Medeiros e Almeida Museum
Located just above Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon is the de Medeiros e Almeida Museum. The former home of the late Antonio de Medeiros e Almeida (1895-1986), it is a treasure trove of decorative arts.
The Medeiros e Almeida Foundation was created by its illustrious owner to preserve his home and vast collection for generations to come. He and his wife, Margarida Pinto Basto de Medeiros e Almeida (1898-1971) collected items dating from 2nd century BC to the 20th century.
The collection includes sacred art, furniture, sculptures, textiles, and more. Of particular historical interest is a Portuguese tea set used by Napoleon during his exile.
A Remarkable Life in Lisbon
Antonio Medeiros e Almeida was born to prosperous parents in Lisbon. He enrolled in medical school, but the lure of business was just too great, and he left after his third year.
Drawn to automobiles, Medeiros e Almeida raced cars and later imported them from England. The problem was that British cars did not fare well on Lisbon cobbled streets. After spending a fortune repairing the damaged cars at his own expense, he convinced the English to manufacture a special type of car for the export market and recouped the losses.
It was not just automobiles that drew Medeiros e Almeida; he purchased Aero Portuguesa and bought the Air France plane that his company already chartered. A pioneer, Medeiros e Almeida ordered the installation of a music system on his planes and blue glass in the windows so that passengers could gaze out without the glare of the sun bothering them.
Medeiros e Almeida mentioned that it was a shame the producers of Casablanca didn't get the model of the plane correctly in the last scene as at the time, the company operating flights from Casablanca would have been Aero-Portuguesa.
Despite Aero Portuguesa being very profitable, in 1953 Medeiros e Almeida sold it to what is now Transportes Aéreos Portugueses (TAP). He sold with the condition that all of his employees be integrated into TAP. Today, TAP is still the premier Portuguese airline.
In addition to transportation, Medeiros e Almeida conducted business in the sugar, alcohol, and hospitality industries.
I entered the museum on a winter's day--a wonderful time in Lisbon to go when the seemingly endless Portuguese sunlight has diminished. It was easily navigated without pressing crowds, and I could take the time to stop and gaze at rooms that particularly interested me like the dining room and study.
The dining room gave me pause--literally and figuratively. Medeiros e Almeida and his wife hosted many dignitaries at that very dining room table including Prince Rainier and Princess Grace in 1964. Their evening would not have been complete without Portuguese Fado ringing through the expensive crystal.
Napoleon Bonaparte "lives" here
On his journey into exile in 1815, Napoleon's ship stopped at the Portuguese island, Madeira. There, Napoleon purchased this tea set above, which he used until his death. Each piece is marked with his monogram and laurel wreath.
Race Against Time
Medeiros e Almeida loved timepieces. He even offered a watch to all employees who had worked at one of his companies.
He explained his life since 1941, was "a true race against time," and declared his watch collection as the "one I get most pleasure from."
"Why are they so important to me? I don’t know. Maybe because they symbolize the only thing I never controlled and is running out for me – Time,” he said.
May we all be fortunate and enterprising like Medeiros e Almeida, and value the most precious gift we have been given, Time.