António de Medeiros e Almeida was born in Lisbon in September 18th 1895, he was the eldest son of João Silvestre de Almeida (1865-1936) and Maria Amélia Medeiros e Almeida (1864-1945), both originally from the Azores archipelago but established in Lisbon. João Silvestre was sucessfull a doctor, having being invited to be a doctor at King Charles’ court.
In 1916, following his father’s steps, António MA courses Medicine in Coimbra but he gives up after a few years. His spirit of enterprise took him into the business world, becoming a prestige person in Portugal, with a major social and business activity that allowed him to insure a confortable income, that made possible to dedicate himself to his art collection.
On the 23rd of June 1924 he marries Margarida Pinto Basto belonging to the Counts of Pombeiro’s family (by her mother side) and to the Vista Alegre Porcelain Factory (by her father side). The wedding took place in the chapel at Margarida’s house (Rua de São Marçal nº 3) in Lisbon. They left to their honeymoon in one of his sports cars, a Farman Super Sport Torpedo, a 1922 model.
His business activity starts in the twenties, with the Morris cars (of English origin) import, turning popular its sell in the internal market, through an import firm (A. M. Almeida), that he had created in Lisbon, in 1924, by opening a car stand at Rua da Escola Politécnica nº39. This choice was a consequence of his passion for car racing, in which he participates since he was young.
He also pioneered Portuguese commercial aviation, when in 1934 buys most of the Aero-Portuguesa capital, first Portuguese airline company, that flew regularly between Portugal and Morocco. Also was one of the founders of the SATA and TAP airline companies, and chairman of the IATA (International Air Traffic Association).
At the same time, he became the partner and major driving force of the Casa Bensaúde, an important economic group whose interests lay mainly in the Azores, including different areas such as shipping, fishing, shipyards, insurance, tobacco, sugar and alcohol.
Besides the wolfram trade in Europe during World War II, essential to the armament industry, he always kept a fair relation with the international Jewish community, helping lots of Jewish people crossing the Atlantic towards the United States by making them available the merchant ships from his company: CIN – Companhia Insular de Navegação, as well as, by getting them passports, through his personal acquaintances.
As a consequence of his friendship (that lasted all life long) to the United Kingdom’s ambassador in Lisbon; Sir Ronald Campbell, Medeiros e Almeida helped the English and the Allies troops, by making available his airline company, the shipyard and the refuelling facilities in the Azores islands. This took King George VI to award him in 1947, with the “Honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”.
As far as the collection concerns, the Medeiros e Almeida couple starts by buying objects in order to decorate his new residence at Rua Mouzinho da Silveira n.6 in Lisbon.
As time went by and profiting the post-war period and good art market conditions, becomes a big art collector. So, he would receive art magazines such as Connaisseur, Apollo, Burlington Magazine, as well as, auction catalogues, being up dated regarding the pieces that were in the market. Besides that, several art dealers would send him information, as they were aware of his taste and preferences.
In the beginning of the 70’s, knewing the importance of the collection and without issue, Medeiros e Almeida looks for a solution to keep all the assets together, creating in 1972 the Medeiros e Almeida Foundation, to which donates the house and the whole collection, creating this way a House-Museum.
He endows to the Foundation all his assets, insuring this way its future sustainability and functioning. To allow the transformation works, the couple moves to another house (at Rua Rosa Araújo) that had meanwhile acquired.
Margarida Medeiros e Almeida dies in June 1971.
Profiting the space of the garden, a new wing was built and several ambiances were recreated: a chapel to exhibit the sacred art, a Louis XV (Piano Room) and a Louis XIV rooms, as well as a winter garden to display glazed tiles and sculpture (Lake Room).
Medeiros e Almeida directs the works of the future House-Museum till his death in February 1986.
The House-Museum will open to the public on the 1st of June 2001, after museological and museographycal adaptation, fulfilling Medeiros e Almeida wishes.