Museo del Prado

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Template:Infobox Historic Site The Museo del Prado is the main Spanish national art museum, located in central Madrid. It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection, and unquestionably the best single collection of Spanish art. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture, it also contains important collections of other types of works. A new, recently opened wing enlarged the display area by about 400 paintings, and it is currently used mainly for temporary expositions. El Prado is one of the most visited sites in the world, and it is considered to be among the greatest museums of art. The large numbers of works by Francisco de Goya, the artist most extensively represented in the collection, and by Diego Velázquez, Titian, Peter Paul Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch are among the highlights of the collection.

The collection currently comprises around 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings, in addition to a large number of other works of art and historic documents. By 2012 the Museum will be displaying about 1300 works in the main buildings, while around 3,100 works are on temporary loan to various museums and official institutions. The remainder are in storage.<ref name="collection">Template:Cite webSee also Museo del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, 1996, Ministerio de Educación y Cultura, Madrid, No ISBN, which lists about 7,800 paintings. Many works have been passed to the Museo Reina Sofia and other museums over the years; others are on loan or in storage. On the new displays, see El Prado se reordena y agranda. here (in Spanish)</ref> The museum received 2.8 million visitors in 2012.

The best-known work on display at the museum is Las Meninas by Velázquez. Velázquez not only provided the Prado with his own works, but his keen eye and sensibility were also responsible for bringing much of the museum's fine collection of Italian masters to Spain.


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Spanish painting

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The building that is now the home of the Museo Nacional del Prado was designed in 1785 by the architect Juan de Villanueva on the orders of Charles III to house the Natural History Cabinet. Nonetheless, the building's final function was not decided until the monarch's grandson, Ferdinand VII, encouraged by his wife, Queen María Isabel de Braganza, decided to use it as a new Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures. The Royal Museum, which would soon become known as the National Museum of Painting and Sculpture, and subsequently the Museo Nacional del Prado, opened to the public for the first time in November 1819. It was created with the double aim of showing the works of art belonging to the Spanish Crown and to demonstrate to the rest of Europe that Spanish art was of equal merit to any other national school.

The first catalogue of the Museum, published in 1819 and solely devoted to Spanish painting, included 311 paintings, although at that time the Museum housed 1,510 from the various royal residences, the Reales Sitios, including works from other schools. The exceptionally important royal collection, which forms the nucleus of the present-day Museo del Prado, started to increase significantly in the 16th century during the time of Charles V and continued under the succeeding Habsburg and Bourbon monarchs. Their efforts and determination led to the Royal Collection being enriched by some of the masterpieces now to be seen in the Prado. These include The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch, Knight with his Hand on his Breast by El Greco, The Death of the Virgin by Mantegna, The Holy Family, known as "La Perla", by Raphael, Charles V at Mülhberg by Titian, Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto, Dürer's Self-portrait, Las Meninas by Velázquez, The Three Graces by Rubens, and The Family of Charles IV by Goya.

In addition to works from the Spanish royal collection, other holdings increased and enriched the Museum with further masterpieces, such as the two Majas by Goya. Among the now closed museums whose collections have been added to that of the Prado were the Museo del la Trinidad in 1872, and the Museo de Arte Moderno in 1971. In addition, numerous legacies, donations and purchases have been of crucial importance for the growth of the collection. Various works entered the Prado from the Museo de la Trinidad, including The Fountain of Grace by the School of Van Eyck, the Santo Domingo and San Pedro Martír altarpieces painted for the monastery of Santo Tomás in Ávila by Pedro Berruguete, and the five canvases by El Greco executed for the Colegio de doña María de Aragón. Most of the Museum's 19th-century paintings come from the former Museo de Arte Moderno, including works by the Madrazos, José de Madrazo y Agudo and Federico de Madrazo, Vicente López, Carlos de Haes, Eduardo Rosales and Sorolla.

