Museo del Prado

Museo del Prado
Museo del Prado
Established 1819
Location Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
Visitor figures

2,763,094 (2009)[1]

  • Ranked 1st nationally
  • Ranked 11th globally
Director Miguel Zugaza
Museo Nacional del Prado
Native name:
Spanish: Museo Nacional del Prado
Location: Madrid, Spain
Spanish Property of Cultural Interest
Official name: Museo Nacional del Prado
Type: Non-movable
Criteria: Monument
Designated: 1962[2]
Reference #: RI-51-0001374

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 Velázquez and Francisco de Goya (the artist more extensively represented in the collection), Titian, Rubens and 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 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.[3]

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 was also responsible for bringing much of the museum's fine collection of Italian masters to Spain.



Spanish painting

La maja desnuda, by Francisco de Goya, oil on canvass, (circa 1797–1800)

The Museo del Prado has the largest collection of Spanish painting in the world, numbering more than 4,800 paintings and dating from the Romanesque period to the 19th century. This internationally-renowned collection includes masterpieces by artists such as Bartolomé Bermejo, Pedro Berruguete, Sánchez Coello, El Greco, Ribera, Zurbarán, Murillo, Alonzo Cano, Velázquez, Goya, Vicente López, Fortuny, Carlos de Haes, Federico de Madrazo.

The two artists who are best represented in the Prado are Velázquez and Goya. The Museum has almost 50 paintings by the former, mostly from the Spanish Royal Collection. They include almost all the artist's major compositions.

The Goya collection is also rich, comprising more than 140 paintings. While the artist worked for many years in the service of the Spanish royal family, only a few works in the Museum's collection are from royal residences, such as The Family of Charles IV. When the Museum opened Goya was still alive and it was only after his death that successive directors made great efforts to acquire his paintings, for example Federico de Madrazo, who purchased the tapestry cartoons. Madrazo's intention from the outset was to place Goya on the level of the great artists of the past in an homage to the leading painter of modern times. This explains why, in contrast to Velázquez, the Museum has acquired most of its works by Goya through donations, bequests and purchases.

Romanesque, Gothic and Early Renaissance painting

Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-de-fe, by Pedro Berruguete (1475).

The frescoes from San Baudelio de Berlanga and Santa Cruz de Maderuelo are particularly important among the Romanesque paintings in the collection. The latter are installed in a specially designed chapel within the Museum, which reproduces the original arrangement of the paintings.

Franco-Gothic painting is well represented by the Saint Christopher Altarpiece, while examples of the Italo-Gothic are The Saint John the Baptist Altarpiece and The Mary Magdalen Altarpiece by Jaime Serra. The International Gothic is represented by The Altarpiece of the Life of the Virgin and Saint Francis by Nicolás Francés.

The Prado possesses one of the masterpieces of Hispano-Flemish painting: Bartolomé Bermejo's Saint Domingo of Silos, as well as two major works, The Pietà with Donors and Christ blessing, by Fernando Gallego, the best known painter working in Castile at this period. A notable work by Juan de Flandes, Court Painter to Isabella I of Castile, is the Crucifixion, acquired in 2005.

Early Spanish Renaissance paintings are represented in the Prado by the series of works by Pedro Berruguete from the monastery of Santo Tomás in Ávila, notably Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fe. Other works of this period are The Virgin of the Knight of Montesa by Paolo da San Leocadio and The Flagellation by Alejo Fernández.

El Greco and Renaissance painting. Early naturalism

The Museo del Prado's collection includes one of the great masterpieces of Spanish Renaissance painting, Saint Catherine by Fernando Yáñez, as well as one of the best known works of this period, Juan de Flandes’ The Last Supper. Other Spanish Renaissance artists well represented in the Museum are the Toledan painter Juan Correa de Vivar and Luis de Morales from Extremadura, particularly through his Virgin and Child compositions. Worth special mention is the group of Renaissance court portraits including images by Alonso Sánchez Coello and Juan Pantoja de la Cruz.

The most important artist in this section of the Museum's collection is undoubtedly El Greco. The Prado owns two works painted in Italy, namely The Annunciation and The Flight into Egypt, as well as more than thirty painted in Spain. Among the latter is The Trinity from the altarpiece painted for Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo, one of the first works that El Greco executed after he moved to Toledo; the five great canvases from the Altarpiece of the Colegio de Doña María de Aragon; and the famous Knight with his hand on his Breast, along with a fine group of other portraits.

