Chile: Museo de Bellas Artes…


We finished our third day in Santiago with some fine art at the Museo de Bellas Artes – the oldest art museum in Latin America.  The museum was officially founded on September 18, 1880, and originally named Museo National de Pinturas.  In 1901 the government announced it would build a new building for the museum and the Museo de Bellas Artes was inaugurated in September 1910 as part of the celebrations commemorating the first centennial of the independence of Chile.  Out of all the photos I took there is not one of that relief above the door!

IMG_1968The central entrance is an enlarged version of Borromini’s false-perspective window (in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome).  It encloses a pedimented doorway surrounded entirely by glass.  The facade and internal layout are modeled after the Petit Palais, Paris.    Come on in…   IMG_1971.IMG_2010The glass cupola over the central hall was designed & manufactured in Belgium and shipped to Chile in 1907. The approximate weight of the cupola “armour”  is 115,000kg, and the glass weighs about 2,400kg.  It doesn’t seem that it would be an easy thing to ship (unlike the collapsible Museo Artequin we’d seen earlier in the day)

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Above the balcony from the second floor there is a high-relief carving which depicts two angels supporting a shield.  They are in a semivault above the heads of two Caryatids that arise from the balcony.  Caryatid is a fancy name for a sculpted female used in place of a column as an architectural support.


These were my favourite artworks on display:

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The museum is located in a riverside park called Parque Forestal (Forest Park); it’s the perfect setting for fine art.  We’d had such a big day I think if we’d sat down here we’d have dozed off.




10 responses

  1. Do you know who did the sculpture in the first photo? It reminds me of a Rodin, though I’m guessing it’s a Chilean artist.

    It’s always interesting to see what a national museum selects to represent its country’s best art. I do like the horse head and the statue of the nursing mother and baby in the second slideshow. The nursing mother looks like a Picasso, though I know a number of Latin American artists create sculptures very much like it.

    • The statue is called Icaro y Dedalo (United in Glory & Death) by Chile’s first female sculptor Rebeca Matte (1875-1929). The 1922 original statue is displayed in Brazil but her husband gave a copy of the statue to Chile the same year as her death – I’m not sure who did the copy.

      I was very poor at taking notes of the artists here. They have around 3,000 works (not all on display) and do have a combination of Chilean and international artists.

  2. Beautiful! I like those columns, too. I’m not sure if I’ve noticed that before in architecture. I know faces at the top of columns but not whole bodies. Not my niche but still, I’m glad you pointed the Caryatids out!

  3. The glass cupola over the central hall was designed & manufactured in Belgium and shipped to Chile in 1907

    You know, that was one of the things that bugged me most in Argentina – they brought stuff over from Paris and London and Belgium instead of making it there. I know that they had (and have) wonderful artisans and architects, so why do they insist on getting things from elsewhere? And why do they then get so defensive about their stuff?

    • We came across quite a few instances of this. I’m not sure why – perhaps at that time they were not set up to manufacture on this scale. They might’ve been concentrating on mining/farming/fishing….. something to read up on before my next trip.

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