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THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANCIENT ART – LISBON

If you are in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, you should not miss a visit to the National Museum of Ancient Art (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga), also known as the Green Windows Museum (Museu das Janelas Verdes), due to name of the street where it is located.

To reach the museum you can use a GPS navigation. The museum is open to the public every Tuesdays from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm and from Wednesday to Sunday (10:00 am to 6:00 pm); if you want you can have lunch in the restaurant, which has an esplanade with a magnificent view over Tagus River.

The National Museum of Ancient Arts is located in the former palace of the Count of Alvor that was bought by the government of Portugal in the year of 1884 to install there the National Museum of Fine Arts and Archaeology, and only in 1911, after the republican revolution in Portugal, the museum got its actual name.

The museum exhibits painting, sculpture, metalwork, ecclesiastic treasures, textiles, furniture and decorative arts from the Middle Age to the beginning of the 19th century, and also oriental and African pieces, with an European influence, and where the theme of  Portuguese Discoveries and the relations of Portugal with Brazil, Africa, China, Japan and India are present.

The museum has an important collection of Portuguese and European painters, since the 15th century to the 18th century, such as the Portuguese Jorge Afonso, Francisco de Holanda, Gregório Lopes, Josefa de Óbidos, Vieira Portuense and Domingos Sequeira.

In what concerns the European painters they worth a special mentioning the oeuvres of Hieronymus Bosch (the famous Triptych of the Temptation of St. Anthony), Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Albrecht Dürer (Saint Jerome in His Study), Raphael, Tintoretto, Anthony van Dyck, Diego Velázquez and François Boucher.

But the most important oeuvres of the museum are the Saint Vincent Panels and the Portuguese metal work, the Monstrance of Santa Maria de Belém. The Saint Vincent Panels were probably painted by the Portuguese painter Nuno Gonçalves, a court painter of King Afonso V, in the 15th (the exact year is not known), representing the main social classes of Portugal in that century – clergy, nobility and common people.

They consist of six panels showing the Portuguese society venerating Saint Vincent (the Patron Saint of Lisbon), discovered in the 19th century and there are sixty portraits on the panels. The six panels are the Panel of the Monks, the Panel of the Fishermen, the Panel of the Prince, the Panel of the Archbishop, the Panel of the Knights and the Panel of the Relic.

There is a large controversy among the scholars and experts about who ordered the oeuvre, who is portrayed in the panels, what scenes are shown and what the objects on the panels symbolize. The academics agree that the panels represent the Portuguese society of the 15th century and that the sons of King João I are represented, but there is no consensus about who is whom.

The main controversies are the Panels of the Prince (is it the image of Prince Henry the Navigator?) and of the Knights (who are the Knights represented?). The Monstrance of Santa Maria de Belém, made of gold and glaze, in a late gothic style, is considered to be the masterpiece of Portuguese jewellery is dated from the 16th century

(1506).

The experts accredit its authorship to Gil Vicente, a poet, an actor and a playwright that is

considered to be the “father” of the theatre in Portugal.

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