The Thyssen Collection, Madrid

This collection/museum in Madrid is astonishing not just with regard to the depths of its holdings... which are mind blowing... but also because it was amassed entirely AS A PRIVATE COLLECTION. Let that sink in after you see the caliber of artistry on display here... there are works by nearly every major artist of the past 400 years! Masterpieces whose present day value is incomprehensible... like Hans Holbein's only surviving oil portrait of King Henry VIII (see above). There are also paintings by Rembrandt, Dürer, Jan Van Eyck, Caravaggio, Rubens, Titian, Hals, Goya, Renoir, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, Dali... just an unbelievable cache of fine art.

The collectors here were a husband and wife team of who somehow got their hands on every damned painting that came up for sale for decades. At the end of the day, in the art-world, "money talks" and they must have been speaking loudly and clearly. The Thyssens collected everything; every great master of every art epoch from the renaissance onward (and quite a few from before it). Many of these paintings are by artists whose canvases now reguarly sell for as much as $100m... so it boggles the mind to think of what this *private* collection must be worth. It's no longer private... it was gifted to the Spanish government by the Thyssens and is kept beautifully in a state-of-the-art building just opposite the Prado in Madrid.

I just have to give you the caveat that I don't ordinarily consider the monetary value of art when looking at a collection. It's just not how we're programmed to think about art and artists. But in this instance it's a legitimate factor (it being a private collection, amassed largely in my lifetime) and one which is impossible to keep out of your thoughts while perusing the galleries. All these thousands of works... each more impressive than the last... belonged to just one private collector and his wife (whose collecting he encouraged and which eventually rivaled his own). It's unreal.

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