Spanish Duchess of Alba dies at age 88

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The Duchess was an ardent defender of Spanish culture and a collector of old masters

The Duchess oversaw a collection of works by artists including Ribera, Zurbarán and Madrazo

One of Spain’s wealthiest women, the Duchess of Alba, who held 14 Grandeza titles, died from pneumonia in her Seville Palace on Wednesday. She was 88.

Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva—Cayetana for short—lived an extravagant life, led by her own rules. The Duchess was married three times, and is survived by her husband of three years, Alfonso Diez, and six children from her previous marriages.

In 1953, she became head of the House of Alba after the death of her father, James Fitz-James Stuart y Falco. She became an art enthusiast, a lover of flamenco, and an ardent defender of Spanish culture. The Duchess created the House of Alba Foundation in 1975 for the preservation, management and dissemination of the House of Alba assets, valued between €2bn and €3bn. The Spanish government honored her with the Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts in 2010 for her “support of the arts, as well as opening the files of the House of Alba to researchers.”

In collaboration with the City of Madrid, the Duchess showed part of her family’s collection in “The Legacy of the House of Alba: Patronage in the Service of Art” in 2012. The exhibition included 150 masterpieces, with paintings by Titian, Ribera, Zurbarán and Madrazo, and included Fra Angelico’s The Virgin of Granada, around 1430-1440, and Francisco de Goya’s Portrait of the Duchess of Alba in White, 1795. Her six children and grandchildren will divide her inheritance, but her son Carlos receives the title and will oversee the foundation.

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