Museo del Prado
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Museo del Prado is a museum and art gallery located in Madrid; the capital of Spain. It features one of the world's finest collections of European art, from the 12th century through the early 19th century. Founded as a museum of paintings and sculpture, it also contains important collections of more than 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects and works of art. Sculpture is represented by more than 700 works and by a smaller number of sculptural fragments.
With over 8,600 paintings in the museum's collections, the museum's world class status is secured. The Prado has the world's finest collections of works by Spain's Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, as well as of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (a personal favorite of King Philip II of Spain). The museum has collections of El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael, Titian, Bartolomé Estéban Murillo. Fine examples of the works of Melozzo da Forlì, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Veronese, Hans Baldung, Fra Angelico, van der Weyden and many other notable artists are on display in the museum.
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.
Pablo Picasso's renowned work, Guernica, was exhibited in the Prado upon its return to Spain after the restoration of democracy, but 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.
The Museo del Prado is one of the buildings constructed during the reign of Charles III as part of a grandiose building scheme designed to bestow upon Madrid a monumental urban space. This "prado" (meaning meadow in Spanish) gave its name to the area (Salón del Prado, later Paseo del Prado), and later still to the museum itself upon nationalisation. Work on the building stopped between the conclusion of Charles III's reign and during 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. 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.
The most recent enlargement was the incorporation of two buildings (nearby but not adjacent) into the institutional structure of the museum. The Casón del Buen Retiro since 1971 houses the bulk of 19th century art. The Palacio de Villahermosa now 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; the Thyssen Bornemisza has been controlled as part of the Prado system since 1985.
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.
Nearby 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. Supplementing the Prado with these two museums, as well as the Buen Retiro and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (all within a short walk of each other).