Among early naturalist works are outstanding paintings by Ribalta, Maino and Herrera the Elder. Also dating from this period are various important still lifes, such as Game Fowl, Fruit and Vegetables by Sánchez Cotán, and the group of works by Juan van der Hamen that was enriched in 2006 by the acquisition of the Naseiro Collection.

Baroque painting

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, is the museum's most famous work of art.

Represented by almost 50 works, more than one third of his total output, Velázquez is the towering genius of this period in the Prado's collection. Among his most popular paintings in the collection is The Adoration of the Magi from his Sevillian phase. From his period as Court Painter are the portraits of Philip IV, Prince Baltasar Carlos, the Infante Don Carlos and Queen Mariana of Austria, together with a sizeable collection of portraits of court dwarves such as Pablo de Valladolid. Also dating from the artist's years in the service of Philip IV are various "history" paintings including Los Borrachos, Vulcan's Forge and The Surrender of Breda, in addition to two major compositions from the end of his life, namely The Fable of Arachne (The Spinners) and Las Meninas. The 1743 Family of Philip V is here.

Highly important works are also to be seen by the other figures of the Spanish Golden Age: Ribera, Murillo, Zurbarán and Alonso Cano. Like Velázquez, Ribera is represented by around 50 paintings, among them masterpieces such as Jacob and Esau and The Martyrdom of Saint Philip. Murillo is represented in the Prado by around 40 paintings, some as celebrated as The Good Shepherd, The Holy Family with the Bird and The Immaculate Conception of los Venerables (The "Soult" Immaculate Conception). Zurbarán is also represented by a collection of works including Saint Elizabeth of Portugal and two paintings from the series on "The Life of Saint Pedro Nolasco" from the Cloister of the Merced Calzada in Seville. The same can be said of Alonso Cano, represented by paintings such as The Dead Christ supported by an Angel.

The Prado has numerous religious paintings from the 17th-century Madrid school, including works by Fray Juan Ricci, Pereda, Francisco de Herrera el Mozo and Claudio Coello, as well as some magnificent portraits by Carreño de Miranda. Other 17th-century Spanish schools are represented, such as the Sevillian, which includes examples of the work of Valdés Leal.

Goya and 18th-century painting

Charles IV of Spain and His Family, 1800-1801, by Francisco de Goya

More than 140 paintings by Francisco de Goya offer the visitor to the Prado the chance to analyse the artist's development in considerable depth. Goya's art arises from the Spanish tradition and Velázquez was his master, as he himself said. Goya was a brilliant and unique artist on a level with the other great masters of painting and far above his contemporaries in Spain. Among the most important works by the artist in the collection of the Museo del Prado are the tapestry cartoons The Parasol and The Crockery Vendor, and portraits of The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children, The Countess of Chinchón, Don Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, The Family of Charles IV and The Marchioness of Santa Cruz. In addition La maja desnuda and La maja vestida are included, which have acquired near-iconic status. Goya as a history painter is represented by major works such as The Assault on the Mamelukes and The Executions on Príncipe Pío, better known as The Second and Third of May, respectively. Among works from the last two periods of Goya's career are the Black Paintings, executed in Madrid, and The Milkmaid of Bordeaux, which the artist completed during his final years when he lived in that French city.

Also forming part of the 18th-century Spanish collection is a large group of still lifes by Luis Melédez; small, cabinet paintings by Paret y Alcázar such as The Masked Ball and Charles III eating before the Court; tapestry cartoons by the Bayeu brothers; and other paintings such as Antonio Carnicero's The Ascent of a Montgolfier Balloon in Aranjuez.

19th-century painting

Goya's influence on 19th-century Spanish painting can be seen in various works by Eugenio Lucas and Leonardo Alenza such as Prisoners Condemned by the Inquisition and The Spanking. Outstanding among historical works are various compositions such as The Death of Viriato by Madrazo, The Testament of Isabel the Catholic by Eduardo Rosales, and Juana la Loca before the Tomb of her Husband by Francisco Pradilla.

The 19th-century portrait collection is extremely extensive and includes some outstanding works. Among the most important are Vicente López's Portrait of Goya, Federico de Madrazo's The Countess of Vilches, and Esquivel's The Contemporary Poets.

The most important group within the landscape section comprises more than 80 works by Carlos de Haes. Also well represented is Péréz Villaamil with his Romantic landscapes. The Museum has some extremely fine paintings by Fortuny including Fantasy on ‘Faust’ and Nude on the Beach at Portici. Also worth noting are the works by Sorolla in the collection. These allow for a study of his stylistic development, from the dark tonality of And they still say Fish is dear! to the better known Luminist style of Boys on the Beach.

