Madrid Art Museums
Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art: El Prado
No visit to Madrid Spain is complete with visiting the Museo Nacional del Prado. El Prado is considered to be one of the best art museums in the world and is one of the most visited attractions in the world. The Prado contains the world’s best collection of Spanish art and an incredible collection of European art. It is one of the top things to do in Madrid and shouldn’t be missed.
The Prado was created by the Spanish royalty, first opening in 1819, with the goal of promoting Spanish art and artists to the world. The museum was started with the Spanish Royal Collection; works of art owned by kings and queens over the centuries and has since expanded to include what is considered to one of the world’s best collection of European art from the 12th to the 19th century.
Highlights of the Museum
The Prado is home to an incredible collection of work by two Spanish masters: Velázquez and Goya.
Diego Velázquez was a painter in the royal court during its golden age: the 1600’s. The museum has all of his major works in its collection including the most famous painting in the Prado: LasCredit: Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez Meninas (the Maids of Honor).
Las Meninas is one of the most analyzed works in European art. It is a painting of Velazquez painting with several viewpoints and characters and a complex layout leaving us to wonder at what is the true subject of the painting and what is the line between what is real and what is illusion. The painting of the maids of honor has captivated many, including Pablo Picasso who reinterpreted the work in no less than 58 paintings of his own.
The other star collection in the Prado includes 140 paintings spanning the lifetime of Francisco Goya. Goya was also a royal court painter although many of his famous portraits are very unflattering of his subjects.
Two of Goya’s most famous works: The Nude Maja (La Maja Desnuda) and The Clothed Maja (La Maja Vestida) share a room in the Prado. The paintings depict the same woman in the same pose both nude and fully dressed. There is a lot of speculation about the identity of the woman and the reason the two paintings were done.Credit: lanpernas2 on Flickr
The Prado also has on display several of Goya’s paintings depicting Napoleon’s invasion of Spain during the Peninsular War, and paintings from the end of his life known as the Black Paintings: a series of darker works featuring scenes of war, mythology, violence and witchcraft.
Other Spanish Masters on display include El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Murillo, Bermejo and Fortuny, overall an incredible collection.
The Prado has a large and varied collection of both Italian and Flemish art as well as a smaller collection of French, German and Dutch paintings. For historical political reasons there is very little British work.
Another highlight of the Prado is the series of pieces painted by Hieronymous Bosch including the famous 3 panel triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights.Credit: Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch
Other featured artists include Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Tintoretto and Rubens.
Visiting the Museum:
The Prado’s collection is vast and the museum is large so you may want to focus your visit on a certain area or collection or you’ll be overwhelmed.
The Museo del Prado is located in Madrid’s central historic district close to several other tourist destinations including Puerta del Sol, Parque Retiro, Puerta de Alcala, the Cibeles fountain and more.
The Prado is the star of the Golden Triangle of art museums in Madrid. The other two museums: the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia are within walking distance and if you are interested in visiting them all you can save money by buying a Madrid Art Pass that includes admission to all three.