HOUSED IN AN OLD palace, the Quinta das Cruzes museum (‘Quinta’ for short) contains a collection of exhibits of various kinds and its beautiful garden has a small collection of archaeological architectural fragments. In a way, the Quinta is Funchal’s version of London’s V & A, but much smaller.
The much remodelled building housing the museum was initially built for João Gonçalves Zarco (c 1390 – 1471), who was the ‘discoverer’ and first Captain (i.e., governor) of Madeira. I am not sure how much of what Zarco would have seen in his time can be seen today. Nevertheless, it is an attractive edifice.
Several exhibits particularly interested me in the museum. One was a retable, a triptych, carved intricately in ivory. To our surprise, we discovered that this was an English production, created in the 19th century.
There were several fine paintings of Madeirans and their island painted by English artists including Eliza Eleanor Murray, Charles Scott-Murray, and Thomas Butterworth. The paintings by Murray and Scott-Murray were late 18th century. These pictures hung in rooms alongside English furniture including pieces by Chippendale and Sheraton.
Another exhibit that attracted me was a fine embroidery on which wild animals are depicted. This was produced in Portuguese Macau for a Christian religious order: the Carmelites.
Another former Portuguese colony, Goa on the west coast of India, is represented in the museum by three attractive paintings showing people and scenery in Goa in the 18th or 19th century.
These exhibits from what is now China and India remind us of Portugal’s pioneering and extensive colonisation of the world beyond Europe. The artefacts from the UK and by British artists recollect the importance of Madeira in the history of British trade and tourism.
I have outlined a few of the exhibits that are on view in the museum, but there is plenty more to enjoy including a grest collection of fine silverware (including models of serving women with black faces) and a very elegant modern refreshment area. It overlooks a fine panorama of part of Funchal.
Along with the Museum of Sacred Art, the Quinta is one of the cultural highlights of Funchal.