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The Prado museum of Madrid

Madrid 's famousPrado Museumhouses one of the world's biggest and best collections of classical art. Priceless pieces by some of the greatest artists of all time draw art lovers from across the globe to this grandiose gallery which forms part of the Spanish capital's“Golden Triangle” of art museums.

What you will find at the Prado Museum

The museum's collection consists of more than 30,000 works of classical art including drawings, sculptures, coins and furniture. But the paintings are thePrado's crowning glory and it's the walls adorned with the works of revered “Old Masters” such asGoya,Velasquez,El Greco,Raphael andRubens that most visitors come to see.

Due to lack of space only about ten per cent of the collection is ever on display at any one time. Works of art are exhibited on a rotational basis within the two museum buildings – paintings from the 12th to the 18th centuries (including Goya's work) are exhibited in theVillanueva buildingwhile the nearbyCasa del Buen Retirohouses 19th and 20th century works.

Star attractions include the famous“Las Meninas” (Maids of Honour) by court painter Diego Velasquez. The painting, which includes a self-portrait of the 17th century artist behind his easel, depicts the daughter ofFelipe IVsurrounded by her ladies-in-waiting, her dwarf and dog.

Rembrandt's portrayal of his wifeSaskiaas the goddessArtemisis another major-crowd puller. The painting is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful of all the Dutch artist's masterpieces.

But for many the works ofFrancisco de Goya, the leading artist of the late 18th century who was the official royal painter for the Spanish kingsCharles III,Charles IV andFerdinand VII, are the Prado's major crowd pullers.

Along with Goya's light hearted cartoons and lavish scenes of the aristocracy at leisure there are his later and deeply disturbing“black paintings” which reflect the tortured mind of a genius who spent his twilight years imprisoned in a bleak world of deafness and disillusionment.

One of the Prado Museum's most powerful Goya works is his“Shooting of May 3rd 1808” – a shocking firing squad scene recalling a dark period in Spain's history (largely forgotten by the rest of the world) when 5,000 civilians were executed in Madrid for resisting Napoleon's army during the Peninsular War.

An art collection lucky to survive the Spanish civil war

The fact that so many precious works of art have survived the barbarity of man over the centuries is something of a miracle in itself and it makes the Prado collection even more special and unique.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) hundreds of paintings were loaded onto trucks and sent for safe keeping, first to Valencia then to Girona and finally to Geneva. Spaniards, foreigners, soldiers and civilians took part in the mammoth and treacherous task of risking Franco's bombing runs to safeguard the country's artistic heritage. With the advent of World War II, the irreplaceable cargo was loaded onto night trains and smuggled back into Spain to avoid seizure by the Nazis.

Small wonder the Prado Museum and its contents have a special place in the hearts of the Spanish people and art lovers worldwide.

Some history on the Prado Museum

The word“Prado” (meaning meadow) comes from the area of Madrid which was ear marked as the site for a major urban renewal programme by Charles III. In 1785 the Spanish king commissioned architectJuan de Villanueva to construct a complex originally designed as a celebration of natural history and science. In 1819 the building was declared a“Museum of Painting and Sculpture” by Charles' grandsonFerdinand VIIwho contributed his collection of invaluable works amassed by various royals through the centuries.

With the demise of the Bourbon monarchy in the mid 19th century the museum became national property and its original royal collection was augmented by thousands of legacies, donations and important acquisitions.

Opening times and tickets for the Prado Museum

You can buy a reduced price ticket for the three“Golden Triangle” art museums which are all within ten minutes walking distance of each other on thePaseo del Prado. These tickets give you access to theThyssen-Bornemisza Museum and theReina Sofia Arts Centre as well as the Prado.

Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9am-7pm

Sundays, holidays, December 24 th and 31st: 9am-2pm

Mondays: closed

Closed January 1st, Good Friday, May 1st, December 25th

For further information about the Prado Museum in Madrid please visit http://www.museodelprado.es/

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