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Laid out in a sumptuous late-19th-century mansion in Argüelles is the incredible private collection of artworks and artefacts assembled by Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, the 17th Marqués de Cerralbo. A man of letters, reactionary politician and traveller who fanatically collected pieces everywhere he went, he bequeathed his collection to the state with the stipulation that it should be displayed exactly how he had arranged it himself, in a house that even during its owner's life was conceived of as a home and a museum. The decoration has neo-baroque and rococo elements and you'll get a sense of horror vacui, with the walls so full of paintings and objects. Among the many paintings, however, are El Greco's 'The Ecstasy of St Francis of Assisi' – the real highlight – and works by Zurbarán, Alonso Cano and other Spanish masters.
The upstairs area contains an astonishing collection of European and Japanese armour, weapons, watches, pipes, leather-bound books, clocks and other curiosities. The mansion itself is of interest; virtually intact, it gives a good idea of how the aristocracy lived in the Restoration period – look out especially for the lavish ballroom and the garden, which is a reinterpretation of a romantic English-style garden based on a model designed by the Marques himself. The museum also hosts activities for children, concerts, exhibitions and more.
Ventura Rodríguez, 17
|Transport:||Plaza de España (M: L10, L3), Ventura Rodríguez (M: L3)|
|Price:||€3; reduced €1.50; free: Sat from 2pm, Thu 5pm-8pm and Sun.|
|Opening hours:||Mon closed; Tue-Sat 9.30am-3pm; Thu 5pm-8pm; Sun and holidays 10am-3pm.|
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