The Prado does not normally show modern art, but Pablo Picasso's famous painting Guernica was exhibited in the Prado for some time after its return to Spain after the restoration of democracy, until it was moved to the Museo Reina Sofía in 1992 as part of a transfer of all works later than the early 19th century to other buildings for space reasons.

Italian painting

In terms of quality and quantity the Prado's collection of Italian paintings, numbering more than 1,000 works, is second only to its Spanish holdings. Many of these works were formerly in the royal collection.

There were few examples of 14th- and 15th-century Italian painting in the royal collection as this was a less appreciated area until the 19th century. For this reason it is not as well represented in the Museum, although there are a small number of great 15th-century masterpieces by Fra Angelico, Mantegna, Antonello da Messina and Botticelli, which entered the collection by different routes.

Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet, by Tintoretto, oil on canvas (c. 1548).

16th-century painting comprises a more coherent and complete group, mainly originating from the royal collection. Venetian art of this date is the best represented among the various Italian schools. As a result of his commissions from Charles V and Philip II, Titian became the Habsburg painter par excellence. The Prado possesses more than 40 paintings by Titian alone, as well as exceptional works by Veronese, Tintoretto and the Bassano. The extraordinary group of works by Raphael acquired by Philip IV initiated a new taste for that artist, who replaced Titian in Bourbon eyes and became the favourite of the new dynasty. Also represented in the Prado are other great masters such as Correggio and Parmigianino of the School of Parma, Sebastiano del Piombo of the Roman School and Andrea del Sarto of the Florentine.

The collection of 17th- and 18th-century Italian paintings is also one of the most extensive in the Museum and once again the royal collection accounts for most of them. Many works arrived through the negotiations undertaken by Spanish ambassadors and viceroys in Rome and Naples who were instructed to secure paintings to decorate the Buen Retiro Palace, built in the 17th century. Another important group is due to the presence of Italian artists in Italy such as Luca Giordano, Corrado Giaquinto and Giambattista Tiepolo.

The 15th and 16th centuries

The Annunciation, 1430-1432, by Fra Angelico.
Equestrian Portrait of Charles V, 1548, by Titian.

The Museo del Prado has various Italian paintings from the 15th century, such as The Death of the Virgin by Mantegna, acquired for Philip IV, The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, and Scenes from the Story of Nastagio degli Onesti by Botticelli. Also worthy of mention is The Dead Christ supported by an Angel by Antonello da Messina, whose purchase in 1966 signified an important addition to the collection due to the work's outstanding quality.

The 16th-century paintings include the Raphael collection, with compositions such as The Holy Family with the Lamb, The Virgin of the Fish and Portrait of a Cardinal. The Venetian school, which is one of the strengths of the Prado's collection, includes a group of works by Titian including Charles V at Mühlberg, The Worship of Venus, Danäe, Venus and Adonis and the artist's Self-portrait. Notable works by Veronese are Venus and Adonis, Moses rescued from the Nile, and Christ among the Doctors, while important works by Tintoretto include Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet and the seven paintings of Old Testament scenes purchased by Velázquez during his second Italian trip.

Other well represented Italian artists of this period are Correggio with the Noli me tangere, and Andrea del Sarto with The Virgin and Child between Saint Matthew and an Angel. The Prado also has paintings by Parmigianino, Sebastiano del Piombo and the Bassano.

The 17th century

The Museum has one work by Caravaggio, David defeating Goliath, as well as various by his followers, including Orazio Gentileschi who developed towards a clearly Venetian style, as evident in Moses rescued from the Nile.

The most important artist of the Bolognese School, Annibale Carracci, is well represented in the Museum with Venus, Adonis' and Cupid. Other artists from this school include the classicising Guido Reni, present with works such as Hippomenes and Atalanta and Saint Sebastian, and Guercino, with Susannah and the Elders and Saint Peter freed by the Angel.

The Prado has a large collection of paintings by the Neapolitan artist Luca Giordano. They number around 80 and span his entire career from his early years in Italy with paintings such as Rubens painting the Allegory of Peace to late works from the end of his Spanish years such as Charles II on Horseback, The prudent Abigail and The Capture of a Fortress.

The 18th century

The Prado has a collection of 18th-century Italian landscapes and a number of paintings depicting events related to the Spanish royal family. These include a View of the Palace of Aranjuez by Francesco Battaglioli, and The Embarkation of Charles III in Naples by Antonio Joli. The group of three compositions with ruins by Panini is worth singling out.

