To mark its 50th anniversary next year — and the 100th anniversary of SMU itself — the Meadows Museum will display more than 130 artworks from the Spanish House of Alba collection, artworks that have never been exhibited outside of Spain before. The pieces include paintings by Goya, Titian, Renoir and Rubens as well as tapestries, manuscripts, the first Spanish-language Bible and documents related to the voyages of Christopher Columbus.
An aristocratic Spanish household that dates back to 1429, the Alba family has been one of the most powerful in Europe, not just in Spain. Descendants include a queen of France (Marie de Medici) — as well as Juan Carlos I, who recently abdicated as King of Spain in favor of his son, Felipe VI. The current 18th Duchess of Alba, an 87-year-old billionaire, reigns in the Guinness Book of Records as the person with the largest number of noble titles (more than 40). She even has a possible claim to the ‘throne of Scotland,’ if it were to vote to become independent. The duchess is a descendant of the Stuart clan that once ruled England, Scotland and Wales.
In fact, her eccentric, earlier relative, the 13th duchess, Maria Teresa Cayetana de Silva, was a favorite subject of Goya. One of his most famous portraits of her, the so-called “White Duchess” from 1785, will be one of the highpoints of the exhibition, Treasures from the House of Alba: 500 Years of Art and Collecting, which will run at the Meadows from April 18 through August. 16. It has often been speculated that Goya’s relationship with the duchess was more than platonic or patron-and-painter, considering the many portraits he made of the widow.
The private collection, housed in the Alba family’s palaces in Madrid, Seville and Salamanca, will be coming to a museum that was established by Texas oilman Algur H. Meadows with his own collection of Spanish art. It follows a three-year partnership the Meadows had with the Prado Museum in Madrid.