The Prado museum of Madrid!

And lets tackle this huge institution, not an easy task lol! So will be as brief as possible,just for a taste to bring you in to a fascinating world of the arts. This time from the Spanish angle sort of speaking.

I admit while younger my world was without museums, it took  quite later in life ,even after marriage and maturity per se to start enjoying them. Prado museum in Madrid was big then and it is bigger today; however,in my days in the city never in my wildest dream thought of going in.  To me was just a nice facade on Paseo del Prado. My interest was for some reason no part of it, the Cason del Buen Retiro as it was then part of the Retiro park, now part of the Prado museum, and even then was just a way to hang around the area with friends.

The museum came much later , when in 2004, visiting the city with my family, and passing by walking , on a whim , we decided to go in, and lucky tickets were had easily then.  Well, it was an eye opener and have come back later couple times. The Prado encourage me to visit the Louvre later on and also catch up with me.  I am a friend of both museums today.

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I had written a small pice on the museum triangle in Madrid in my blog, just a brief introduction and would like to remind all here: Museums triangle in Madrid

Now, let get into the history of it that I like a lot as the portraits description etc will take a book lol!

The Prado Museum ( Museo Nacional del Prado) is one of the largest and most important museums in the world. It presents mainly European paintings (Flemish, Spanish, French, Italian and German) from the 14C to the beginning of the 19C, collected by the Habsburgs and the Bourbons. The museum also holds collections of drawings and prints (some 6 400 drawings and 3 000 prints), a fund of a thousand sculptures (including an important collection of Greco-Roman sculptures) and a large number of decorative objects and historical documents. It permanently exhibits a collection of 1 300 works in its site, plus 3 000 lent to be exhibited in other galleries and official institutions.

The original, neoclassical-style central building, which now serves as a seat at the Prado National Museum, was built on the initiative of José Moñino y Redondo, count de Floridablanca and chief minister of king Carlos III. It is designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 as a natural science house. Because of the events of history, however, the construction will only be completed under king Fernando VII, grandson of Carlos III. Driven by his wife, Queen Maria-Isabel of Portugal, the king took the decision to make this building a Royal museum of paintings and sculptures.

The museum initially feeds on Royal collections, hence its first name as a Royal museum. It was soon renamed National Museum of Painting and Sculpture and, subsequently, Museo Nacional del Prado, it opened for the first time to the public in 1819. In 1868, after the fall of Queen Isabel II of Spain, the works of art of the monarchy became the heritage of the Spanish nation. In 1872 , it was closed the Museo de la Trinidad,(Trinity museum) enriched with Works of arts and nationalized due to the laws of Mendizábal 1836, and its treasure was transferred to the Prado.

After this merger, the Prado was renamed the National Museum of Painting and Sculptures, a designation that had hitherto had the Trinity Museum. This denomination remained until 1920, year in which by Royal decree officially received the current name of National Museum of the Prado, which was as it was known habitually already before, for having built the building in grounds of the old meadow(prado) of the Jerónimos. The Museum of Modern Art (M. A. M.)  went to the National museum dedicated to the arts of the 19C and 20C as opened  from 1894 to 1971, the year in which its collections of 19C art  were absorbed by the Prado, while those of the 20C remained in the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Arts (MEAC) , predecessor of the current Reina Sofía Museum.

In addition to the Royal collections, the museum receives many works of art as a result of the interpretation of the before mention law of 1836 which forces the Church to sell a large part of its possessions. In addition, the museum benefits from the very important donations of private collectors, including Francesc  Cambó, Pablo Bosch and Ramón Errazu, as well as the works brought by the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado (The Friends of the Museum Foundation). Spanish webpage here: Fundacion Amigos del Museo del Prado

And it has an American counterpart in English here: Americans Friends of the Prado Museum

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Its main attraction lies in the wide presence of Velázquez, El Greco, Goya (the most widely represented artist in the museum), Titian, Rubens and Bosco, of which possesses the best and most extensive collections that exist worldwide, to which we must add outstanding ensembles of important authors such as Murillo, Ribera, Zurbarán, Rafael, Veronese, Tintoretto, Van Dyck , and Poussin, to name just a few of the most relevant.

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The museum has the largest collection of Spanish paintings in the world. It includes works that extend from Romanesque art from the 12C to the end of the 19C. The collection of Italian paintings is the second collection of the museum, although it is relatively poor in works prior to the 16C. But it is from the 16C that the Italian collection of the Prado takes its full dimension. Italian Baroque painting is certainly one of the main points of interest of the Prado collections by the variety of artists and the quality of the works that can be admired.

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The collection of Flemish paintings is also among the very first in Europe, since Flemish primitives, Flemish painting of the 17C is also particularly well represented with a considerable collection of paintings.  The collection of French paintings consists mainly of works of the 17C and 18C. The ténèbrisme is also represented of the portrait makers of the Court of Spain, also of the Masters of the Rococo the museum presents finally some 19C painters.The collection of German paintings is reduced but of high quality, as well as a small collection of English paintings is also presented most were acquired by the museum in the years 1950.

Even more reduced, hardly testimonial, is the presence of paintings of the rest of the schools: Hispanic-American (more than twenty, but deposited in the Museum of America), Filipino, Swedish, Danish , American, Central European etc. With regard to the Portuguese school, despite the geographical proximity and the close relationship between the Spanish and Portuguese  monarchies, especially in the early Habsburg era, the presence of paintings from that country is negligible, reducing to six works, almost all of the 19C or early 20C.