A small but interesting group of Grand Tour portraits should be mentioned. These include Francis Basset, Ist Baron Dunstanville, and George Legge, Viscount Lewisham, both by Batoni.

Among the extensive group of works by Corrado Giaquinto in the Prado, worth separate mention are the preparatory oil sketch for the fresco in the Royal Palace in Madrid entitled The Birth of the Sun and the Triumph of Bacchus, and the allegorical composition of Justice and Peace.

Among the best examples of works by the Tiepolo family in the Prado's collection are Giambattista Tiepolo's Immaculate Conception, the eight canvases on the Passion from the Madrid church of San Felipe Neri by his son Giandomenico, and various pastel portraits by another son Lorenzo.

Flemish painting

Descent of Christ from the Cross, by Rogier van der Weyden (1435)

After the Spanish School, the Flemish School is almost comparable to the Italian in terms of quality and quantity. It comprises more than 1,000 paintings and, again like the Spanish paintings, most have a provenance from the royal collection. 15th- and 16th-century painting is a particularly well-represented area within the Museum. While the Low Countries formed part of the Spanish Crown from the 16th century, Philip's II's interest in earlier Flemish Primitive paintings meant that the monarch acquired various masterpieces by its most important artists, from Rogier van der Weyden to Bosch, as well as works by later artists such as Patinir. In addition, mention should be made of Flemish and Netherlandish artists who worked for the king, such as the Netherlandish portrait painter Antonis Mor. The Prado, however, lacks paintings by some of the important artists of the Flemish school, for example Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes

The Three Graces, by Rubens (1636-1638).

The southern provinces of the Low Countries remained under Spanish rule after the separation of the northern provinces (modern-day Holland) in 1581. Thereforethe Prado possess works by the leading 17th-century Flemish painters, who were subjects of the Spanish Crown. The group of paintings by Rubens is of outstanding importance, numbering more than 90, many of them true masterpieces and some executed in Spain during the two visits that the artist made in 1603 and 1628.

Paintings by Rubens’ followers Van Dyck and Jordaens complete the holdings of the leading names of 17th-century Flemish painting, which also include paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder, Paul de Vos and David Teniers the Younger.

The 15th and 16th centuries

The Museo del Prado does not possess a work by Jan van Eyck, the greatest master of the Flemish School, but it does have an exceptionally interesting painting entitled The Fountain of Grace executed in the master's workshop by a close pupil.

Two works by Robert Campin, who initiated the 15th-century Flemish style, should be mentioned: Saint John the Baptist and the Franciscan Theologian Heinrich von Werl and Saint Barbara. His pupil, Rogier van der Weyden, is represented in the Prado by two of his most important masterpieces, The Descent from the Cross and The Virgin and Child. Magnificent works by other leading 15th-century Flemish painters in the Museum include the Triptych on the Life of Christ by Dirk Bouts and The Adoration of the Magi Triptych by Hans Memling, as well as the panel of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Gerard David.

The Flemish Primitive School culminates in the Prado's collection with the superb collection of panel paintings by Hieronymous Bosch, the largest in any single public collection and, most importantly, the collection that includes the greatest number of major works by this painter from s’Hertogenbosch. These include the three triptychs of The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Adoration of the Magi and The Haywain, and The Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Among 16th-century Flemish painting a notable place is occupied by the four panels by Joachim Patinir, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Landscape with Saint Jerome, Charon crossing the Styx, and The Temptations of Saint Anthony, painted in collaboration with Quintin Massys. As in the case of Bosch, this group is the largest and most important one by the artist to be found in any museum.

Among the 16th-century Flemish paintings in the Museo del Prado are various masterpieces by major artists. These include Quintin Massys’ Ecce Homo, Barend van Orley's Holy Family, Christ between the Virgin and Saint John by Gossaert and The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Among genre paintings, notable works are those by Marinus Reymerswaele and Jan Sanders van Hemessen.

Portraits of this period in the Prado include the magnificent series by Anthonis Mor, most notably the Portrait of Mary Tudor and The Court Jester Pejerón. They can be considered high points of this genre in the 16th century and in particular within court portraiture, along with those by Titian.

The 17th century

The collection of over 90 paintings by Rubens includes a large number of his masterpieces, among them The Adoration of the Magi, Adam, Eve, The Holy Family with Saint Anne, Marie de’Medici, The Duke of Lerma, The Three Graces, The Judgement of Paris, and The Garden of Love. Other works are the collaborative compositions executed by Rubens with other artists such as the series on the Five Senses which involved the participation of Jan "Velvet" Brueghel.

