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Museo del Prado
Established 1819
Location Paseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain
Visitor figures 2,759,029 (2008) [1]
Director Miguel Zugaza
Website www.museodelprado.es

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 to the early 19th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection. 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. The painting collection comprises about 7,800 paintings, of which only about 900 are at public display, mainly because of the museum's lack of space for it.[2] 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 Madrid, and it is considered to be among the greatest museums of art in the world.[citation needed]

Contents

Collections

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, is the museum's most famous work of art.
La maja desnuda, by Francisco de Goya, is another one of the museum's most famous works of art.

With about 1,300 paintings on display in the museum,[3] the museum's world class status is secured. The Prado has easily the world's finest collection of Spanish painting, with large numbers of the finest works of Diego Velázquez and Francisco Goya, as well El Greco, Bartolomé Estéban Murillo, Jusepe de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbarán, and most other leading Spanish old masters. There are also large groups of important works by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch (a personal favorite of King Philip II of Spain), Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Raphael, and Joachim Patiner. Fine examples of the works of Andrea Mantegna, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Guido Reni, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia Gentileschi, Veronese, Hans Baldung Grien, Fra Angelico, Antonello da Messina, Van der Weyden, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Gellée, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Lawrence, and many other notable artists are also 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.

Building

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.[4] 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.

History and Expansion

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.

A war elephant from the church of San Baudelio de Berlanga, on display at the Romanesque chamber
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.

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.[5]

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.

Partial view of the so-called Apotheosis of Claudius, of white marble. The sculpture of the eagle and the weapons is part of a funerary monument from the period of Emperor Augustus (27 BC–14 AD).

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.[6]

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Nearby Museums

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).

Works of art

The Prado in Google Earth

The Prado Museum allowed Google to photograph 14 of the museum's masterpieces to incorporate these in the Google Earth software program as well as the Google Maps web application. The images are searchable and zoom capability allows for close-up views of paint texture and fine detail.[7]

References

  1. ^ http://www.museodelprado.es/fileadmin/Image_Archive/Visitantes/Informe_anual_2008_Museo_del_Prado.pdf
  2. ^ El Prado se reordena y agranda. europapress.es
  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.
  4. ^ Chronology of Museo del Prado, 1785(Spanish)
  5. ^ Museo del Prado Articles and Information
  6. ^ "Chronology of the expansion". http://www.museodelprado.es/en/ingles/the-extension/chronology-of-the-extension/. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  7. ^ "The Prado in Google Earth". http://www.google.com/intl/en/landing/prado/. 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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