Stepping into the second floor galleries of the Meadows Museum feels like stepping into a cavern filled from floor to ceiling with precious stones. Treasures from the House of Alba: 500 Years of Art and Collecting can be bundled into a singular all-encompassing word used in the first gallery of the exhibition—splendor. The color and the sheen of painted canvas and tapestry and other decorative works form the splendor of the old and prestigious Alba family’s private collection, which has been delicately transported from the palaces of Liria, Las Duenas, and Monterrey in Madrid, Seville, and Salamanca, respectively, to the walls of 5900 Bishop Boulevard for visitors to feast their eyes upon.
The first room of the Treasures from the House of Alba catapults museum-goers into a timeline of a history rich in more ways than one. The Alvarez de Toledo family, upon which the original dukedom of Alba was bestowed, has origins that can be traced to 1262 CE. In 1430, Guittere Alvarez de Toledo, archbishop of Palencia, Seville, and Toledo, received the manor of Alba de Tormes, beginning a ducal line that would hone great power—political, religious, military, and cultural.
As museum visitors stride through the collection that has been developed over half a millennium, the gaze of the fine dukes and duchesses of Alba will follow them. When the cyan skies of a pair of Ribera’s oil on canvas landscapes confront the visitors, the magnanimous form of a grand duke is behind them, watching over his family’s collection. As one peruses medieval illuminated manuscripts, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, has a stern gaze on the same page as the viewer.
The masters of politics and war, the Dukes of Alba, are coexisting with the artistic masters in this collection. The greatest European artists are gracing the walls of Meadows thanks to these leaders. Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Vincent van Gogh, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Gustave Courbet—art lovers, these names will make your breath catch as you stand, unassuming, in the heart of Highland Park, Texas.
Hanging from the Meadows Museum’s walls is secret, Spanish poetry—masterpieces dripping with decadence, many of which have never before been publicly displayed outside of Spain prior to this exhibit. Five hundred years of growth have built this opulent collection, five hundred years of power, prestige, and precious, precious workmanship. This is a collection like none other, and it leaves Dallas January 3, 2016. Go, and indulge in emerald, sapphire, and pearly hues. Go, and be immersed in five centuries of splendor.