The Prado Museum, Madrid

Category: Madrid

The Prado Museum houses the collection of royal arts, and it is the greatest European museum. It was thrown open to the public in the year 1819, and has more than 4,000 paintings from many older centuries stored there. It includes brilliant artistic work by the likes of Rembrandt, Bosch, Titian and many others. It also houses the famed collection of Francisco de Goya’s masterpiece paintings. Juan de Villanueva designed the museum by commencing work in 1785. Presently, the museum has 2 buildings, the Cason del Buen Retiro and the Villanueva, and stores, besides paintings, many drawings, medals, coins and etchings as well.

To honor Madrid with a monument, Charles III’s reign witnessed the construction of Museo del Prado, a grand scheme of building. In Spanish, Prado meant meadow, and it lent its name to Paseo del Prado, and on nationalization, to the Prado Museum. The reason the museum took such a long time to be built was the conclusion of Charles III’s reign and the breaking out of the War of Peninsula. Work was re-started only by Ferdinand VII, the grandson of Charles III. The un-built museum was used by the Madrid troops for various purposes relating to the Independence War.

The museum is renowned all over the world due to over 3,000 paintings by eminent people that it stores. Some of these eminent personalities include Diego Velazquez, Jusepe de Ribera, El Greco, and many older Spanish masters. Spain’s King Philip II personally liked Hieronymus Bosch from Dutch, and his work is present here as well. Apart from these, other noticeable personalities whose work the museum includes are Hans Baldung, Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Dürer, Caravaggio, Veronese and a host of other artists.

However, the major attraction of the museum is undoubtedly the Las Meninas done by Velázquez. Besides bringing his own work into the museum, he also made sure than many great works from Italy was also included in the museum’s fantastic collection.

When democracy in Spain was restored, Guernica, which was an excellent work by Pablo Picasso, was also housed in the Prado, but later on, in 1992 to be precise, this work was shifted to the Museo Reina Sofia due to the transfer of paintings made after the early nineteenth century being shifted to the other building due to space constraints. A building, the last enlargement, is constructed underground, and connects the main building to the other re-constructed one.

Near the Prado is located the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, whose collections earlier on didn’t form a part of those of the State but were private, and this satisfies the purpose of gap-filling of the collection of Prado, mainly the paintings by the Germans and the Dutch.

The drawings [168 in number] and paintings [353] were moved to various places like Valencia, Girona and Geneva when the Civil War broke out in Spain. It was then sent to France by night trains during World War II.

Two other museums are located in close vicinity of the Prado – Museo Arqueológico and Museo Reina Sofia. All of these are at a walking distance from each other.