as Portuguese and oriental ceramics, furniture, carpets from Arraiolos, and textiles.
A special mention must be made of the museum's collection of gold and silverware, which is the most important in Portugal and includes pieces from the Middle Ages to the 18th century Baroque period, as well as stunning silver tableware made by the French Germain goldsmiths for the Portuguese royal family. The museum also has a collection of decorative pieces from Africa, India, and China, including carved ivory, furniture, embroidery, silverware, porcelain, silks, and a collection of Namban art featuring Japanese screens and lacquerware.
Overall, the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is a beautiful and informative place to visit, and it is one of my personal favorites in the city. As a major partner in international collaborations between museums, the MNAA is a pioneering institution in the field of conservation and museum management, and its education service is considered to be one of the best in Portugal. Whether you are a seasoned art aficionado or simply looking for an enjoyable cultural experience, the National Museum of Ancient Art is not to be missed.