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Undoubtedly the most mysterious and perhaps the greatest oil magnate of them all, the richest man in the world in his time, the first billionaire in the days before world inflation, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, sometimes called after his most famous deal "Mr. Five Percent," died in Lisbon in 1955 at the age of 86. According to the terms of Gulbenkian's will, his entire estate, including his magnificent art collection, was to serve as the nucleus of an international foundation for charitable, artistic, educational and scientific purposes to be located in Lisbon
Most of the about 3,000 pieces of art were collected by Gulbenkian himself, who had an excellent taste. The art, which ranges from tapestry, ceramics, jewelry and glassware to paintings, sculpture and furniture is displayed in spacious well lighted rooms and divided into two circuits.
The first one is devoted to Egyptian art, Classical art and objects from the Middle and Far East. Highlights include Egyptian scarabs, a Greek Vase, Roman jewelry, Assyrian bas-reliefs, Persian tapestries, Chinese porcelain and Japanese paintings.
The second circuit shows European art, with an emphasis on French decorative arts.
Of note are the medieval illuminated books, a collection of paintings from Flemish, Italian and French masters, and a collection of 18th century French furniture, of which Gulbenkian was particularly fond.