A Magnificent Legacy

Trip Start Apr 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, May 8, 2009

"No, my friend; it is simply too much.  I will not pay it."  This from a man whose personal art collection included a painting by El Greco, two Rodin bronzes, a marble bust by the 16th century sculptor Jacobo Sansovino, an etching by Rembrandt, and many other treasures.  But this conversation, or something like it, occurred between MatÝas Erraz˙riz and his good friend, Auguste Rodin.
In 1897, Erraz˙riz, a member of a very wealthy and influential Chilean family, married the equally wealthy Josefina de Alvear, the granddaughter of Argentine Independence-era leader Carlos MarÝa de Alvear.
While living in Paris in 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Erraz˙riz hired a French architect and began construction of a magnificent mansion in Buenos Aires.  As evidence of the grandeur of their home, and the resources that they lavished upon it, the Erraz˙riz's commissioned the foremost sculptor in the world, Auguste Rodin to design the fireplace mantle.  Unfortunately, the bronze model of Rodin's design stands next to the actual fireplace today.  Apparently, the 750 francs requested by Mr. Rodin was more than even the fabulously wealthy Mr. Erraz˙riz was willing to pay.
Despite the missing Rodin mantle, the house is an amazing monument to the wealth of Argentina's belle epoch (+/- 1880 - 1920).   The walls of the main foyer (there is another foyer with a large stairway leading up to the main foyer) are finely-carved wood panels, created in France and sent to Argentina to be assembled.   The "living room" is a 3,000 square foot, two-story space with a balcony/gallery around three sides.  The dining room seats 18, and both the walls and the floor are Italian marble.  The adjacent oval ballroom is lit by 8 magnificent crystal chandeliers that are reflected in the mirrored panels that line the walls and the curved doors that complete the oval at either end of the room.
And the Erraz˙riz's had both the resources and the taste to fill the house with exquisite furnishings and art.  To satisfy their son's desire for something more contemporary than the rest of the house, the Erraz˙riz's retained the renowned Spanish muralist Jose Maria Sert.  As part of the design for the son's bedroom, Sert created four original paintings (three in oil and one on mirror) that are set into gold-framed recesses in the walls.
In 1937, and following Mrs. Erraz˙riz's death, Mr. Erraz˙riz decided to return to Chile.  He offered to sell the house and all its art and furnishings to the Argentine government for a museum.  Fortunately, the government took advantage of this offer, and today this magnificent building is available to all as the National Museum of Decorative Arts.
Unfortunately, the museum does not allow photos of the interior.  Here is an historic photo at the link below that gives you a since of the grandeur of the building when it was new, as well as my photo of the exterior.
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