A tale of Dona Gertie and her Quinta do Marquês

in Lifestyle · 16-10-2020 17:33:00 · 0 Comments
A tale of Dona Gertie and her Quinta do Marquês

By Roberto Knight Cavaleiro

It was in 1985 that I made the first of several visits to the Quinta da Torre de Santo Antonio situated near Torres Novas . At that time it was owned by Sra. Gertrude Ramada Curto who preferred to be addressed as “Dona Gertie”. “I intend to move to California and wish to sell my palacete and all that lies within it” she told me when giving instructions for my estate agency to act as exclusive international selling agents. As the “all” consisted of a vast array of pictures, porcelain, furniture and a library of rare first editions it needed several days to record an inventory and, an innovation in those days, make a video recording of the castle´s interior and of the chapel, winery, storehouses , landscaped gardens and vineyards of an estate totalling sixty five hectares. This video and inventory were exhibited at the Money86 exhibition in Hong Kong and copied to noble families, oligarchs and nouveau riche in many countries .

Dona Gertie was a formidable but not haughty aristocrat who gradually unfolded to me both the history of the Quinta and its part as a scenario for the life of high society in the mid 20th century. She was born as Gertrude Schwetz in Austria to a wealthy family which included a cousin, Magda Lupescu Hohenzollern who was the consort of King Carol II of Romania (died Estoril 1953) . At an early age she became the third wife of the Franco-Russian Jewish scientist Sergei Voronoff who was renowned but later ridiculed for his research into the transplant of monkey glands with their potential for rejuvenation . Gertie and Sergei lived at his castle Grimaldi in Monaco but they travelled widely including to New York where she “misplaced” a jewel consisting of 194 diamonds, 21 rubies and 56 amber-topaz . This was found in a road of The Bronx by an honest citizen who received a reward and telegram of thanks from “Gertrude Voronoff”.

After the death of Sergei in 1953, D. Gertie immediately married Gil José Queiroz, conde da Foz, who had acquired the Quinta de S. Antonio from his father , the Marques de Foz . Two years later, D. Gertie arranged a complete rehabilitation of the upper floors to provide new bedrooms and bathrooms which were decorated with tiles hand-painted in France in the Art Deco style . From the palaces of Foz in Lisbon and Grimaldi in Monaco were brought the treasures which I had inventoried and the estate then became known as the Quinta do Marquês and a stage for the great if not particularly good of Portuguese Society. António de Oliveira Salazar lunched there thrice (always preceded by a retinue of the PIDE secret police) and other notables were members of the Espirito Santo family, the Condes de Cabral , the de Mendia family and a coterie of aristocratic relations whose lingua franca was French rather than Portuguese.

This societal heyday came to an end with the coincidental death of the marquês and the revolution of 1974. After a period of solitude and financial decline D. Gertie chose for her third husband António Ramada Curto who was introduced to me as an austere businessman with interests in armaments . He was linked to the Russian-American tycoon Armand Hammer both of whom were reported to have used Alouette helicopters to visit the widow.

But António died in 1987 leading Gertie to give up her ideas of moving to California . Thereafter she led a solitary life in her “castle” attended only by her faithful housekeeper and a huge black wolfhound which slept by her bed beside which was kept a loaded Mauser – her sole decurity against intruders .

Following the death of D. Gertie in 1993 what was left of her “treasures” were auctioned in Lisbon to pay creditors and the estate fell into the hands of bankers.


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