Franz Mayer Museum, Mexico City

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Franz Mayer Museum Entrance
Franz Mayer Museum Entrance

A museum dedicated to the decorative arts and to design.  The German borne collector Franz Mayer arrived in Mexico in 1905  where he became a prominent figure of the financial businesses of this country, taking the Mexican nationality in 1933. By 1930’s,  at the end of the Mexican Revolution, Franz Mayer’s businesses stated to thrive and he started his collection which includes more tan 10 thousand objects from the sixteen century to the nineteen century. Pieces made by people,  to be used by people in their daily lives, that gather certain beauty in their manufacture, that can be considered pieces of decorative art.

Formerly San Juan de Dios Monastery and Hospital

The construction where the Franz Mayer Museum Collection is keep has its origins in the sixteen century and early seventeen century monastery of San Juan de Dios, located in the downtown historic center of Mexico City.  What is conserved today from the original building dates from the seventeen century and former constructions.

The main gateway can be accessed through the small and interesting Plaza de la Santa Veracruz, where the downtown Historic Center of Mexico’s of commerce activity and cultural life can be feel.

The La Santa Veracruz Plaza

Monasterio de San Juan de Dios
Monasterio de San Juan de Dios

In this plaza the gateways to two churches can be seen: the first church built at the New Spain by Hernan Cortes under the name of  “La Vera Cruz” (The True Cross) and  an other church that was built after the construction of the San Juan de Dios Monastery and other constructions added subsequently. The two churches are built one in front of the other, at approximately 70 meters one from the other. The two of these churches display towards the plaza their magnificent front facades of different periods and styles.

Standing at this “Plaza de la Vera Cruz” and looking at its surroundings it can be noticed that the plaza and the two churches and the museum’s construction ground levels are below other surrounding buildings ground levels.  This downtown’s buildings sinking has taken place  along the last five centuries on most of the constructions built-in down town up today. The center of Mexico City has been built on what, at the arrival of Hernan Cortes 1511, was a lake in which, at the very center, was the Mexicas’ Grate Temple in the city of Tenochtitlan. Over the last five-hundred years the former lake has been subject to a process drying, by replenishing the former lake and by extracting out of the valley the former lake waters, which eventually is the cause of the ever happening sinking of this part of the city.  The center of the city it is part of the great valley of Mexico where it rains profusely, six  months of the year, surrounded by mountains. In the last decades the governments have deployed enormous resources to maintain the former lake underground at certain water levels preventing the sink but also to prevent the flood of part of the city.

From its sixteen century origins this construction has gone  through different uses. Nevertheless, four centuries of the history this construction was used to home different hospitals, dedicated to women’s health care, before it became a property of the city. Eventually the construction in ruins was transferred by the city of Mexico  to be reconstructed and to become the home of the collection ceded by Franz Mayer to the people of Mexico through a trust administered by The Bank of Mexico.  After almost 10 years the Franz Mayer Museum opened its doors in 1986.

Museo Franz Mayer Fuente Jardín Central
Museo Franz Mayer Fuente Central Garden

In the numerous variety of daily objects and art pieces that can be contemplated in the Franz Mayer collection, these should be appreciated considering the perfect design and beauty and also the changing tastes of their owners along the past centuries.

The collection includes furniture and decorative objects such ceramic objects, carpets, tapestry and fine cloths of different periods; silver made liturgical objects, decorative and daily objects, and; paintings and sculptures, made by master artists from the viceroy ship of the New Spain, as well as paintings of classical celebrated European artists and twentieth century artists.

At the interior of the museum’s building there is a magnificent two-floor gallery around a typical colonial garden or patio that has a beautiful fountain in the center of the garden. Somehow in this seventeen century architecture space the visitor can feel a sensation of pace.  Not surprisingly, in its original design this space symbolized the paradise.

Furniture and decorative pieces

Museo Franz Mayer Dinningroom

A rich collection of  household goods from the New Spain Viceroy-ship, including in its galleries armchairs, writing desks  and drawers adorned with incrustations made of shell, tortoise-shell and bone;  a number of  trunks designed for different purposes, made with variant designs and elaborate cabinet work; there are also folding screens, one of them decorated on one its screens with paintings that accounts the History of the New Spain and on its back screen, decorated with a map of the old city of Mexico, that shows its constructions, channels and its aqueduct, and; a dining room set which, with certain variations, remains been replicated up to these days.

