Abel de Lacerda

Abel de Lacerda was born in 1921. Despite being the great-grandson, grandson and son of doctors, he himself had no vocation for medicine and decided to study Economic and Financial Sciences.

His father, Jerónimo de Lacerda, created the largest health resort in the Iberian Peninsula at Caramulo. In 1945, he died suddenly and Abel de Lacerda was obliged to suspend his studies in order to continue his father’s project. He would later continue his studies as a voluntary student.

Abel de Lacerda’s great passion had always been art and, despite having only scanty resources, he gradually collected works and formed relationships with artists and collectors. In 1953, he had the utopian idea of creating in Portugal a quite unique museum of art collectors. With his like-minded friends, he began to put together a collection of valuable works, all of them chosen according to the loftiest of criteria and displaying great harmony amongst themselves.

In an extremely short space of time, he had brought together roughly 100 people and collected close on 150 pieces, enabling him to mount a magnificent exhibition at Palácio Foz, in Lisbon, inaugurated by the head of state, General Craveiro Lopes, and members of the government. This exhibition brought to the knowledge of the general public what was later to become the Museu do Caramulo, an institution that he wished to be supported entirely by private patrons and their generosity. Immediately, he began to consider where the burgeoning collection should be housed, and decided upon Caramulo.
He travelled, studied, planned and began the construction work for the museum. He died prematurely in a tragic accident in 1957, without having had the time to consolidate his project or to establish its full legal status. Yet his dynamism and the energy that he had generated were unstoppable. In 1958, friends and donators created the Fundação Abel de Lacerda and his ambitions were finally given a legal form. In 1959, the Museu do Caramulo – Fundação Abel de Lacerda was inaugurated with great pomp and circumstance, enjoying the status of a public utility and greatly enhancing the national heritage.

Within six years, his dream had come true. It seemed utopian, but, for the first time in Portugal, there really existed a small museum of major importance, housing some quite exceptional works. Thanks to Abel de Lacerda’s great initiative and commitment and the patronage of his fellow Portuguese citizens who had shared his belief in the project, works of art were brought to Portugal that were previously scattered all over the world and which it would have been difficult to bring back to the country in any other way. An example of such works is the famous Manueline tapestries from Tournai.
The Museu do Caramulo has already been visited by more than a million people. Having remained independent at all times, it belongs to its donators, whose numbers are constantly regenerated with each year that passes. It now has a remarkable collection of pieces, all of them chosen in keeping with the rigorous criteria of quality and value imposed by Abel de Lacerda. This enables the museum to maintain the collection with the same harmony and interest, aspects that are not normally found in institutions that accept donations or even legacies.

The inventory that is displayed in this catalogue is therefore the result of the grandiose vision of Abel de Lacerda, which has been kept alive at the Museu do Caramulo.