Travelling and Destinations

The Lisbon Years

In 1942, Calouste Gulbenkian arrived in Lisbon, leaving behind Vichy, the city where he had temporarily lived during Paris’ Nazi occupation. Lisbon was then a peaceful and quiet city, perceived at the time as a small oasis in the midst of a Europe plunged into war and destruction. The suggestion to immigrate to Portugal, then a safe restful destination, is believed to have been made by his son Nubar Gulbenkian, who had already visited the city, and by José Caeiro da Mata, the Portuguese ambassador in Paris. Having taken the advice, Calouste Gulbenkian decided to move in to the luxurious Hotel Aviz, where he took up permanent residence up to his last days. During thirteen years, the Collector socialized with Portuguese notable people, networked and established business contacts, built friendships and took a liking to the customs and the mild weather of Portugal. The country rewarded this affection by awarding him one of the Portuguese highest decorations - Military Order of Christ – the only medal that Calouste Gulbenkian accepted in his entire lifetime.

Calouste Gulbenkian Personal Library is once again a precious tool, by helping us build a supported substantiated image of this Lisbon period. Even though the collection of books regarding Lisbon is not extensive, it is still important as it allows identifying some of the famous Portuguese individuals that were part of Calouste Gulbenkian’s social network. Some of the titles relate to Portuguese Art and are written in French. Such are the cases of Esquisse d’un tableau chronologique portugais et universel de l’histoire et de l’histoire de l’art and L’art portugais, both published in 1949 and written by doctor and historian Reinaldo dos Santos; and even Exposition portugaise de l'époque des grandes découvertes jusqu’au XXe siècle, published in 1931 at the time of the colonial exhibition in Paris. A large number of books, which concern national history, art and culture, are however in Portuguese. Calouste Gulbenkian did not master the Portuguese language, so every single one of these books was actually a gift offered by each respective author. For example, author and journalist Ernesto Belo Redondo gave Calouste Gulbenkian A batalha do petróleo, a book with a personal dedication. In addition, Pedro Batalha Reis, knowing Calouste Gulbenkian’s interest in numismatics, presented the Collector with a set of books on this field. Another gift came from art historian Luís Reis Santos, who offered “au grand collectionneur d’Art Mr. Gulbenkian” one of his own published works on Flemish painting.

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