Visiting the Prado National Museum in Madrid, Spain
We’re just home from a glorious tour of Spain hosted by Abercrombie & Kent, quite likely the world’s foremost luxury tour operator.
We’ll have much, much more to share about our experiences in Spain and our impressions of Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) over the coming weeks and months. But I thought I would first start off with our wonderful experience in the Prado National Museum in Madrid, Spain.
The building that houses the collection of the Museo Nacional del Prado was built in 1785 and today holds over 2,300 paintings as well as a large number of sculptures, prints, drawings, and other works of art.
King Ferdinand VII and his wife Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza brought the museum into existence in 1819, and the museum’s exceptionally important royal collection was added to significantly in the 16th century during the time of Charles V and continued to thrive under the succeeding Habsburg and Bourbon Monarchs.
Suffice it to say, the Prado National Museum contains one of the world’s most important collections of art.
Some of the more notable pieces in the collection are The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosh, The Nobleman with his hand on his Chest by El Greco, Death of the Virgin by Mantegna, The Holy Family known as The Pearl by Raphael, Emperor Carlos V on Horseback by Titian, The Foot Washing by Tintoretto, Self-portrait by Durër , Las Meninas by Velázquez, The Three Graces by Rubens, and The Family of Carlos IV by Goya.
During our visit, we first made a beeline to The Garden of Earthly Delights by the 16th century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch.
The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch, circa 1500-1501
“The open triptych shows three scenes. The left panel is dedicated to Paradise, with the creation of Eve and the fountain of life, while the right panel shows hell. The central panel gives its name to the entire piece, representing a garden of life’s delights or pleasures. Between paradise and hell, these delights are nothing more than allusions to sin, showing humankind dedicated to diverse worldly pleasures. There are clear and strongly erotic representations of lust, along with others, whose meanings are more enigmatic. The fleeting beauty of flowers and the sweetness of fruit transmit a message of fragility and the ephemeral character of happiness and enjoyment. This seems to be corroborated by certain groups, such as the couple enclosed in a crystal ball on the left, which probably alludes to the popular Flemish saying: “happiness is like glass, it soon breaks.”
Closed, the triptych offers a grisaille view of the third day of the creation of the World, with God the Father as Creator. The two doors bear inscriptions reading: “He himself said it, and all was done” and “He himself ordered it and all was created.”
This moralizing work is one of Bosch’s most enigmatic, complex and beautiful creations and was made near the end of his life.” (via the Prado National Museum)
This massive treasure is 7 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide and could quite literally capture one’s attention for a good many hours.
Our masterful A&K guide then had us off full of wide-eyed wonder as we stood in front of masterful Spanish works by Velázquez, Goya, El Greco as well as a host of other important European masters.
While it’s likely criminal, we only had about 2-hours and therefore were only able to stand a few moments in front of some of the Prado National Museum’s most important works.
When you visit, plan to arrive at the museum’s opening, take a break for lunch, and then come back again to spend the afternoon viewing more of the remarkable paintings housed in this museum. Furthermore, we would encourage you to have a highly competent guide, as we did, to enjoy the collection. It really makes the experience much more enjoyable.