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Category: Art + Architecture

507. busts

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, José M. Pirán

Lots of well-known people have busts placed on the exterior of the mausoleum… public reminders of important public figures. Good examples are physician/paleontologist Francisco Javier Muñiz, architect & founder of La Plata Pedro Benoit, Irish chaplain Anthony Fahy, teacher Emma Nicolay de Caprile, & the queen of grumpy Tiburcia del Carril.

Others are more private, placed inside the mausoleum, meant for primarily for family members. All the more reason to take a peek inside!

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust, Méndez de Andes

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, bust

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505. isaac fernández blanco

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Isaac Fernández Blanco

Born in 1862, Isaac Fernández Blanco came from a family with an extensive history in the city of Corrientes. Isaac’s grandfather, Ángel, fought during independence wars against the Spanish but later moved to Buenos Aires, switching interests from politics to business.

In 1895, Isaac began to spend the family fortune on an impressive collection of Spanish colonial art. Even though an engineer by trade, his passion for period objects transformed the family house into a museum which eventually opened to the public. Isaac remained the museum’s honorary director until one year before his death in 1928.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Isaac Fernández Blanco

Family members continued to add to Isaac’s collection, & in 1947 the museum found a new location: the Palacio Noel. The Neocolonial residence built by architect Martín Noel serves as the perfect backdrop for the collection:

Buenos Aires, Retiro, Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco, Palacio Noel

Buenos Aires, Retiro, Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco, Palacio Noel

Buenos Aires, Retiro, Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco, Palacio Noel

Buenos Aires, Retiro, Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco, Palacio Noel

Also buried in the family mausoleum is Naír Mercedes Fernández Blanco de Gowland, who founded the Asociación Guías Argentinas in 1953… during the last years of her life. The AGA is the local equivalent of the Girl Scouts, & a plaque reminds passersby of her contribution to Argentina:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Naír F.B. de Gowland

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502. juan berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Between 1869 & 1871, Buenos Aires endured two disastrous epidemics: first, cholera, that left 9,000 dead & second, yellow fever, which claimed 14,000 victims. The city government put into practice new sanitation practices, including the removal of tanneries & slaughterhouses from residential areas. Business owners received big tax breaks if they agreed to relocate.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Due to those incentives, Juan Bautista Berisso—an Genovese immigrant born in 1834—purchased 28 hectares in Ensenada, near the future location of La Plata. He established a successful tannery & in following years acquired a distillery, a vegetable oil factory, dock facilities & a number of cattle ranches.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Berisso passed away in 1893 & is buried in an extraordinary family plot rarely seen by tourists because of its somewhat hidden location. Beautiful works by Italian sculptor Alessandro Biggi decorate the mausoleum, with Chronos (Father Time) on the left, a female angel with an anchor on the right & two lions guarding the entrance:

Buenos Aires, Recoleta Cemetery, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

In La Plata, another branch of the Berisso family built the largest mausoleum in the cemetery, currently abandoned:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Berisso

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498. asociación española de socorros mutuos

Buenos Aires, Balvanera, ex-Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos

A favorite photo from the Colección Witcomb shows quite a different Recoleta Cemetery than the one that can be visited today. A few façades & domes remain to provide orientation, but sadly what was likely the largest mausoleum of that time no longer exists:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Colección Witcomb

Its identity remained uncertain until the following clip appeared in the excellent collection of images curated by Argentina Vintage:

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Panteón de la Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos

Just what I’d been looking for! A bit of research & a similar photo can be found in society magazine Caras y Caretas for Columbus Day, Día de la Raza, Día de la Hispanidad… a.k.a. October 12th.

As self-help organizations grew along with immigration, so did the need for burial space. The Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos moved to Chacarita in 1896, eventually selling their group pantheon in Recoleta. Although demolished today, the new mausoleum by architect Alejandro Christophersen proved to be even more luxurious.

Chacarita Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Asociación Española de Socorros Mutuos, Alejandro Christophersen

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496. familia david costaguta

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

Local entrepreneur David Costaguta made most of his fortune from the manufacture & sale of textiles between Argentina & Europe at the end of the 19th century. Like most nouveau riche in Buenos Aires at that time, Costaguta decided to use his wealth to play around in the real estate market. But where to buy??

Plaza Lavalle underwent drastic change just as Costaguta looked to develop. The lot occupied today by the Teatro Colón originally held a train station… the terminus for the first railway built in the nation. In 1890 the station moved further west to Once, tracks were removed & the new opera house built in the same spot. Army barracks were likewise demolished to make room for a new Supreme Court (Tribunales).

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta bought the lot next to Tribunales & hired French architect Alfred Massüe to design a four-story building destined for both business & residential use. Work finished in 1907, & the Palacio Costaguta became another focal point for the plaza. Its tower & dome are still one of the most recognized pieces of Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires… even though a large portion of the building was demolished in 1988 & replaced with a rather horrific, glass office tower. Fortunately the Banco Fotográfico Digital run by the National Library contains a photo of Massüe’s masterpiece before modification:

Buenos Aires, Plaza Lavalle, Palacio Costaguta, Alfred Massüe, Art Nouveau

Costaguta’s tomb supposedly dates from 1907, but the architect responsible is unknown. The statue of a woman in mourning & two back relief panels (both unsigned!) are wonderful works of art. Hopefully more information will come to light in the future about the artists involved.

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Costaguta

Like Art Nouveau? Learn about the architects of the era, their individual styles & what makes Art Nouveau in Buenos Aires so unique with a 33-page guide from our sister site, Endless Mile.

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