Spain’s Greatest Art Collector, Dead at 88
The 18th Duchess of Alba, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, has died at the age 88 in her home in Sevilla on Thursday morning, after a short bout of pneumonia, ABC reports.
The Duchess, who held the Guinness World Record as the world’s most titled aristocrat, was Grandee of Spain and the holder of six dukedoms. She was the 9th fortune in Spain, with Forbes recently estimating her wealth on €2.8 billion.
The Duchess was loved by the Spanish gossip media due to her flamboyant appearance and carefree attitude. She owned vast an amount of property across Spain (including 20 castles and nine palaces), and one of the most important art collections in the country.
The House of Alba’s art collection was started in the 15th century and is a treasure trove of masterpieces, including works by El Greco, Francisco Goya, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán, Rembrandt, and Raphaël.
The House of Alba’s links with art history were cemented thanks to the close relationship (rumored to be more than platonic) between Goya and the 13th Duchess of Alba, María Cayetana de Silva, which resulted in several famous portraits, such as The White Duchess (1795) and Mourning Portrait of the Duchess of Alba (1797). Rumor has it that the woman depicted in Goya’s iconic The Nude Maja (1797-1800) and The Clothed Maja (1800-1805) was also the Duchess, although that has never been confirmed.
Highlights from House of Alba art collection, including several works by Goya, Rubens, Joshua Reynolds, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Picasso, and Marc Chagall, are slated to go on display at the Meadows Museum in Dallas in April 2015.
The Duchess, who could trace her noble lineage back 17 generations, was also Duchess of Berwick and a distant relative of King James II of Scotland, Winston Churchill, and Diana, Princess of Wales.
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