Prado Museum
National Art Gallery of Spain, Madrid: History, Collection of Religious Paintings Highlights.

Museo del Prado, Madrid

One of the world's best art museums, the Museo del Prado -the Spanish national museum of art in Madrid - houses the world's finest collection of Spanish painting, exemplified by Spanish Baroque artists such as Velazquez, El Greco, the Naples-based Jusepe Ribera, and also Francisco Goya, as well as masterpieces from other schools of European art from the 12th century to the early 19th century, such as Florentine and Venetian Renaissance art, and the Northern Renaissance in Flanders, Holland and Germany. It is especially noted for its holding of Christian art, particularly Catholic Counter-Reformation art.

Although established originally as a gallery of fine art painting, the Prado (meaning 'meadow' in Spanish) also boasts important collections of drawings, prints, sculpture, coins and medals, as well as a host of decorative objects and jewellery. Modern Spanish art is covered by the Reina Sofia Madrid. and contemporary Spanish art by the Bilbao Guggenheim museum.

Hermitage St Petersburg
Uffizi Gallery Florence
Pitti Palace, Florence
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel Frescoes
Raphael Rooms (Vatican)
Doria Pamphilj Gallery
Capodimonte Museum, Naples
Louvre Museum
Musee Conde, Chantilly
Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts
Antwerp Museum of Fine Arts
Mauritshuis Art Museum
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden
Gemaldegalerie SMPK, Berlin
Pinakothek Museum Munich
Kunsthistorisches Museum
National Gallery London
Courtauld Gallery
British Museum
British Royal Art Collection

Before visiting the Prado, see
Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.

Museo del Prado, Madrid is one of
the top art museums in Europe.

Origins and History

Initially commissioned by King Charles III in 1785 as a natural science museum, the neo-classical style Prado building was designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva and eventually finished in 1819 during the reign of King Ferdinand VII who opened it to the public as the Royal Museum of Painting. In 1868 it was nationalized and renamed the National Museum of the Prado. As the collection grew, the building was enlarged a number of times, most recently in 2007 when the Rafael Moneo-designed renovation started.

Subsidiary Galleries

During these enlargements several satellite venues were incorporated into the overall Prado complex, including: the Casón del Buen Retiro (housing 20th century art from 1971 to 1997), the Salon de Reinos, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (home to Dutch and German painting). Also in the area are two other Spanish art museums: the Museo Arqueologico (to which part of the Prado's collection of ancient and classical antiquities was relocated) and the Museo Reina Sofía (20th century works).



The Collection

Initially, the museum's fine art collection consisted of religious-oriented Renaissance, and Spanish Baroque paintings amassed by the Habsburg and Bourbon Kings of Spain, including Charles V (ruled 1516-56), Philp II (1556-98), Philip IV (1621-65) and Philip V (1700-46). This includes imports from the Spanish colony of Naples, exemplifying Neapolitan Baroque painting (1650-99). In the 19th century these collections were consolidated into the Prado, although latterly these have been somewhat dispersed for space reasons.

Works of Art

The Museo del Prado displays over 1,400 paintings, and its permanent collection also contains over 5,000 drawings, 2,000 prints, 700 sculptures in stone and bronze, including an outstanding range of Greek and Roman statuary, 2,000 decorative items, 1,000 coins and medals, and almost 2,000 decorative objects.

Spanish Painting

The collection includes a host of masterpieces by Spanish painters, including:

Diego Velazquez (1599-1660)
The Feast of Bacchus (1629)
The Forge of Vulcan (1630)
Christ Crucified (1632)
The Surrender of Breda (1635)
Francisco Lezcano (1638)
The Thread Spinners (1644)
Las Meninas (1656)

Goya (1746-1828)
Christ on the Cross (1780)
Blind Man's Buff (1789)
Maja Vestida (Clothed Maja) (c.1800)
Maja Desnuda (Nude Maja) (c.1800)
Charles IV and his Family (1800)
The Colossus (1808-12)
Third of May, 1808 (1814)
Saturn Devouring His Son (1821)

El Greco (Domenikos Theotocopoulos) (1541-1614)
The Holy Trinity (1577–1579)
The Knight with His Hand on His Breast (1580)
The Resurrection (1600)

Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1617-1682)
The Virgin of the Rosary (1649)
The Immaculate Conception (1670)

Jusepe Ribera
Martyrdom of St Batholomew (1630)

Note: Ribera, Caravaggio's greatest follower, was one of the key founders of the Neapolitan School, during the first half of the 17th century. For more about his art, and that of Caravaggio and others - much of which has ended up in the Prado, see: Painting in Naples (1600-1700) and for more detail, see: Neapolitan School of Painting (c.1600-56).

Zurbaran (1598-1664)
Still Life (1633)
Agnus Dei (1640)

Pablo Picasso's black & white masterpiece, Guernica (1937), was housed in the Prado after its return to Spain, but in 1992 was moved to the nearby Museo Reina Sofía.

See also our article: How To Appreciate Paintings.


The Prado contains some of the greatest Renaissance paintings, including numerous works by Spanish Renaissance artists and others from the Early Renaissance, the High Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance, such as: Andrea Mantegna, Artemisia Gentileschi, Sandro Botticelli, Veronese, Antonello da Messina, Raphael, including masterpices such as:

The Annunciation (1430-1432) by Fra Angelico.
The Deposition (1435) by Roger van der Weyden.
Self-Portrait (1480) by Albrecht Dürer
The Garden of Earthly Delights (1504) by Hieronymus Bosch.
The Haywain Triptych (1516) by Hieronymus Bosch.
The Bacchanal of the Andrians (1523-5) by Titian
Charles V at Mühlberg (1548) by Titian

Baroque - Rococo - Neoclassical

The museum's collection of Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical painting includes works by Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Gellee, to name but a few, and the English portraitist Thomas Gainsborough.

• For details of the development of painting and sculpture, see: History of Art.
• For more information about the world's greatest art museums, see: Homepage.

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