File:Grand hall d'exposition au Musée du Prado.JPG
In the main exhibition hall, first floor

Upon the deposition of Isabella II in 1868, the museum was nationalized and acquired the new name of "Museo del Prado". The building housed the royal collection of arts, and it rapidly proved too small. The first enlargement to the museum took place in 1918. Since the creation of the Museo del Prado more than 2,300 paintings have been incorporated into its collection, as well as a large number of sculptures, prints, drawings and works of art through bequests, donations and purchases, which account for most of the New Acquisitions. Numerous bequests have enriched the Museum's holdings, such as the outstanding collection of medals left to the Museum by Pablo Bosch; the drawings and items of decorative art left by Pedro Fernández Durán as well as Van der Weyden's masterpiece, The Virgin and Child; and the Ramón de Errazu bequest of 19th-century paintings. Particularly important donations include Barón Emile d'Erlanger's gift of Goya's Black Paintings in 1881. Among the numerous works that have entered the collection through purchase are some outstanding ones acquired in recent years including two works by El Greco, The Fable and The Flight into Egypt acquired in 1993 and 2001, Goya's Countess of Chinchón bought in 2000, and Velázquez's portrait of The Pope's Barber, acquired in 2003.

Between 1873 and 1900, the Prado helped decorate city halls, new universities, and churches. During the Second Spanish Republic from 1931 to 1936, the focus was on building up provincial museums. During the Spanish Civil War, upon the recommendation of the League of Nations, the museum staff removed 353 paintings, 168 drawings and the Dauphin's Treasure and sent the art to Valencia, then later to Girona, and finally to Geneva. The art had to be returned across French territory in night trains to the museum upon the commencement of World War II. During the early years of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, many paintings were sent to embassies.<ref name="riding">Template:Cite news</ref>

File:Velázquez en El Prado.JPG
One of the main promenade entrances to the Prado is dominated by this bronze statue of Diego Velázquez.

The main building was enlarged with short pavilions in the rear between 1900 and 1960. The next enlargement was the incorporation of two buildings (nearby but not adjacent) into the institutional structure of the museum: the Casón del Buen Retiro, which is equipped to display up to 400 paintings and which housed the bulk of the 20th-century art from 1971 to 1997, and the Salon de Reinos (Throne building), formerly the Army Museum.

In 1993, an extension proposed by the Prado's director at the time, Felipe Garin, was quickly abandoned after a wave of criticism.<ref name="expand">Template:Cite news</ref> In the late 1990s, a $14 million roof work forced the Velázquez masterpiece Las Meninas to change galleries twice.<ref name="goodman">Template:Cite news</ref> In 1998, the Prado annex in the nearby Casón del Buen Retiro closed for a $10 million two-year overhaul that included three new underground levels. In 2007, the museum finally executed Rafael Moneo's project to expand its exposition room to 16,000 square meters, hoping to increase the yearly number of visitors from 1.8 million to 2.5 million. A glass-roofed and wedge-shaped foyer now contains the museum's shops and cafeteria, removing them from the main building to make more room for galleries.<ref name="goodman"/> The 16th-century Cloister of Jerónimo has been removed stone by stone to make foundations for increased stability of surrounding buildings and will be re-assembled in the new museum's extension. Hydraulic jacks had to be used to prevent the basement walls from falling during construction. The enlargement is an underground building which connects the main building to another one entirely reconstructed.

Historic structure

File:Puerta de Goya.jpg
The Goya Gate in the north facade of the museum.

The Museo del Prado is one of the buildings constructed during the reign of Charles III (Carlos III) as part of a grandiose building scheme designed to bestow upon Madrid a monumental urban space. The building that lodges the Museum of the Prado was initially conceived by José Moñino y Redondo, conde de Floridablanca and was commissioned in 1785 by Charles III for the reurbanización of the Paseo del Prado. To this end, Charles III called on one of its favorite architects, Juan de Villanueva, author also of the nearby Botanical Garden and the City Hall of Madrid.<ref name="chronology">Template:Cite webTemplate:Es icon</ref>

The prado ("meadow") that was where the museum now stands gave its name to the area, the Salón del Prado (later Paseo del Prado), and to the museum itself upon nationalisation. Work on the building stopped at the conclusion of Charles III's reign and throughout the Peninsular War and was only initiated again during the reign of Charles III's grandson, Ferdinand VII. The premises had been used as headquarters for the cavalry and a gunpowder-store for the Napoleonic troops based in Madrid during the war.

