Prado Museum Thesis

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Prado Museum is renowned throughout the world and has one of the largest and most important collections of art in Europe. It houses a vast collection of famous paintings and artworks. This includes more than eight-thousand paintings as well as exhibits of sculpture, drawings and other works of art (Prado Museum Madrid). Not all of these works of art are able to be exhibited due to space restrictions.

The extent of the art collection of the Prado museum is evidenced by the fact that it has more important artworks in its storage area than most other museum have in their entirety. But it is the quality of the art and the artists on display that has made this museum such an important site for the study of Western art. Among the masterpieces on display are renowned artists such as Titian, Bosch, Botticelli, Rembrandt and Fra Angelico and there is a large collection of work by Francisco de Goya, Velasquez and El Greco.

The Prado museum is certainly one of the world's most prestigious and famous art museums. It has been described as "…a testament to the centuries of devotion to art accumulation by the Spanish monarchy and church and to the attitudes prevalent in the age of enlightenment when the Prado was conceived" (The Prado Museum: a must to see)

As will become evident in the following overview and discursion of the museum, the importance of the Prado is that it provides in one location a coherent and extensive collection of some of the most famous and respected works in the history of Western art. The central thesis that will be explored in this paper is therefore that the Prado museum is not just another good art museum but is a repository of famous at that acts as an inspiration to contemporary art and artists today.

2. History and expansion of Museum

The museum was first opened to the public in 1819. This made it one of the world's first public art galleries. It was initially intended to be a museum of natural history. The building was designed by the neo-classic architect Juan de Villanueva, and is located on the Paseo del Prado

The Prado museum has an interesting history from a number of perspectives. The museum was originally built in the 1700s .Charles 111 commissioned Juan de Villanueva to design a natural-science museum in 1785. The construction of this neoclassical building was interrupted during the Napoleonic Wars (Prado Museum). However, it was later completed under Ferdinand VII in 1819 (Prado Museum).

The actual history of the Prado as an art museum that housed the Royal art collecdion began under the reign of Fernando VII ( The Prado Museum: a must to see).

During its long history the museum has undergone many changes and upheavals as the result of historical circumstances and events. For example, after the death of Fernando VII problems relating to the inheritance of the art collection were encountered. The status of the museum changed as well after the demise of the monarchy in Spain. It was nationalized and became known as the Prado National Museum.

There are also many interesting historical aspects to this museum. For instance, "For a while, the structure was used as a headquarters for the cavalry when the Napoleonic troops were based in Madrid during the War of Independence" (Prado Museum Madrid). The art works were also transferred many times during the Spanish Civil War. "…353 paintings, 168 drawings and the Dauphin's Treasure, a collection of jewels and decorative art, were all moved to Valencia, Girona and finally to Geneva in Switzerland" (Prado Museum Madrid). The Prado collection was eventually returned to Mardi and the museum during the Second World War, where it remains today (Prado Museum Madrid).

The holdings of the museum are also interesting from a historical perspective. The museum consisted originally of a combination of art collected by the Habsburg and Bourbon monarchs of Spain. The original collection that was established by Charles V, who reigned from 1516 to 1556, was later increased or enlarged by Philip II (1556 -- 98) (Prado Museum).

It is also significant to note in term of the art works in the museum that both these monarchs were patrons of Titian. Furthermore, the collection of art was also enlarged and enhanced when Philip IV, who commissioned the court painter of the time, Diego Velazquez., to purchase a number of works of art from Italy ( Prado Museum) .Phillip V also added many works in the baroque style to the collection of the museum ((Prado Museum). The quality and number of works in the Prado museum was also increased by the fact that "…Ferdinand VII assembled together all the paintings from the various royal collections (except those in the Escorial) in the new building of the Prado" ( Prado Museum). In 1972 many important works of art were added to the museum from Spanish convents and monasteries. ( Prado Museum). Additions to the collection as well as the buildings that comprise thePrado museum were made in the last century ( Prado Museum).

3. Building structure, and architectural styles and influences

As referred to above, the museum was originally designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva. The work on the museum that began in 1785 resulted in the creation of two buildings that constituted the museum. These are the Villanueva and the Cason del Buen Retiro ( Prado Museum: Museo del Prado). The Cason del Buen Retiro is the older building of the two. In terms of building expansion the Prado annexed the nearby Cason del Buen Retiro, which was built in 1637 (Prado Museum). A new wing of the museum was begun in 2002 and completed in 2007. This extension extended the space of the museum by 22,000 square meters or 235,000 square feet and was designed by Rafael Moneo (Prado Museum). This addition extended the museum and the gallery space by fifty percent. Extensions have also been undertaken in 2009.

4. The collection

The central focus of the collection of art works in the Prado museum is on art produced from the 1500s to the early 1800 (Prado Museum Madrid). The permanent collection of the museum consists of more than 5000 drawings, 2000 prints and almost 2000 works of art ( Prado Museum Madrid). The museum also boasts the most complete collection in the world of certain famous artists who have been responsible for the development and trajectory of art in the West. These include extensive collections of the works of El Greco, Velazquez, and Francisco de Goya, as well as of such Spanish masters as Jose de Ribera and Francisco de Zurbaran ( Prado Museum).

Furthermore, the museum also houses many of the important works of artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Raphael, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Anthony Van Dyck, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and Antoine Watteau ( Prado Museum).

In terms of more contemporary art it is noteworthy that Pablo Picasso's Guernica (1937) was also added to the collection of the Prado in 1981. However this work moved to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Queen Sofia Museum) in 1992. This reflects the Prado's desire to focus on works dating from the 19th century and earlier works of art (Prado Museum).

In terms of arrangement and access, the paintings in the museum are essentially divided into collections based on country of origin and era ( Prado Museum Madrid) However, the most important collection is the Spanish school, which dates from 1100 to 1850 ( Prado Museum Madrid). The collection is also classified according to the different schools -- such as the Italian, Early Flemish etc.

The following is a brief exposition of works by some of the most famous painters in the Prado collection.

4.1. Velasquez

Given the history of the museum and the fact that he was a court painter at the time of Philip IV, it is not surprising that most of the major works by Velasquez are in this collection. These include the following important works; Las Meninas (the Maids of Honour), Las Hilanderas (the spinners) and La Rendicion de Breda (the Surrender of Breda). One work that is often mentioned in scholarly critiques and discourse on art history is Meninas or the Maids of Honor.

Figure 1: Las Meninas (the Maids of Honour

( Source|: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/velazquez/velazquez.meninas.jpg

Las Meninas is as very large painting, which measures 10-foot by 9-foot canvas. It is also referred to as The Family of Philip IV and was painted by Velazquez during 1656-1657. One entire wall in the Prado Museum is dedicated to the painting.

An important facet of the history of this painting is that it was not originally intended for public display but was rather "… intended for the private use of the king" (Velazquez's Las Meninas). In 1666, the year after the death of Philip IV, "…Las Meninas is listed in the so-called pieza del despacho, a room in the Alcazar in Madrid that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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