The collection of portraits by Van Dyck is exceptional, particularly Sir Endymion Porter and Van Dyck, and Martin Ryckaert among the male portraits and Diana Cecil, Countess of Oxford and Maria Ruthwen among the female ones.

Of the paintings by Jacob Jordaens in the Museum, the most notable are Three strolling Musicians, The Wedding of Thetis and Peleus and the splendid Family Portrait.

The most important genre painter of this school and period is David Teniers, of whom the Prado owns more than 50 paintings. Among animal painters particular attention should be paid to Frans Snyders and Paul de Vos, while Clara Peeters and Daniel Seghers are notable for their still lifes.

French painting

The French School is the fourth best represented in the Prado after the Spanish, Italian and Flemish. With more than 300 paintings, mainly from the Spanish royal collection, it offers an incomplete but interesting overview of French paintings from the 16th to the early 19th centuries. Best represented within this group are the 17th and 18th centuries. As in the case of the other foreign schools, historical events and the artistic taste of the Spanish monarchs determined the presence of these works in greater or lesser numbers in the various royal residences. A number of paintings by Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorraine, the leading French, classicising painters, were directly commissioned from the artists during the reign of Philip IV to decorate the Buen Retiro Palace.

In the 18th century the reign of Philip V marked the start of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain and French art became more appreciated by royal collectors. Various French artists worked for the first Bourbon monarch, such as Michel-Ange Houasse, Jean Ranc and Louis-Michel van Loo. A considerable number of works also arrived from France at this time or were acquired on the international market, including paintings by Watteau, Coypel and Rigaud.

German painting

Self-portrait (1498).
Adam and Eve (1507)

Despite the close relationship between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire during the period of the Habsburgs, the German School is minimally represented in the Prado's collection. Nonetheless, among its holdings, which mostly come from the former royal collection, there are various key works by Albrecht Dürer, the most important German artist of this period. In addition, the German School collection includes 18th-century paintings by Anton Raphael Mengs, Court Painter to Charles III and another leading name in German art.

With regard to the 16th century, the Prado has four works by Dürer: a Self-portrait, Adam and Eve, and Portrait of an Unknown Man, all of which came to the Alcázar in Madrid during the reign of Philip IV. With a provenance dating back to Philip II's collection are the two panels by Hans Baldung Grien, 'Harmony or The Three Graces and The Ages of Man, and two works by Lucas Cranach the Elder: Hunt in Honour of Charles V at the Castle of Torgau and Hunt in Honour of Ferdinand I, King of the Romans, at the Castle of Torgau.

The largest number of 18th-century German paintings in the collection are by Mengs, and visitors can see Spanish, Neapolitan and Tuscan court portraits by this artist, some of them depicting royal children, as well as a Self-portrait and various religious compositions.

Dutch painting

Artemisia by Rembrandt, oil on canvas (1634).

The Museo del Prado possesses almost 200 paintings of the 17th-century Dutch School. It lacks works by the most important artists such as Vermeer and Frans Hals but taken together this group offers an overview of the different trends within this school. Due to historical circumstances and the hostility (at times open war) between the House of Orange and the Spanish Crown following their split in 1581, few Dutch works arrived in Spain in the 17th century, as might be expected. Most of the paintings in the Prado come from the former royal collection and almost all were acquired in the 18th century. Notable among them is Rembrandt's Artemisia, purchased during the reign of Charles III.

The Museum has various paintings by Matthias Stomer and Salomon de Bray, including The Incredulity of Saint Thomas and Judith and Holofernes, as well as still lifes by the most important artists of the Haarlem School: Pieter Claesz, Willem Claesz Heda, and Jan Davidsz de Heem.

Dutch genre painting is represented by Philips Wouwerman and Adriaen van Ostade. The landscape paintings include various works by Jan Both, Herman van Swanevelt and Jacob van Ruisdael.

An example of an intimately expressed portrait is Gerard Ter Borch's Portrait of Petronella de Waert, while animal painting, one of the most characteristic Dutch genres, is represented by Gabriel Metsu's Dead Cockerel.

British painting

For historical reasons, British painting is the least well represented area in the Prado's collection. Political conflicts between Spain and England from the 16th century until the early 20th century, limited contact between the aristocratic families of the two countries, and a lack of royal alliances prior to the wedding of Alfonso XIII all impeded appreciation of British art in Spain. Nonetheless, the Prado has a group of works which, although small in number, are of fine quality and were mostly acquired in the 20th century. Most are portraits painted in the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th, by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney and Hoppner. The best-represented portraitist is undoubtedly Thomas Lawrence, with significant works such as the portraits of John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, Miss Martha Carr and A Lady from the Storer Family.

