About 30 years ago on my first visit to Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, we visited the Museum of Fine Arts and were blown away by their collection, containing many European classical, C19 and C20 art works, but also some wonderful Chinese and other Oriental art. It’s always nice to go back to revisit somewhere you’ve enjoyed before, isn’t it? We had need to be in B.A briefly recently, and spent some time in this wonderful museum.
These may be the same two large urns or vases, labelled Ming dynasty (from mid C15 – mid C17) that enthralled me back then, and maybe not; but they’re stunning all the same. The same lack of security barriers or alert systems still apply, but there are still a good number of watchful attendants hovering close by. I was so taken by the huge pots with rims around chest height, that I barely glanced at the group in the case between!
What really impressed on this recent visit was a suite of rooms containing a huge collection of paintings, sculptures and beautiful objects, thousands of them, acquired on the travels of Argentine father Manuel Jose de Guerrico (1800 – 76) and son Jose Prudencio (1837-1902) The collection is said to be the beginning of private collecting in Argentina by two people who were aware of their pioneering role building an important collection; so it reflects principal tastes at the time, and also documents material cultural changes and preferences in daily life. De Guerrico descendents donated the collection to the nation in 1938. I gazed at a beautiful collection of the very large tortoiseshell combs or peinetas worn by elegant spanish mantilla-wearing women –
Nearby was a large cabinet loaded with beautiful small decorated boxes made from all kind of materials and techniques, ornamental vases, candelabra and small urns. In another were hundreds of fans, though most were folded and the ones opened out didn’t photograph well. In another case were more lidded containers with many netsukes though my photos seem to have focused on the boxes – never mind, there are lots of images of those online – Netsukes are highly collectable these days, and many of the older ones are very valuable indeed.
At a time when Argentina was far more relatively wealthy than it is today, C19 and early C20, people in much of Latin America imported huge quantities of fine furniture and art, everyday items like fabrics and high quality household items, plus machinery, cars and boats, from European manufacturers. The de Guerrico collection is presented in galleries painted strong bright red – sumptuous, in every way. Those frequent father and son trips to Europe must have been hectic and fabulous shopping trips!