The museum architecture look that I like, briefly describe.

 Edificio Villanueva , a building designed by Juan de Villanueva, in its original conception, is formed by a central body finished in apse, which flank two elongated galleries that end in square pavilions, one at each end. Representing an allegory of King Fernando VII as protector of the sciences, the arts and the technique. In its posterior facade, the central section ends in a semicircular form or in an apse, in such a way that its plane adopts a basilical form.

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Edificio Jerónimos (Building). This enlargement did not make substantial changes to the Villanueva building, and it was reflected in an extension to the Jerónimos cloister so that the museum would have enough space for its growing needs. The increase of the available surface was 15 715 square meters, a 50% more . The connection between both buildings is underground (on the side of the Jerónimos building), because it takes advantage and covers the height between the Jerónimos (Calle Ruiz de Alarcón) and the Paseo del Prado. The most visible improvements of this intervention affected the attention to the visitor (vestibule, bar-restaurant, lockers, shop), the extension of the exhibition spaces, with four new rooms for temporary exhibitions on two floors and the habilitation of the Cloister as sculpture display room; a new auditorium and a conference room, as well as other spaces for internal use (restoration, warehouses and the cabinet of drawings and prints.

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Cason del Buen Retiro is one of the dependencies of the old palace of the Retiro park that have come to our days(my hangouts around as youth nice area ok). Conceived as a ballroom of that palace, it was very much damaged after the war of Independence (1808-1814), after being occupied and partially destroyed by the French troops. The subsisting part, already as an autonomous building and separated from what was the former palace, was the subject of several renovations throughout the 19C. It was then endowed with monumental neoclassical facades, of which the western side with a scenographic colonnade, opposite the Retiro Park in the 20C, was used as an exhibition hall, hosting several of the most important events (what I remember living in Madrid was used). Already decided its museum use, it was attached to the Prado in 1971 (was there for the opening lol!),until 1997 the section corresponding to the art of the 19C, after the reorganization of the State collections of painting and the creation of the Reina Sofía Museum, was thought in as ideal space for the temporary exhibitions of the Prado. Finally, these functions and the painting of the 19C have been transferred to the expansion of Moneo(architect) and the historical building, respectively. After being subjected to a profound reform at the beginning of the 21C, which included the restoration of the vault painted by Luca Giordano in the central hall (allegory of the Golden Fleece ), it is since 2009 the headquarters of the museum’s Study Center, the so-called Prado school , which, following the model of the Ecole du Louvre, is dedicated to research as well as to the training of specialists in the various fields of art history. In this way, the Cason del Buen Retiro currently houses the library of the Prado Museum, with the reading room installed in the main hall under the frescoes of Giordano.

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Salon de Reinos, (Kingdom’s hall) ,correspond to the main wing (north) of the old Palace of Retiro Park, it receives its name for having originally housed the hall of Kingdoms or of ambassadors, where the king received the foreign dignitaries; This space was conceived as a scenographic  scene of the Spanish monarchy, with large paintings commissioned by king Felipe IV to the principal painters of the time, will endow the Museum of 2500 m² of exhibition space, 16% more, with a total of 5400 m²  of useful space and is expected the works to begin in  2018 .

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Edificio Aldeasa( building)  located next to the Jerónimos cloister, it is a building of contemporary style in which were the offices of the company Aldeasa, until it was acquired in 1996 by the direction of the patrimony of the State, which was attach to the Prado for to install in it the offices of the museum, until then located in the South attic of the Edificio Villanueva. On the other hand, in the premises of the adjoining building, at no  21 Calle Ruiz de Alarcón, is home to the foundation Friends of the Museum.(Fundacion Amigos del Museo del Prado).  See above.

Sala Prado , the Abulense building known as the House of Miguel del Aguila, by whom it was built in 1546, or, more commonly, as the Palace of the Eagle,(Palacio de las Aguilas)  was bequeathed with all its contents to the state by its last private owner, María Luisa Narváez and Macías,  Duchesse of Valencia, deceased in 1983, for the installation in it of a museum. Initially, in 1992,  was attached to the Museum of Avila, but through a new collaboration agreement between the then Ministry of Education and Culture and the Junta de Castilla y León was changed the assignment, going to the Prado Museum. In this way, this former palace of typical Abulense quarry became the first seat of the Prado outside Madrid, destined to host the center of Deposit Management.

Edificio Calle Pérez Ayuso at no 20  was partially attached to the museum in 2012 by the Ministry of Education, Culture and sport to install in it the new warehouse of frames(portraits).

There is but just a brief description this museum really needs two full days to see at least, you might get hook on it too and stay longer. Some webpages to help you plan your visit here are

Official Prado Museum

Tourist office of Madrid on the Prado Museum

Spanish Culture on the Prado Museum

Hope you enjoy the visit or ride or passing by all there is nice, worth a detour, for a few days lol! Enjoy Madrid and its Prado, and Spain too.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

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2 Comments to “The Prado museum of Madrid!”

  1. I never seemed to find the time to go and admire this marvellous museum during my student days in Madrid, but I do hope I will rectify that soon.

    Like

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