David Roberts, who is an important artist due to his associations with Spanish Romanticism, is present in the form of three paintings: The Torre de Oro, Seville, The Castle of Alcalá de Guadaira and The Interior of the Mosque, Córdoba.


The Prado's sculpture collection numbers more than 900 works, in addition to around 200 fragments. Most are classical, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures and works from the 18th and 19th centuries, but the Museum also possesses some Oriental and Medieval pieces.

The first group derives from the royal collection and principally comprises Greco-Roman sculptures in addition to Renaissance bronzes by artists such as the Leoni, who executed sculpted portraits of the Spanish monarchs in the 16th century. With the importation of sculptures from Italy, the taste for the classical revived in 17th-century Spain. This was in fact one of the main reasons for Velázquez's second trip to Italy, and during his stay in Rome he was involved in the selection of works on behalf of Philip IV. Particularly important were the acquisitions made in the 18th century by Philip V and his queen, Isabella Farnese, who purchased the collection of Queen Christina of Sweden, to which that of José Nicolás de Azara was later added.

With regard to more recent acquisitions, an important addition was the small but significant group of archaic Greek sculpture donated by Mario Zayas in 1944, an area not represented by a single work in the Spanish royal collection. Two sculptures of Epimetheus and Pandora by El Greco are also recent acquisitions for the collection.

Greek sculpture

Greek horse head from the Archaic Period. Sculpted in marble towards 515 BC.

The Prado has two original works from the Archaic period, one of which is a 6th-century BC kouros.

Fifth-century classicism can be studied through Roman copies of Greek sculptures by Phidias, Polyclitus, Myron and Callimachus. These include the Athena Parthenos, a magnificent miniature copy of the great image that Phidias created for the Parthenon in Athens; a copy of Myron's Athena from the group of Athena and Marsyas; a copy of Polyclitus's magnificent Diadumenos; and a copy of the four Maenad reliefs by Callimachus.

Fourth-century BC classicism is represented by Roman copies of the best artists of the period: the magnificent Head of the Cnidian Venus, the Satyr in Repose by Praxitiles, Scopas's Hercules, and the Head of Silenus and Head of Hercules by Lysippus.

The Prado has numerous works from the Hellenistic period, all Roman copies apart from the Head of Diadocus, which is possibly Greek. Particularly fine examples among these copies are the Faun with Kid from the Pergamene School, which is the only known copy of the Greek original. Other notable works are the Hipnus, Ariadne, and a sizeable group of Hellenistic Venuses of various types: Crouching Venus, Venus with the Dolphin, The Venus of Madrid, Venus with an Apple, and Venus with a Cockle Shell.

Roman sculpture

Bust of Vibia Sabina, sculpted in marble around 130 AD.

The Saint Ildefonso Group is one of the best examples of Neo-Attic eclecticism produced in the first decades of the Roman Empire. Another exceptional piece is The Apotheosis of Claudius, which stands on a Baroque pedestal.

The collection of Roman portraits is extensive. On display are three representative works of the three main iconographic models used to represent the emperor: Augustus in a Toga, symbolising the emperor's religious and civil power; Figure in a Cuirass, presented as the leader of the armies; and Augustus or Tiberius in heroic Nude, depicted as a divinity after death.

A sizeable group of male and female busts, including Augustus, Antoninus Pius, Clodius Albinus and Vibia Sabina indicate the interest in capturing the sitter's personality evident in Roman art of this period.

Large-scale sculptures of the type characteristic of cult images are also to be found in the collection, including Jupiter and Neptune, as well as various mythological reliefs, among them the Bacchic Altar, a Neo-Attic work of the late Hellenic period, and the Sarcophagus with the Story of Achilles and Polyxena.

The sixteenth century

Sculpture of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, by Leone and Pompeo Leoni (1500–1558). Made of bronze towards 1553.

The Prado, considers the finest examples of Renaissance sculptures in the museum to be the group of full-length portraits, busts and reliefs of Charles V and his family: the Empress Elizabeth, their son Philip II and Charles's sisters, Mary of Hungary and Leonora of Austria.[4] These bronzes and marbles portraits were created by the Italian sculptor Leone Leoni and his son Pompeo Leoni. The group include the legendary bronze of Charles V and the Fury.

The collection also includes other works by various Spanish sculptors, such as the Venus by Bartolomeo Ammanati and the alabaster relief of the Allegory of Francisco I de’Medici by Giambologna.

