Explore Spanish, Italian, French and Flemish art at the Museo Nacional del Prado.
The Museo Nacional del Prado, an art museum located in Madrid, is one of the most well-known museums in the world. Since its opening in 1819, it has gathered thousands of paintings, including those by Spanish, Italian, French and Flemish artists, and came into possession of a 19th-century selection as well. As it houses several impressive works by: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes and Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velásquez; it is certainly worth visiting.
History of the Museo Nacional del Prado
Although the museum opened in 1819, Juan de Villanueva designed the building in 1785 and originally intended to house the Natural History Cabinet by King Charles III’s orders. After King Ferdinand VII and Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza decided to open the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures instead, the museum was soon renamed the Museo Nacional del Prado and published its first catalogue in 1819.
Its collection, which included more than 1,510 pictures from several Reales Sitios, or Royal Residences, began to grow under Charles V. Then following Hapsburg and Bourbon monarchs who added several more from various museums, such as: the Museo de la Trinidad which transferred works by the School of Jan Van Eyck, Pedro Berruguete and El Greco; and the Museo de Arte Moderno, which turned over paintings by Madrazo, Vicente López and Carlos de Haes, among others.
The Museo Nacional del Prado also acquired many works through donations, bequests and purchases, like: Barón Emile d’Erlanger’s donation of Goya’s Black Paintings, Don Pablo Bosch’s bequest of medals and the museum’s purchase of Velásquez’s “Ferdinando Brandani.”
The Museo Nacional del Prado’s collection
The museum has several departments of paintings, including: the Department of Spanish Painting (up to 1800,) Italian and French painting until 1800, Flemish painting and Northern schools and 19th-century painting.
The Department of Spanish Painting (up to 1800) has the oldest roots, as the only paintings on display at the museum’s opening were those by Spanish artists. It now boasts approximately 2,800 paintings dating from the 12th-19th centuries, many of which are by notable creators: Luis de Morales, Luis Meléndez and Goya.
The department of Italian and French painting until 1800 also has relatively old origins, as many of its works were a part of the original Spanish royal collection. The home of many paintings dating back to the 16th century, the department includes works by artists: Fra Angelico, Andrea Mantegna and Titian, around whom the Museo Nacional del Prado’s collection is structured.
The department of Flemish painting and Northern schools, which includes works dating back to the 15th century, houses one of the largest collections of Flemish paintings in the world. Since Spain and the Low Countries, or what are known today as Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, were under the joint control of the Hapsburg rulers, the Spanish monarchs were able to gather works from the area, which helps account for the museum’s roughly 1,000 pieces.
As the largest department of the Museo Nacional del Prado, the 19th-century paintings are presented in 12 galleries, with the most significant works hung in the Villanueva Building. Although many of the pieces came from the Museo de Arte Moderno, some of them, like Goya’s “Decoy Hunting” and “The Picnic,” originate from the original Spanish royal collection.
When visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado, one may recognize many well-known paintings. Specifically, visitors can see Velásquez’s “Las Meninas,” Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and several of Goya’s works, like “The Family of Carlos IV,” “The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid,” “The Naked Maja” or “Saturn.”
If patrons do not see these pieces, they may still have a memorable experience, as the Museo Nacional del Prado is a remarkable institution.