Special exhibitions

Between 8 November 2011 and 25 March 2012, a group of 179 works of art were brought to the Museo del Prado from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.<ref name="hermitage">Template:Cite web</ref> Notable works included:

  • A Scholar (1631), by Rembrandt
  • The Lute Player (c. 1596), by Caravaggio
  • Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1647), by Bernini
  • Game of Bowls (1908), by Henri Matisse
  • Bouquet of Cornflowers with Stems of Oats in a Vase (c. 1900), by House of Fabergé
  • Pond at Montgeron (1876), by Claude Monet
  • Belt buckle with a monster attacking a horse, (4th-3rd Century BC), (gold ornament from Peter I’s Siberian Collection)
  • Moonrise, Two Men on the Shore (c. 1900), by Caspar David Friedrich
  • Composition VI (1913), by Wassily Kandinsky
  • Metaphysical Still life (1918), by Giorgio Morandi

Nearby museums

Very close to the Prado, the Villahermosa Palace houses the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, the bulk of whose collection was originally privately gathered and not part of the state collection, but which well serves to fill the gaps and weaknesses of the Prado's collection, such as Dutch and German painting; the Thyssen Bornemisza has been controlled as part of the Prado system since 1985.Template:Citation needed

Near the Museo del Prado are two other national museums: the Museo Arqueológico houses some art of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome formerly in the Prado Collection; the Museo Reina Sofía houses 20th-century artwork (including Picasso's Guernica). These two museums supplement the Prado, as do the Buen Retiro and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (all within a short walk of each other).

The Naval Museum, managed by the Ministry of Defence, is also nearby.



Until the early 2000s, the Prado's annual income was approximately $18 million, $15 million of which came from the government and the remainder from private contributions, publications, and admissions.<ref name="kimmelman">Template:Cite news</ref> In 2001, the conservative government of José María Aznar decided to change the museum's financing platform, ushering in a public-private partnership. Under its new bylaws, which the Cortes Generales approved in 2003, the Prado must gradually reduce its level of state support to 50 percent from 80 percent. In exchange, the museum gained control of the budget — now roughly €35 million — and the power to raise money from corporate donations and merchandising. However, its recent €150 million expansion was paid for by the Spanish state.<ref name="fuchs">Template:Cite news</ref>

In 1991, Manuel Villa Escusa bequeathed his fortune of nearly $40 million in Madrid real estate to the Prado, to be used solely for the acquisition of paintings. The museum subsequently sold Villa Escusa's buildings to realize income from them. The bequest suddenly made the Prado one of the most formidable bidders for paintings in the world.<ref name="kimmelman"/>


The serial Directors of the Prado have affected its development. Template:Dynamic list

  • José de Madrazo y Agudo, 1838-1851.
  • Federico de Madrazo
  • José Villegas Cordero, 1912-1918
  • Aureliano de Beruete y Moret, 1918 - 1922
  • Diego Angulo Íñiguez, 1968–70.<ref name="sanchez">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Xavier de Salas, 1970–78.<ref name="salas">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • José Manuel Pita Andrade, 1978–81.
  • Alfonso Perez Sanchez, 1981–91.<ref name="kimmelman"/>
  • Felipe Garin, 1991–93.<ref name="kimmelman"/>
  • Francisco Calvo Serraller, 1993–94.<ref name="loses">Template:Cite news</ref>
  • Jose Maria Luzon Nogué, 1994–96.<ref name="nogue">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Alfonso y Pérez Sánchez
  • Fernando Checa, 1997–2002.<ref name="chena">Template:Cite news</ref><ref name="bbc">Template:Cite web</ref>
  • Miguel Zugaza, 2002–present.<ref name="titova">Template:Cite news</ref>

Collection highlights

File:The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch High Resolution 2.jpg
Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, between 1480 and 1505. One of the images made available on the Google Earth project
File:Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, between 1656 and 1657, also one of the images made available on the Google Earth project

The Prado in Google Earth

Template:Commons category In 2009, the Prado Museum selected 14 of its most important paintings to be displayed in Google Earth and Google Maps at extremely high resolution, with the largest displayed at 14,000 megapixels. The images' zoom capability allows for close-up views of paint texture and fine detail.<ref name="tremlett">Template:Cite news</ref>

File:The Three Graces, by Peter Paul Rubens, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens is also one of the images made available on the Google Earth project.



External links