El Greco's sculptures of Epimetheus and Pandora are particularly significant due to the importance of the artist and the fact that they are one of the very few known examples of sculpted nudes of a mythological type produced in Spain during the time of the Council of Trent.

17th and 18th centuries

The Museum has two works commissioned by Velázquez from Matteo Bonarelli de Lucca during his second trip to Italy. These are the bronze lions that support various pietra dura panels converted into tables, and the Hermaphrodite, a copy of a classical work that was in a Roman collection. The collection also includes a copy by an unknown artist of the famous classical sculpture The Spinario.

The Prado also has a series of sculpted equestrian portraits of small size depicting various Spanish monarchs. Those of Philip IV by Pietro Tacca and Charles II by Foggini date from the 17th century, while Philip V by Lorenzo Vaccaro is an 18th-century work.


The Museo del Prado also has a collection of drawings representative of various schools and dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries. The collection is made up of a core group originally from the Spanish royal collection to which 3,000 or so works from the Pedro Fernández Durán Bequest were subsequently added, along with various subsequent additions and the occasional donation. As a result, the drawings collection now numbers over 8,200 works.

Spanish drawings

The Spanish school is the best represented among the Museum's holdings of drawings, with works dating from the late Medieval period to the Modern Age.

A notable 15th-century drawing is the project for the altarpiece on the high altar of San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo, attributed to Juan Guas. The collection of 16th-century drawings is larger and includes works by the Valencian painter Juan de Juanes and painters from El Escorial such as Bartolomé Carducho and Patricio Cajés.

The 17th-century drawings include magnificent sheets by Alonso Cano, Ribera, Valdés Leal, Ribalta, Vicente Carducho, Eugenio Cajés, Pereda, Claudio Coello and Palomino.

However, it is the 18th century that is best represented, both in terms of number and quality. In addition to the very large group of more than 400 drawings by Francisco Bayeu, there are also drawings by other leading painters such as Ramón Bayeu, Salvador Maella, González Ruiz and Paret y Alcázar.

Without doubt, however, the most important and celebrated part of the Prado's drawings collection is the large group of works by Goya, numbering more than 500. Albums and series such as the Sanlúcar Album, the Madrid Album, The Disasters of War, The Tauromaquia and The Proverbs mean that it is possible to study the artist's stylistic evolution.

Goya's influence is to be seen in the numerous drawings in the collection by Zapata, Alenza and Lucas. The group of drawings by Carlos de Haes is magnificent, more than 130 of which came from the Museo del Arte Moderno in addition to the album with a further 22 sheets purchased in 2005. In addition to the names mentioned above, there is a significant group of 19th-century drawings by artists such as Fortuny, Vicente López, Federico de Madrazo, Pérez Villaamil and Eduardo Rosales.

Other schools

The Italian School is very well represented in the collection with a large number of drawings dating from the Early Renaissance to the onset of Neo-classicism. There are almost 650 drawings dating from the 16th century, outstanding among which are two by Michelangelo, Study of a Man's right Arm and Study of a right Shoulder and Chest, re-discovered and attributed to the artist in 2004. In addition there are drawings by artists of the status of Pablo Veronese, Giulio Romano, Luca Cambiaso, Il Bergamesco and Naldini.

The 17th century is represented by important examples by some of the leading painters of the time such as Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Guercino and Luca Giordano.

Among 18th-century drawings the Prado has magnificent pastels by Lorenzo Tiepolo, as well as very interesting works by Giambattista Tiepolo, Giaquinto, Batoni and Bibiena.

Drawings from other schools such as the Flemish, French and German comprise a smaller group but there are significant works by Rubens, Jordanes, Teniers, Corneille Blanchard and Mengs.


The print collection numbers around 4,800 works of which more than 600 came from the library of José María Cervello, recently acquired by the Museum.

As in the case of the drawings, the most important prints in the Prado's collection are by Goya. The Museum has prints from his first series, The Paintings of Velázquez, and from later ones such as The Caprichos, The Disasters of War, The Tauromaquia and The Disparates.

Other prints worthy of mention are those by Mariano Fortuny, many of them related to his period in Morocco, the two series of the Essays in Etching by Carlos de Haes and various works by Joaquín Pi i Margall, namely, The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Days and The Theogony or The Divine Comedy.

Various artists collaborated on the collections of The Paintings from the Casón del Bueno Retiro, The Lithographic Collection of the Paintings of the King of Spain, Selected Paintings from the Real Academia de San Fernando and The Etcher.

