Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza bigraphy, stories - Dutch art collector

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza : biography

April 2, 1921 – April 26, 2002

Hans Henrik (Hans Heinrich "Heini") Ágost Gábor Tasso Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (13 April 1921 – 26 April 2002), a noted industrialist and art collector, was a Dutch-born Swiss citizen with a Hungarian title, a legal resident of Monaco for tax purposes, with a declared second residency in the United Kingdom, but in actuality a long-time resident of Spain, and son of a German father and a Hungarian and English American mother (related to Daniel M. Frost and John Kerry). His fifth and last wife, Carmen "Tita" Cervera, is a former Miss Spain.

Assets dispute

As part of an attempt to dissolve a trust, thereby acquiring control of her third husband’s assets, Tita cast doubt on the paternity of Baron Georg Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, alleging that his father was actually Count Iván Batthyány de Német-Ujvár, the husband of Thyssen’s sister, Countess Margit Batthyány. However, a settlement was reached between the parties before the baron’s death, which brought to a "peaceable" conclusion the wrangling over control of the vast Thyssen art collection, which is to remain in Spain, Hans Henrik having been the founder of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid.

Fifth marriage

He married, fifthly at Daylesford, Gloucestershire on 16 August 1985, María del Carmen Rosario Soledad Cervera y Fernández de la Guerra, popularly known as Carmen "Tita" Cervera, (born Sitges, Barcelona, 23 April 1943), who was Miss Spain in 1961. They had no children, but Hans Heinrich adopted her son, Alejandro Borja (born Madrid, 1980, son of Manuel Segura), who married at Barcelona, 11 October 2007 Blanca María Cuesta Unkhoff and had two children: Sacha Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon on 31 January 2008 and Eric Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon on 5 August 2010. His widow has also adopted two baby girls, twins, called Guadalupe Sabina and María del Carmen in July 2006.

Third marriage and issue

He married thirdly at Lugano-Castagnola on 17 September 1956 New Zealand-born British photographic and fashion model Fiona Frances Elaine Campbell-Walter (b. Takapuna, New Zealand, 25 June 1932). They divorced on 20 January 1965, and she went on to have a well-publicized relationship with Greek shipping heir Alexander Onassis, the only son of Aristotle Onassis. She was a daughter of Rear Admiral Keith McNeill Walter (later Campbell-Walter) (1904–1976) and his wife, Frances Henriette Campbell (1904 – ?), a maternal granddaughter of Sir Edward Campbell, 1st Baronet. Their children were:

  • Baroness Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza (born Lausanne, 7 June 1958), married at Mariazell, 31 January 1993 to Karl Habsburg-Lothringen, heir to the defunct Austro-Hungarian Imperial Throne, and had issue.
  • Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (born 1963), who converted to Islam; he is the producer and director of the 2003 film, Labyrinth and executive produced The Garden of Eden 2008.


Hans Henrik died in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalonia, Spain. He is buried in the family burial vault of Schloss Landsberg in the Ruhr valley near Essen, Germany.


With his father’s death, Hans Heinrich inherited a business empire that included naval construction and oil, and a major art collection with hundreds of paintings of European masters from between the 14th and the 19th century. He was also an avid horse lover. From then on his business were limited to art. Fifteen years after his father’s death he bought his first piece, a watercolor painting by Emil Nolde dated from between 1931 and 1935, starting the entry of 20th century’s paintings in the collection, including Edgar Degas, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. His preference however went to German Expressionism, and he soon became a real expert in painting.


Second marriage

He married secondly at Colombo, Ceylon or Paris, 23 June 1954, Anglo-Indian fashion model Nina Sheila Dyer (1930–1965), an heiress to properties in Ceylon; they had no children and divorced on 4 July 1956, pursuant to the settlement of which she received a château in France. She later married and divorced Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan and committed suicide in 1965.

Fourth marriage and issue

He married fourthly at Lugano-Castagnola, 13 December 1967, Liane Denise Shorto (b. Garça, São Paulo, 23 December 1942), a Brazilian banker’s daughter, from whom he was divorced 29 November 1984. They had one son:

  • Baron Wilfried Alexander August Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (born Zurich 1974), unmarried and without issue.


He was born in Scheveningen, Netherlands, the son of Heinrich Thyssen (1875–1947) and his first wife, Margit, Baroness Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva (1887–1971). The Thyssen family’s fortune was built upon a steel and armaments empire: Heinrich Thyssen had abandoned Germany as a young man and settled in Hungary in 1905. In Budapest, Heinrich married the daughter of the King’s Hungarian chamberlain Baron Gábor Bornemisza who, having no sons of his own, adopted Heinrich, the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary extending his father-in-law’s baronial status in the Hungarian nobility to Hans Heinrich and his male-line descendants in 1907.

First marriage and issue

He married firstly at Lugano-Castagnola, 1 August 1946, Austrian Princess Teresa of Lippe-Weissenfeld at Vienna, 21 July 1925 – 16 July 2008), whose family had been reigning princes until the fall of the German Empire in 1918 (following their divorce on 14 May 1954, she married secondly in 1960 Prince Friedrich Maximilian von Fürstenberg (1926–1969), by whom she had further issue). Their only son was:

  • Baron Georg Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (b. Lugano-Castagnola, 19 March 1950), who had one son by Countess Catharina Eleonore von Meran, daughter of Count Maximilian von Meran (born 1930) and his wife, Princess Colienne zu Schwarzenberg (born 1937):
    • Baron Simon Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon (b. Wien, 1 December 2001)