Esther de Garay y Garay (1911-1985) was one of six daughters of the Uruguayan industrialist Herminio Ramón Rodríguez Labandera y Fernández Llameria and his remarkable wife, collector and society hostess María Bauzá. Herminio and María had moved with their family to Spain in the 1920s, bringing with them an already burgeoning art collection. Despite the death of Herminio in the early 1930s, María installed herself with her children in the Palacio de Bermejillo, purchased from the Marquess of Bermejillo just before her husband died. In the succeeding years María pursued her passion for amassing a vast number of works of art to furnish the impressive home in Paseo del Cisne.
Old Master painters featured in the collection included El Greco, Ribera, Murillo and Cranach, while two rooms were devoted to the display of Spanish modern art, one featuring the work of Zuloaga, another that of Sorolla. Other artists of the period represented included Giménez Aranda, Raimundo de Madrazo, Julio Romero de Torres and Santiago Rusiñol. María kept an open house, the palace becoming a venue for informal events and tertulias particularly on Sundays when leading voices in the world of the Arts, Letters and Sciences gathered to present and exchange views on matters of the day.
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