Madrid (AFP)

With his paintings by Goya, Titian, Greco or Rubens, the Liria Palace was Madrid's best kept cultural secret. Accessible to the public recently, it traces the history of the Dukes of Alba, one of the largest families of the Spanish nobility.

Located a stone's throw from the famous Gran Via, this neoclassical palace of the 18th century, destroyed during the Civil War (1936-1939) and rebuilt, has received more than 14,000 visitors since its opening to the public in September and the waiting list is two months.

On its walls, Gobelins tapestries and in its salons, Murano glasses and above all an exceptional collection of paintings.

The treasures of this palace - where lives the nineteenth Duke of Alba, Carlos Fitz-James Stuart - include a portrait of Charles V and his wife Isabel of Portugal by the Flemish master Rubens, a copy of a painting of the lost Titian, a Another signed Vélazquez Infanta Marguerite-Thérèse, central character of the famous Meninas, or a Titian Supper and paintings of Greco, Zurbaran, Ribera and Murillo.

The collection of the house of Alba also includes Sèvres porcelains of the Empress Eugenie, Spanish wife of Napoleon III who died at the palace of Liria in 1920.

"The social pressure to know these collections was strong," says Álvaro Romero Sánchez-Arjona, cultural director of the Casa de Alba Foundation which manages the palace. Before the opening to the public, visitors were accepted only drop by drop and the wait could wait more than two years.

Before that, the Duke of Alva had already decided to open to the public in 2016 the Palace of las Dueñas in Seville (south) and in 2018 that of Monterrey in Salamanca (center), other properties of the family.

A policy of profitability of an immense inheritance, which followed the death in 2014 of the 18th Duchess of Alba, Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, mother of the current duke and eccentric figure of the Spanish jet-set known to have married in the third marriage to 85 years a man 24 years younger.

- A course in the History of Spain -

His death led to division among his six children.

In his recent memoirs, one of them, Cayetano Martínez de Irujo, recounts the pain of his emotional deficiencies and how he found refuge in his youth in cocaine and sex.

"My house will become a showcase like a Zara showcase ... it's immoral," he said in this book to criticize the decision of his older brother, the Duke.

Beyond family resentment, the Palace of Liria traces the history of one of the most important houses of the European aristocracy, born in 1472.

One of the exhibitions is dedicated to Ferdinand Alvare of Toledo, the Grand Duke of Alba, who appears there painted by Rubens. Having served Charles V and Philip II, he is known for his bloody repression of revolts in the Netherlands, then controlled by the Spanish monarchy, and has long been synonymous with piebald father in this country.

Another pearl in the Liria Palace is Goya's portrait of Duchess Maria Cayetana de Silva, whose red belt and knots denounce the bloodshed during the French Revolution.

The Palace of Liria also has a library of more than 20,000 volumes containing letters from Christopher Columbus and the first bible in Castilian dating from 1431.

© 2019 AFP