Prado Museum Private Tour
Prado Museum, a unique museum in the world
What does the Prado Museum have that both the Louvre and Hermitage do not have?
On our Prado Museum Private Tour, we are happy to show you Madrid from our very own perspective along with the city´s hidden treasures that was once the capital of a great empire.
We need to take you back a little bit into history in order to understand and appreciate its greatness, its importance and relevance.
In this post, we will explain why we dare to say that the Prado Museum is unique in the world and why there is no other ART museum in the world that compares to it.
Why is the Prado Museum unique in the world?
There are several reasons to affirm that the Prado Museum is one of the most important art museums in the world. This is not only because of the variety and quality of its works, but also because of its history and its transcendence and influence in the world of art.
The collection of the Prado Museum, as such, predates the creation of ‘the museum’ in 1819 (The Prado Museum celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2019). The Prado Museum is the result of the personal art collection of the kings of Spain since the Catholic Monarchs and dynasties as old as the Trastámara. Over the centuries for more than 300 years, works of art have been accumulated in the royal palaces in Spain.
When the Spanish empire was so extensive, the best works of art were purchased directly from the painters whilst said painters were still alive. So the first reason to argue its relevance in the art world is its antiquity and the geographical extension of the origin of its works. Allow us to design a personalized route through the Prado Museum for you.
The Prado Museum: the oldest collection of paintings in the world
The vast majority of the world’s great museums were constructed in very recent times, buying masterpieces from collectors all over the world, as is the case of the Metropolitan in New York.
In France, Louis XIV focused all his strength on architecture because architecture is the language of power. The Louvre Museum had its moment of splendor with Napoleon, who called it the “Napoleon Museum” and it was in reality a great trophy room, product of his conquests, since his marshals sent to the museum artistic treasures from the invaded territories in his military campaigns.
The “Kunsthistorischesmuseum” in Vienna, could be equivalent to the Prado because it began as the royal collection of the Habsburgs, but the monarchs of Vienna and Budapest did not have the great devotion for collecting as Philip II and Philip IV had. The Viennese museum does not have rooms with numerous collections of only one painter, as the Prado Museum has, except for the collection of Bruegel (1525 – 1569), which is unique in the world.
The Hermitage Museum, on the other hand, despite being a grandiose and absolutely impressive museum, also built by Catherine the Great, was created in the middle of the 18th century and has no collections of old painters except for the great collection of Rembrandt (1606- 1669).
In the 18th century, Prado Museum’s collection was already completed.
The British Museum is an archaeological museum and the collection of paintings is housed in the National Gallery, which is no way comparable to the Prado Museum.
The Medicis, for example, used art to reflect prosperity and reinforce their image, and art was one of the strategies. The Ufizi museums can in no way be compared to the collection of the Prado Museum.
The kings of Spain collected for the love of art since time immemorial.
The Prado Museum is home to entire collections of great painters.
The Prado Museum has the largest collection of Bosch (Jheronimus Bosch 1450-1516) in the world. Although it is Dutch, Holland does not own any paintings by this great painter.
The museum also has the world’s largest collection of Titian (Venetian by origin, 1477-1576), who was the favorite painter of Charles V and Philip II. The museum has numerous altarpieces, altar paintings, mythological scenes by this artist.
Another artist whose works are really scarce is Dürer (Albrecht Dürer, 1471- 1528), of which the Prado Museum has four works of great quality. The Louvre, for example, only has one.
By Rubens (1577-1640), the museum has numerous works of religious painting, gallant scenes, mythology, portraits, landscapes, still lifes, etc.
With regards to Spanish paintings, the museum also has the largest collection of Velázquez and the largest collection of Goya in the world. Both artists were painters of the King of Spain.
The Prado Museum as a “school” for great artists
Another factor that highlights the great value of the Prado Museum is the role of the Prado Museum as a school and a source of learning and training for new artists. New artists in every era went to the Prado to study and learn from the “classics” including Velázquez (1599-1660) and other great painters from the Spanish Golden Age to the present day.