Among prints by non-Spanish artists, the Museum has four by Dürer: Hercules at the Crossroads, The Penance of Saint John Chrysostom, The Four Angels holding back the Winds, and Saint Michael defeating the Dragon, the last two from the Apocalypse series.

The Prado also has prints by Anthony van Dyck, Annibale Carracci, Rembrandt and Giambattista Tiepolo. By the latter the Museum has the set of ten prints from the Vari Capricci published in 1785.


The building that is now the home of the Museo Nacional del Prado was designed on the orders of Charles III in 1785 by the architect Juan de Villanueva in order 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 that belonged 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 Reales Sitios [royal residences] 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 meant that the Royal Collection was 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 Madrazo, Vicente López, Carlos de Haes, Rosales and Sorolla.

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.

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 back 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 housed the bulk of the 20th century art from 1971 to 1997, and the Salon de Reinos (Throne building), formerly the Army Museum.

The last enlargement (2007), designed by architect Rafael Moneo, is an underground building which connects the main building to another one entirely reconstructed.

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.

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.

In 2007, the Museum executed the 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. 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.[5]

Historic structure

Gate of Goya 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.[6] 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 structure was used as headquarters for the cavalry and a gunpowder-store for the Napoleonic troops based in Madrid during the War of Independence.

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.[7]

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. These two museums supplement the Prado, as do the Buen Retiro and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (all within a short walk of each other).


The serial Directors of the Prado have affected its development.

  • Diego Angulo Íñiguez, 1968-1970.[8]
  • Xavier de Salas, 1970-1978.[9]
  • José Manuel Pita Andrade
  • Francisco Calvo Serraller, 1993-1994.[10]
  • Jose Maria Luzon Nogué
  • Alfonso y Pérez Sánchez
  • Fernando Checa, 1997-2002.[11]
  • Miguel Zugaza, 2002- present.[12]

Works of art

The Prado in Google Earth

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.[13][14] The displayed paintings are shown below (all images are the same images shown at Prado in Google Earth).

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch High Resolution.jpg
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch
El Descendimiento, by Rogier van der Weyden, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden
Artemisia, by Rembrandt, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Artemisia by Rembrandt
Selbstporträt, by Albrecht Dürer, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Self Portrait by Albrecht Dürer
El Tres de Mayo, by Francisco de Goya, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Third of May 1808 by Francisco Goya
El caballero de la mano en el pecho, by El Greco, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest by El Greco
Portrait of a Cardinal, by Raffael, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Portrait of a Cardinal by Raphael
Carlos V en Mühlberg, by Titian, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Emperor Charles V on Horseback by Titian
El sueño de Jacob, by José de Ribera, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Jacob's Dream by José de Ribera
The Immaculate Conception, by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Immaculate Conception by Giambattista Tiepolo
La Anunciación, by Fra Angelico, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
La crucifixión, by Juan de Flandes, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
Crucifixion by Juan de Flandes
The Three Graces, by Peter Paul Rubens, from Prado in Google Earth.jpg
The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens


  1. ^ "Exhibition and museum attendance figures 2009". London: The Art Newspaper. April 2010. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Database of protected buildings (movable and non-movable) of the Ministry of Culture of Spain
  3. ^ Prado website. See 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)
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Chronology of the expansion". Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  6. ^ Chronology of Museo del Prado, 1785(Spanish)
  7. ^ Museo del Prado Articles and Information
  8. ^ Sánchez, Alfonso y Pérez. "Angulo Íñiguez, Diego," Enciclopedia Online, Museo Nacional del Prado (Spain), retrieved 2011-05-07
  9. ^ "Xavier de Salas," Biografias y vidas (Spain), retrieved 2011-05-07
  10. ^ Riding, Alan. "The Prado Loses Another Director," New York Times (US). May 16, 1994, retrieved 2011-05-07
  11. ^ Tremlett, Giles. "Prado director is hung out to dry," The Guardian (UK). 15 December 2001; "Spanish museum director quits," BBC News (UK). 4 December 2001, retrieved 2011-05-07.
  12. ^ Titova, Irina. "The Hermitage wears Prado," The St. Petersburg Times (Russia). March 2, 2011, retrieved 2011-05-07; Tremlett, 15 December 2001.
  13. ^ Giles Tremlett (14 January 2009), "Online gallery zooms in on Prado's masterpieces (even the smutty bits)", The Guardian, 
  14. ^ "The Prado in Google Earth". Retrieved 2009-01-24. 

External links

Coordinates: 40°24′50″N 3°41′33″W / 40.41389°N 3.6925°W / 40.41389; -3.6925

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