A painting depicting beauty, in the form of a briefly blooming cactus flower, being weighed on scales prompts an anecdote from the charming and very knowledgeable Professor Ian Phillips, one of three co-founders of the Colección Museográfica del Vidrio y Cristal de Málaga.
The artwork by a Málaga artist, and depicting a flower from the museum’s own cactus plant, was a gift to one of his co-partners, but can be viewed as expressing the ‘burden’ or weight of caring for something very special that this triumvirate have dedicated themselves to.
It is just one small detail in this stunningly restored 18th century palacío, with galleries set around a central courtyard filled with fine period furnishings, paintings and some 3000 pieces of glass in glowing colours and sparkling crystal, of plain design and also painstakingly embellished.
This private collection reflects a history of glassmaking, with examples from Egyptian and Roman times to present day and you may be surprised to see a dish, vase, candlestick or other ornamental piece that you either own or know of in your family. The intention is not to focus on showy pieces necessarily, but glass as used in homes, and as fashions change to prevent it being discarded and lost forever.
Just as interesting as the collection, is the story behind the museum which opened in 2009. It has been rated by visitors on Trip Advisor as the number one attraction in Málaga and which, without access to any funding, is a continuing work of passion and dedication that broke even for the first time in 2014.
Professor Ian Phillips began collecting glass with the purchase of two Georgian ale glasses in Dublin in the mid-1970s. A medical doctor, he was Clinical Dean of the Medical Schools of Guy’s and St Thomas’s in London when he retired, and had met museum co-founders Gonzalez Fernández-Prieto and Steven Spragwe during a sabbatical year spent in Madrid.
They all live above the museum and much of the furnishings and ancestral portraits on display are his co-founders’ family inheritance. Purchases for the collection include a prized stained glass window depicting Christ, designed by the British artist friends and collaborators William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
Visiting the museum is, forgive the pun, a sparkling and illuminating experience, conducted always as a guided tour (in English, French, Italian and Spanish) by the founders who also take your ticket money on the door (€5 per adults with age concessions. Children, under parental control, are welcomed to look and learn).
As you mount one of the staircases, there are three modern portraits in stained glass certain to catch your eye. In the company of any of the co-founders, you will instantly recognise who is being depicted – Professor Phillips is in central position wearing his Cambridge gown.
It is impossible to imagine leaving this gem in Malaga’s cultural crown disappointed, and the cheery company of one of its founders adds to the delight of the tour whether a collector, glass maker or simply idly browsing and absorbing a few facts.
Head for the Church of San Felipe Neri which stands opposite, using a street map as despite a few road signs the museum can be a little tricky to find amid the maze of lanes and alleyways that make up Malaga’s fascinating old quarter. It is open Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays, for the whole of August and on December 25 and January 1) from 11am to 7pm.