Puebla’s Talavera ceramics and other ceramics and porcelain

Museo Franz Mayer Ceramica
Museo Franz Mayer Ceramics

This collection has a valuable and extensive sample of embellished ceramics. The first samples of enameled ceramics and its manufacturing techniques came to the New Spain from China. Nonetheless, the New Spain’s craftsmen appropriated of China’s enameled ceramics and manufactured their own style pieces of enameled ceramics known today as Talavera Poblana since the New Spain’s Viceroy-ship period. The ceramics collection in this museum also includes nineteen century and the first part of the twentieth century ceramics, as well as European ceramic pieces and China’s porcelain pieces showing the vigorous commercial appetite for these pieces since the Viceroy-ship period.

Silver and liturgical objects

Museo Franz Mayer Artículos Religiosos
Franz Mayer Religious Art

The collection accounts with an extensive variety of daily usage silver objects as plates, trays and jars that stand out for their beauty as decorative art, made by the New-Spain’s craftsmen, using different technical, on which, the influence of per-Hispanic vessels and other per-Hispanic daily objects is conspicuous.

This collection also displays great number of silver-made religious or liturgical objects, adorned with religious themes, crafted with elaborated detail and refinement, during the viceroys period.

When observing the changes on these objects along the last centuries, it is interesting to notice their changes in forms, colors, motives, and styles, and also the innovations involved in their manufacturing, even when this changes and innovations produced, some times, articles that practically had the same purposes, along several centuries.

Paintings and Sculptures

Here we can find paintings from the sixteen century to the twentieth century and European authors as well as Mexican authors. This collection includes two classical painters from the Viceroy-ship Juan Correa and Cristobal de Villalpando and paintings of Diego Rivera from the Mexican painting Movement of the twentieth century. Additionally, this collection includes paintings from Francisco de Zurbarán, a painter from the Spanish golden century; Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, a Spanish painter of the illumining art; Ignasio Zuloaga Zabaleta, one of the most important painters from the endings of the nineteen century and starts of the twentieth century and a representative of the modernism; Frans van Mieris, a Dutch baroque painter; Anello Falcone, an Italian baroque painter; José de Rivera y Cuco, Spanish painter and engraver from the seventeen century that developed in Italy.

Probably the most distinguishable from the sculptures of this collection may be the “estofados” that are sculptures carved on wood, painted with may different colors and covered in some of its parts of gold engraving.

Other objects

On the walls of the museum hang magnificent carpets and tapestry made of diverse manufactures and textiles. It is interesting that Franz Mayer an abide photographer interested in the pre-Hispanic and the local cultures of Mexico, traveled all along the territory of this country and collected an important sample of rebosos, a dressing piece were by women used to protect from sun and cold; and sarapes from the region of Saltillo, very colorful dressing piece were by men to protect from cold.

Rogelio Casas- Alatriste’s Library

Biblioteca Rogelio Casas- Alatriste
Rogelio Casas- Alatriste Library

The library in this museum in its own is a private collection that would require a separate article. Its heap includes more 22,000 pieces go from incurable books, first editions and rare books to a collection of opera scores from Italian, French, German and Mexican authors, in addition to periodical publications, newspapers and catalogs from the auction house Sotheby’s that actually was one of the sources from where Franz Mayer acquired part of his collection heap.

This library collection is rather dedicated to books and magazines focused to art, architecture, furniture, decorative arts and Mexico’s History viewed through foreign authors. On the heap related to the subjects this private collection is dedicated to, it might be one of the most important collections in the world.

This private collection own an extensive collection of nearly 900 original editions of Cervantes´s El Quijote is different languages, as well a large collection of images of El Quijote.

At the present time most part of this library’s heap is digitized and can be accessed by public. The name of these library honors Mr. Rogelio Casas Alatriste, president of the guardianship of the trust that regulates the Franz Mayer’s legacy. After ten years of reconstruction works on the originally in ruins seventeen century building that homes this collection the museum opened its doors on 1986.



Museo Franz Mayer

Hidalgo 45, Centro Histórico, México D.F. 06300 – Tel. 55182266 –

Background in science and technology. Former executive responsibilities in the telecommunications and chemical industries. Modern painting and contemporary art. Enjoys biking and walking. Reading and good films. Now in web publishing