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Prado Museum (Madrid, Spain)
One of the Most Important Museums in Spain
The Prado Museum (Museo del Prado) in Madrid, Spain is one of the most important museums in Spain and one of the most notable in the world. The museum houses the richest and most complete collection of Spanish paintings that exists anywhere.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Goya), Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (Velázquez), Doménikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco)
Of the 30,000 paintings in the museum’s collection, almost 10,000 are from the Spanish school of painting. There are approximately 100 paintings by Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (usually referred to merely as Goya), 50 paintings by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (usually just referred to as Velázquez), 50 paintings by José de Ribera, and 20 painting each by Doménikos Theotokópoulos (El Greco), Francisco de Zurbarán, and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
Flemish Paintings and Italian Paintings in the Prado
There are numerous Flemish and Italian paintings at the Prado. The reason for this is evident if you know something about world history.
In the 16th century, Spain was the most important European monarchy. At this same time, Italian and Flemish painting were flourishing. Italy and what is now Belgium were under the geopolitical rule of Spain. The representatives of the Spanish king in both Italy and Belgium—the Viceroys—found themselves in the position of being able to select the best Italian and Flemish paintings to enhance their monarch’s collection of works of art.
Spanish National Gallery
The idea of a Spanish national gallery was formed at the turn of the eighteenth century. It was caused, in part, by a new interest in history and museums that was aroused by the Age of Enlightenment. Unlike the Age of Enlightenment (Age of Reason) whose purpose was to advance knowledge and reform society, the idea for a Spanish national gallery came from the monarchy. When the first museum was opened in 1819, it was called The Royal Museum of Painting of the Prado.
In 1800, a minister named Urquijo wished to create a complex for teaching fine arts at court and in schools and museums. In 1809, the plans for creating a “museum of painting” were announced. The Napoleonic wars got in the way of these plans, and it wasn’t until 1814, when King Ferdinand VII was returned to power that the construction of a building to hold 311 Spanish paintings was begun. When the museum was opened five years later, it was housed in the palace of the Prado, whose construction was begun 50 years earlier under Charles III, as the headquarters of the Academy and Museum of the Sciences.
National Museum of the Prado
The entire contents of the original museum came from royal collections. The number of paintings in the Prado grew rapidly, as works were taken from palaces belonging to the crown. In 1821, 195 paintings by Italian painters were added. The building was enlarged between 1826 and 1828, and the size of the collection increased to 700 paintings. Ferdinand’s daughter, Isabella II, tripled the figure of 700 paintings during the 30 years of her reign. When Isabella II went into exile in 1868, The Royal Museum of Painting of the Prado became the National Museum of the Prado.