Three million people visited the Prado Museum, one of the world’s foremost picture galleries, in 2019. This figure is enough to show that the Prado is something not to be missed.
The Prado Museum opened its doors to the public 200 years ago —on 19 November 1819, to be precise. In the beginning, the Royal Collection, which was the origin of this institution, sought to acquire works by specific artists such as Velázquez and Goya, the two who are now best represented at the museum. The Prado possesses about 50 paintings by Velázquez, while its collection of Goyas reaches a total of 140. Indeed, this is why the Prado is said to be a museum of painters rather than one of paintings. Numerous works by such other prominent figures as Hieronymus Bosch, Titian, El Greco and Rubens are also to be seen here.
As previously mentioned, the private Royal Collection went from being something to be enjoyed by the privileged few to what it is today: the country’s leading cultural institution. At present the Prado Museum’s holdings comprise about 27,000 pieces, including over 7,800 paintings. The permanent exhibition of works on display for visitors, however, totals approximately 1,150 pictures, a figure which was made possible by the expansion of the museum’s facilities in 2011. In this way, the Prado continues to fulfil its mission of conserving, displaying and enhancing the collections and works of art which bear a close relation to the history of Spain, works which unquestionably form one of the highest manifestations of artistic expression of acknowledged universal value.
In addition to its permanent exhibition, the museum regularly holds major temporary shows in each successive season. For example, in 2019-2020, with the aim of commemorating the 200th anniversary of the institution, the exhibition ‘Prado 200’ will present the historical evolution of the museum in nine chronological units, including topics connected with its architecture, its public image and its principal shows and activities. With the exhibition ‘Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer. Parallel visions’, the Prado is presenting an ambitious project devoted to the subject of the Dutch and Spanish painting of the late 16th and the 17th centuries. This show, formed by 72 pieces from the Prado itself, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and 15 other institutions such as the National Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City, proposes a reflection on the pictorial traditions of Spain and the Netherlands, highlighting the many features which they share.
‘Solo la voluntad me sobra. Drawings by Goya’ will be displaying, until February of 2020, over one hundred drawings by Goya from the Prado’s own holdings as well as from public and private collections all over the world, to present a chronological panorama of his work that will highlight the continued validity and current relevance of his thought. Likewise, the exhibition ‘A Tale of Two Women Painters: Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana’ will help to shed light on the artistic personality of two of the most outstanding women in the history of Western art. Both achieved recognition and fame amongst their contemporaries, breaking with the stereotypes that society assigned to women in relation to artistic practice, and with the deep-rooted scepticism regarding women’s creative and artistic capabilities.
Photos | © Museo Nacional del Prado