Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:05 AM 4th November 2023

An Artistic Jewel In The Heart Of Madrid - The Museo Nacional Del Prado

Group Editor Andrew Palmer, took a long-awaited trip to Madrid's Museo Nacional del Prado to wonder at the artistic gems that make up its superb collection.

The Prado
Photo: Graham Hermon
The Prado Photo: Graham Hermon
A walk through Madrid is a surprise and a delight. One turns here and there down sinuous roads that expand into beautiful squares such as the Plaza Mayor. Hardly a moment passes without something to get enthusiastic about, whether it be the architecture of the Gran Via or parks such as El Retiro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with its autumnal colours that demonstrate there is beauty in change. The trees harmoniously present a palette of such intense, fiery oranges and browns that it is hard not to stand and stare. Droplets of water in the many fountains are melodious as they rhythmically bounce in the gentle breeze.

Photo: Graham Hermon
Photo: Graham Hermon
There is a simplicity and a certain romanticism to Europe’s highest capital, and it is not difficult to get lost in a myriad of emotions along an elysian path, especially if it leads directly to the Museo Nacional Del Prado.

Room 14, Crucified Christ, Velázquez ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Room 14, Crucified Christ, Velázquez ©Museo Nacional del Prado
The art gallery, which boasts around 1,800 works, has been on my bucket list of places to visit for many years. Its galleries, described as a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and students, narrate superbly the history of Spanish and European art through the centuries. It was founded by King Ferdinand VII in 1819 and has a collection of paintings from the 12th to the early 20th century. It also houses the largest and most important collection of Velázquez, Goya and Rubens in the world.

Would I be inspired after finally making my pilgrimage?

Neptune Fountain
Photo: Graham Hermon
Neptune Fountain Photo: Graham Hermon
The excitement as I crossed the busy road close to the Neptune Fountain began to build in anticipation.

There was Spain’s revered artist Goya, described as one of the last of the Old Masters and one of the earliest of the modern artists, looking directly to the entrance. The unassuming building and entrance belie the treasure trove that is behind the brick exterior, and as one enters to explore the labyrinths that take the visitor on an exploration of the Prado’s 100 rooms, the true extent of the wealth of cultural and art history chronicling centuries of artistic splendour is realised. It is the equivalent of stepping into Dr Who's Tardis and being transported through different epochs.

Final part of the main gallery of the Prado with The Family of Charles IV by Goya at the far end 
©Museo Nacional del Prado
Final part of the main gallery of the Prado with The Family of Charles IV by Goya at the far end ©Museo Nacional del Prado
A bronze statue of Emperor Carlos V and the Fury stands in the circular entrance, and ahead are wonderful symmetrical corridors housing the start of a visual storytelling adventure.

With so much to take in a full day is needed. The layout of the galleries offers space to think, contemplate, and reflect. There is a surprising hush as people look in awe at some of the exhibits. The gallery becomes intimate; only the viewer and the artist are present as the world is drowned out by the expressive white noise that surrounds the body, protecting it from intrusion as each piece of art is explored in communion with mind and place. The simplicity contradicts the intricacy that each painting, drawing or sculpture offers.

The Garden of Earthly Delights - 
El Bosco Oil on panel, 220 x 389 cm
1500 – 1505
© Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
The Garden of Earthly Delights - El Bosco Oil on panel, 220 x 389 cm 1500 – 1505 © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
There is sensuality, brutality, and plenty of allegory to ponder about the tribulations facing the world in the 21st century. Not least, the exhibition running until January, The Lost Mirror: Jews and Conversos in Mediaeval Spain.

The curator of this exhibition writes, ‘Every image we create is a mirror that reflects a way of seeing. We look at the world and at others in relation to ourselves, through our own mentality and attitude. Using a broad selection of works, this exhibition recreates a mediaeval mirror that shows how Jews and conversos (converts to Christianity) were portrayed by Christians in Spain from 1285 to 1492.’

A powerful reminder of the sufferings and ordeals of today.

Goya Galleries, Majas 
©Museo Nacional del Prado
Goya Galleries, Majas ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Of course, there will be parts of the collection that you dislike or have no feelings about, but there will be plenty in the cornucopia of pleasure, whether they be the gargantuan canvases or the miniatures, to love.

The gallery of portraits and self-portraits was so realistic, each contour of the face so vivid, the eyes pulling you into the painting. Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches’s pale face and smile have a straightforwardness and attractiveness.

The 19th-century paintings are a must, and the day I visited they became my favourite, but that might change the next time I visit. The feelings in one gallery are ephemeral; by the next, something else has caught the eye, and that becomes the preference.

Room 60A, XIXth Century, Sorolla ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Room 60A, XIXth Century, Sorolla ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Whether it is Fortuny’s Fantasy on Faust, where he ‘establishes an eloquent link between painting and music’ or Sorolla’s series of paintings featuring the ‘children in the water’, and his work, in which nude boys play a greater part in the composition than in other pictures, a lovely depiction of innocence, there is a plethora of styles and techniques, colour and monochrome, joy and sadness, impressionism and realism.

Then, of course, there is the Mona Lisa. What! I hear you shout - you are in Madrid not Paris.

This version of the Mona Lisa (Louvre) was painted by one of Leonardo’s pupils: ‘The fact that each pentimento, or change, in Leonardo’s original (to the bust, outline of the veil, and position of the fingers) is repeated here suggests that the two works were created simultaneously. There are also differences with respect to the original, in the unfinished landscape and on the face. Overall, the panel seems to reflect an intermediate stage in the creation of the Louvre painting.'

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Eduardo Rosales (1836–1873), and the museum boasts the largest existing collection of his works, comprising 100 drawings and 26 paintings. These pictures together provide a complete survey of the artist’s career, covering his forays into various genres and highlighting a modern approach that was to influence later Spanish painting.

One last word: the statues are impressive, especially the eight marble statues of seated muses. They were unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa in the 1500s and made at the end of Hadrian’s reign by two Roman workshops reproducing Greek models from the 2nd century BC. The seated muses decorated the scenae frons (stage) of the odeon, a small theatre that could have held around 1,200 people.

The Muses Gallery 
©Museo Nacional del Prado
The Muses Gallery ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Their beauty is simplicity personified; they sit empyrean in a gallery on their own, surrounded by space, powerful representations of artistic and intellectual pursuits that, through the centuries, have been called upon to define culture.

It is impossible not to leave without a glance back, as they hold you in their grip and force you to muse on creation.

Before too long, one hour has become two, then three, and so on, and it is time to step back into the reality of Madrid. The memories, however, linger.

Through art, we glimpse at the wonders of our ancestors, we imagine, we develop our cultural identity, and we refresh our body and spirit.

The Prado delivers all this and more, and yes, I was inspired and will return again, for as John Keats so aptly wrote:

Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.'– that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know".

Jerónimos Entrance ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Jerónimos Entrance ©Museo Nacional del Prado
Andrew Palmer visited Museo Nacional del Prado in October 2023.

Opening Hours:
Monday to Saturday from 10am to 8pm
Sundays and holidays from 10am to 7pm
Closed January 1st, May 1st,
December 25th

Limited Opening Hours
January 6th, December 24th and 31st
From 10am to 2pm

Free Access
Monday to Saturday from 6pm to 8pm

Sundays and holidays from 5pm to 7pm

From the pen to the burin. The drawing to record in Goya's time 17/10/2023 - 14/1/2024

The Lost Mirror. Jews and Conversos in Medieval Spain 10/10/2023 - 14/1/2024

Eduardo Rosales (1836-1873) in the Prado Museum
until 29/1/2024