HISTORY OF THE LIRIA PALACE
The Liria Palace is one of the most important private homes in Madrid. It was built in the period between 1767 and 1785 on the orders of the third Duke of Berwick and Liria, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Colón. We owe this monument of a building primarily to the renowned architect Ventura Rodríguez (1717-1785), who replaced Louis Guilbert at the job’s helm, crafting a long, rectangular, compact neoclassical building. The English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) designed a number of modifications commissioned by the 18th Duke of Alba, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó.
In November 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, the building was gutted by several fires that left just the four outer walls standing. While this was a tragedy and the losses were staggering, most of the collection was rescued and put away safely in locations around Madrid such as the British Embassy, the Prado Museum and the Bank of Spain.
The job of rebuilding the palace was undertaken by the 17th Duke of Alba, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart, and finished by the 18th Duchess, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart and her consort, Luis Martínez de Irujo. Manuel Cabanyes was the architect charged with constructing the new Liria Palace. He used Lutyens’ original plans but modified the main staircase, the chapel and the hall.
Today the palace is the residence of the 19th Duke of Alba, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart, and headquarters of the Casa de Alba Foundation. It is also one of the most important buildings in Madrid, architectonically speaking, and home to one of the world’s foremost private art collections.
Collections of Art, Collections of History
At the Liria Palace you can experience the history of one of Spain’s most distinguished lineages through documents, pictures, sculptures, tapestries and other works. As you roam the halls, you can feel the traces of centuries past and get to know not only the history of one of Spain’s most well-known families, but also some of the major events in the history of Spain and the world.
We have the Dukes of Berwick and Alba, patrons and collectors for more than five hundred years, to thank for gathering this collection of historical items and art. The origin of the Liria Palace collections can be traced to the refined tastes and cultural leanings of its inhabitants, who sought out artistic objects to decorate their palaces. Paintings, sculpture, tapestries, furniture, engravings, documents and books, plus a large set of porcelain and examples of the decorative arts are scattered about the various rooms for the appreciation of their owners and visitors, who can enjoy a truly unique collection. Foremost are the paintings of great masters like Goya, Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, El Greco, Ribera, Rubens, Titian, Palma Vecchio, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Madrazo and Winterhalter. Great historical figures from the ranks of culture, the arts and politics have visited the palace, like Cole Porter, Arthur Rubinstein, Howard Carter, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Oscar Wilde, Igor Stravinsky, José Ortega y Gasset and Charlie Chaplin.
The Casa de Alba Foundation, chaired by the 19th Duke of Alba, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart y Martínez de Irujo, with the support of his two sons, Fernando, Duke of Huéscar, and Carlos, Count of Osorno, as trustees, has worked hard to open up the House of Alba collection as well as the duke’s palaces, his current residences, and to share information about them so other people can enjoy and get to know his legacy. The Duke of Alba defends a policy of openness and friendliness between the House of Alba and the citizens of Madrid, the citizens of Spain and any visitor interested in culture. The foundation was created in 1973 on the basis of several years of groundwork laid by his parents, Cayetana, 18th Duchess of Alba, and her consort, Luis, who began the work of preserving and sharing the historical and art collections of their house by taking the first step toward the foundation’s creation.