In the past month, the Ducal House of Alba, one of the most prominent Spanish Dynasties, inaugurated an exhibition entitled “La Moda en la Casa de Alba”, a unique show in a unique venue, the Liria Palace, ancestral home of the House of Alba, which offers a mesmerizing journey through the exquisite world of fashion intertwined with the rich cultural heritage of the House of Alba.
In the past month of October, the Ducal House of Alba, one of the most prominent Spanish Dynasties, inaugurated an exhibition entitled “La Moda en la Casa de Alba”, a unique show in a unique venue, the Liria Palace, ancestral home of the House, which offers a mesmerizing journey through the exquisite world of fashion intertwined with the rich cultural heritage of the House of Alba.
This dialogue between art, fashion and heritage, showcasing exceptional Haute Couture pieces designed by Charles Frederick Worth, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Louise Boulanger, Flora Villareal or Emanuel Ungaro in communion with masterpieces by celebrated painters such as Federico de Madrazo, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Joaquín Sorolla or Ignacio Zuloaga, is a captivating ode to the enduring legacy of one of Spain’s most distinguished noble families, the perfect blend of historical significance and sartorial brilliance that transcends eras and celebrates the evolution of style and refined tastes and influences. Assistant Editor, David Rato, has written about this amusing exhibition after his visit!
The exhibition’s starting point is the story of two accomplished sisters: Maria Francisca (Paca) and Maria Eugenia, the daughters of the Count and Countess of Montijo. Both sisters contracted brilliant marriages: Paca married the XV Duke of Alba and Eugenia become Empress of the French, after her wedding to Emperor Napoléon III. The Empress and her sister shared a remarkable and deep bond that transcended the limits of their respective roles. Eugénie, as the Empress consort to Napoleon III, held a prominent position in French society, while Paca, known for her intelligence and charm, remained a supportive and beloved figure in her sister’s life. Their relationship was marked by affection, loyalty, and support. Paca served not only as Eugénie’s confidante but also as a pillar of strength during turbulent times, offering comfort and guidance.
The main room of this exhibition is dedicated to the figure of Empress Eugenie. Several of her dresses and personal objects, such as fans and mantillas, as well as memorial objects, such as snuffboxes busts, and jars can be seen. Eugenie’s impact on fashion during her tenure as Empress Consort was nothing short of revolutionary. With her innate sense of style and a keen eye for elegance, she became a beacon of fashion influence across Europe. Her exquisite taste set trends and dictated the fashion landscape of the era. The Empress effortlessly merged sophistication with innovation, introducing daring necklines, intricate embroideries, and bold silhouettes that captivated the elite circles of society. Her patronage of renowned designers further solidified her status as a trendsetter, propelling names like Charles Frederick Worth into the spotlight. Together, Charles Worth and the Empress played pivotal roles in shaping the fashion landscape of their time, leaving a lasting legacy in the history of haute couture. Their collaboration remains an influential chapter in the evolution of fashion design and its intersection with aristocracy and royalty. Eugenie’s penchant for luxurious fabrics, elaborate designs, and unique accessories not only defined her own iconic style but also shaped the aspirations and attire of women throughout the continent.
Another room is dedicated to masculine fashion through the story of two very dear friends: Jacobo, XVII Duke of Alba, and King Alfonso XIII, who shared confidences, adventures and advices. One’s attention goes straight to two splendid portraits made by Joaquín Sorolla, an explosion of colour and light, the King is in military uniform from the Húsares de Pavía Regiment with the British Order of the Garter, while the Duke is wearing a frac with the Royal Victorian Order. Also present are two feminine military uniforms which belonged to Empress Eugenie and her namesake goddaughter, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain.
Also present at the exhibition is the XVII Duke’s uniform from the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, one of the oldest and most high-rank noble orders in the country. Right in front, there is a magnificent court dress that belonged to Hilda Joaquina Fernandéz de Córdoba y Mariátegui, IX Duchess of Montellano. The Duchess was the last noble woman to become a Lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria Eugenie right before the fall of the monarchy in 1931. On that occasion, Doña Hilda paired this amazing pink dress and train with the Montellano’s Turquoise Tiara, as the photo placed next to it attests.
The last room is probably the most sentimental as it showcases three wedding dresses worn for three of the more high profile Alba Weddings in the last 80 years: the Wedding of Cayetana, XVIII Duchess of Alba, to Luis Martínez de Irujo in 1947, the Wedding of Eugenia, Duchess of Montoro, to Francisco Rivera in 1998, and the Wedding of Fernando, Duke of Huéscar, to Sofía Palazuelo in 2018.
It also focus on Duchess Cayetana’s interest in fashion, allowing us to appreciate several dresses by Spanish renowned designers from her wardrobe and a selection of pictures from one of the most interesting events that happened at Liria Palace in the last century: a Christian Dior’s charitable fashion show curated by a very young Yves Saint Laurent in 1959. For the tiara lovers, one can also appreciate a black and white picture of the current Duchess of Huéscar and future Duchess of Alba, Sofía Palazuelo, wearing the family’s Emerald Ducal Coronet! The late Duchess said:
“My mother, a regular customer of Coco Chanel, was famous for her elegance. I, however, have always had a more personal taste, and I think also a joyful one. Although I have worn clothes from the great and best-known classic couturiers, I have always maintained my own style. I love Victorio and Lucchino’s designs. And I have a good figure. Sports have always helped me a lot to stay in shape, even after giving birth”
Curated by Lorenzo Caprile and Eloy Martínez de la Pera, the exhibition ‘La Moda en la Casa de Alba’ can be visited at Liria Palace (Madrid) until March 31st, 2024.
This article was written by assistant editor, David Rato, who runs the Spanish Royal Jewels account on Instagram!