The Errázuriz and the Alvear, both families of Spanish origin, arrived in America during the XVIII century. The Errázuriz settled in Chile. Among them were Presidents, Politicians, Tradesmen and University Professors. All of them highly influential within the Chilean society.
The Alvear, established in Argentina, had outstanding activity in the social and political circles from the last decades of the eighteenth century. Josefina de Alvear and Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar,( member of the diplomacy), married in April 1897 in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires.
From 1906 to 1917, Josefina, Matías and their two children, Matías (Mato) and Josefina (Pepina) ( both born in Monserrat, a traditional neighborhood of Buenos Aires ) lived in France due to the Diplomatic activity of Errázuriz in Europe. During that period the couple, both interested in art and antiques , acquired an important and valuable collection of works of art both European and Oriental. During that period the family residence was projected and built in Buenos Aires : the future museum.
Back in Buenos Aires, the house of the Errázuriz-Alvear is inaugurated with a great ball and becomes the center of a very intense social life. In 1935, when Josefina dies, don Matías and his children, offered the house and its collection in sale to the Argentine State on one condition : that it should be converted into a museum.
Under Law 12351 the Argentine State bought the residence and the art collections which gave birth to the Museo Nacional de ArteDecorativo on the 18th of December 1937.
The project of the building, a sample of pure eclecticism, was designed by the French architect René Sergent in 1911 but it was finished in 1917 due to the difficulties caused by the First World War.
Sergent’s team was a group of selected decorators specialized in interior-decoration and gardens. H. Nelson, G. Hoentschel, M. Carlhian worked the rooms; the gardens were the responsibility of the expert A. Duchene. The materials were brought from Europe : wooden panels, mirrors, marble, woodworks, frames, latches; a number of European artisans were called for some of the stucco decorations.
Its imposing and sober façade takes from the French Neo-classicism of the XVIII Century, especially from the works of Jacques A. Gabriel, architect in the Court of Louis XV.
The building has four levels visible from the external façade : on the basement , the windows of the cellars. Gigantic Corinthian Columns in the façade cover the two most important levels : the principal floor with round arches leading to the garden and terrace and the first floor where the family rooms were installed. On the top floor, in the attic were the rooms of the servants with the windows hidden by a balustrade.
THE INTERIOR - Principal floor
The entrance hall : The walls and the ceiling completely covered by fake Paris stone. The luxurious stairs lead to the principal floor. Its sumptuous Louis XV style was accomplished including in its decoration Ionic pilasters , arcs and the groined vaulted roofs . Above the cornice: allegories of the Arts : Music, Architecture, Sculpture and Painting which emphasize the Neoclassic character of the rooms.
Antechamber : Neoclassic decoration, too. Here the style Louis XV is evident in the wooden panels : polished oak with frames and carvings, the ceiling – with central lighting eye – is decorated with plaster frames. This is a room that connects with four other rooms and the area of the stairs and the lift.
The Great Hall (Renaissance ) : it is the biggest apartment of the residence the only one with double height and the axe around which all the activities of the house took place.
The ceiling is decorated with caissons and patterned glass; above : a hidden structure of big iron entablature to support five big chandeliers. The floor: parquet with a design of stars combining maple and walnut wood . High windows with colored glass, the decoration of the ceiling, the imposing fire-place and the walls covered with tapestry and wood evoke the great English halls of the XVI century, the Tudor style.
The Dinning-room : This luxurious room was planned bearing in mind the frequent dinners and social events offered by Mr Matías Errázuriz and Mrs.Josefina de Alvear. It was inspired by the Versalles Palace and specially its Hercules Room was the chosen model. The baroque atmosphere was accomplished by the combination of marble from Carrara in Italy and from the French Central Massif.
The Winter Garden : it is a beautiful connection between the dinning-room and the ball room. As far as design is concerned the selection of sober Louis XVI style has proved fundamental. The color of the walls in harmony with the golden and pale tones of the walls of the Regency Room , the texture and shades of the marble works replaced in this room by stucco decorations complete the total harmony with the panels of the dinning-room.
The Ball-room : reminds the period of the Regency and the transition from the solemn luxury of the Baroque to the subtle grace of the Rococo. The curves are the outstanding feature of the design. All the frames, the wooden plates joining the ceiling by means of a decidedly curved carving , the angles of the room and the union of the walls with the ceiling , all is based upon curved lines. The pale colors, the use of the light and its reflections, the abundance of the gilding and of mirror-panels hide the limits of the real space.
The Room of Madame : comfortable chairs, armchairs, tables and boudoirs of the XVIII, were Mrs Josefina deAlvear’s favorites to receive her visitors . The panels of painted wood , the frame woods and ornamental molding remind the visitor of the influence of Marie Antoinette in all the decoration . All the chandeliers, crystal and bronze , were inspired in the decoration of the Versailles Great Trianon.
The Study of Mr Matías de Errázuriz : it is entirely the accomplishment of the French decorator André Carlhian (1887-1963). Here we can admire the combination of panels of carved ,polished oak and some sections in red velvet tapestry. In this neoclassic room Don Matías enjoyed his moments of solitary meditation, surrounded by paintings of the XIX century, the Japanese lacquer and the Chinese hard stones.
The First Floor was reserved to the private rooms of the family . Each member had an apartment with a private living-room, bed-room, dressing-room, bathroom and toilette.
The Gallery of Tapestries surrounds the Great Hall on its three sides. Here we can admire French and Flemish tapestries of the XVI,XVII and XVIII centuries, furniture and paintings of the same periods.
The “Sert” room : It was the boudoir of Matías Errázuriz Alvear and its name honors the Catalonian painter Josep Maria Sert(1876-1945), who created this decoration in the Art Déco style . The stucco paneled walls, the enormous entablature , the gilded doors and the four paintings are part of the project of the Spanish artist.
The antechambers and the bedroom of Matías Errázuriz Alvear complete the department of the son : these rooms do not have the original furniture, which was taken when the house was sold, but they are presented with an exceptional assembly of furniture and objects of neo-classic style of the period comprised between the era of Louis XVI and Napoleon I:
Room Zubov : The room was once family room. Today it is the site of a collection of miniatures belonging to the Countess Rosario S. de Zubov, in memory of her daughter Tatiana: in 2000 the Asinari Di Bernezzo collection was added. The whole exhibition shows extraordinary samples of European portraits in miniature of the XVI to the XIX centuries It can be paralleled with the important French and English collections .
Gentileza Traducción Cultural Inglesa de Buenos Aires