© Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Gulbenkian (1869-1955) - seen here in his late 20s - was one of the
main European collectors of the 20th century to gain from the sale
of the Hamilton Collection.
Gulbenkian was born into an Armenian family in
Scutari (now a district of Istanbul) and studied engineering at
King's College, London. He became deeply involved in the development
of the oil fields of the Ottoman empire and earned the nickname
'Mr Five Percent', for the five percent of stock he received for
negotiating complex mergers and deals in the oil industry.
Gulbenkian moved from Paris to London in the 1930s
and planned to install his art treasures in a purpose-built museum
behind the National Gallery. In April 1942, he sought refuge from
World War II in Lisbon. Baron Henri de Rothschild was also living
in Portugal and in need of funds. He had been declared an enemy
alien by the British and his collection remained in Britain. Gulbenkian
was therefore able to buy the important jasper
ewer with gold mounts, which had been in the Hamilton Collection,
from the Baron in 1943. It is now in the Gulbenkian Museum, in Lisbon
(which opened in 1969), along with French
silver from the Hamilton and Russian imperial collections.