If the great collection of Titian had not been in the Royal Palace in Madrid, Velázquez (1599-1660) might not have had the brilliance he had and Murillo (1617-1682) would not have painted as he did, nor would Alonso Cano.
When Rubens (1577-1640) came to Madrid IN 1628 on a diplomatic mission and saw the collection of Titian in the Royal Palace, he changed his plans and stayed for nine months observing, studying and copying the Venetian master; this surely impressed Velázquez and he set himself the task of observing this Flemish painter who was treated as an ambassador, despite being only a painter.
It was then that Velasquez had access to the collection of Titian that was in the Royal Palace (after being the painter of King Philip IV for 5 years) and after 9 months of being in Madrid, Rubens returned to Italy and Velasquez immediately traveled to Italy to continue his training under the grand master where he spent about two and a half years. However, the trigger for everything was Velazquez’s admiration for the royal collection and his desire to improve.
Goya said that he had three masters: Velázquez, Rembrandt and Nature.
The Sevillian school became famous and popular and Murillo (1617-1682) with his sweet and soft style became one of Napoleon’s favorites. The Spanish and their art became fashionable in the 19th century.
When Manet came to Spain in 1867, he had not seen the Meninas or the spinners andgot shocked with awe. He later made his own versions of “3 de Mayo” with the execution of Maximiliano inspired by Velasquez’s work and as a tribute.
Picasso was inspired by Velasquez and made 58 versions of the Meninas, Dali was inspired by Bosch. Today, any great artist goes to the Prado Museum to study and see the great classics of history.
The Prado Museum is not only an unparalleled art gallery, but it has also been a source of inspiration that has helped many artists achieve their best.
The Prado Museum continues to train artists and is a “School of Masters”.
The beginning of collecting and the Prado Museum
The beginning of this zeal for collection most likely started with Mary of Hungary (1531-1558), younger sister of Charles V (and daughter of Philip the Handsome and Joan the Mad and granddaughter of the Catholic kings). She was a visionary, a very good ruler. During her time, she already knew that it was not only important to win battles, but also to tell the story, and art in those times was perhaps one of the first forms of propaganda.
Mary of Hungary was the one who taught Philip II the love to art as the architect of the art collection we know today.
Philip II as emperor of a great empire entrusted his ambassadors to look for the best works of art and to send them to Madrid. They were also to send a copy of every book that was printed in the empire to the Escorial (what we have today in the library). Philip II was fascinated by El Bosco and could spend hours looking at the Garden of Earthly Delights and discovering its inexhaustible details, secrets and possible interpretations. Art in those times was also the equivalent of the television; it led the viewer to other worlds and provided topics for discussion and conversations around a piece.
Years later, when Philip IV hired Velázquez in 1623, this natural exchange and refinement of technique and inspiration between the great classical masters of painting began to take place in a seamless way.
The Prado Museum, as we have said, is the result of hundreds of years of collecting by kings but also by great patrons and individuals who have left their works and/or funds for the constant acquisition of works of art. The Prado Museum is a living collection, which is enriched over the centuries.
The Prado Museum as a living miracle
It is a miracle and a privilege to be able to experience thousands of historical artwork in just one museum in present day. Throughout history there have been events that have endangered the collection.
In 1734 the Alcazar of Madrid burned and with it, thousands of valuable works of art that were impossible to rescue. In 1808 Spain was invaded by Napoleon and his troops and as we all know, Napoleon was known for plundering the countries he conquered.
Between 1914 and 1918 was the First World War and between 1939 and 1945 was the Second World War.
Between 1936 and 1939 the Spanish Civil War took place.
Throughout these historical episodes, it was necessary to go through great heights to save the collection. During the Spanish Civil War, a large part of the collection was sent to Switzerland for safekeeping. However, during these periods of instability, war and destruction, valuable works vanished forever. The Dauphin’s treasure, for example, was reduced to one third.
It is a miracle to be able to enjoy the collection of the Prado Museum today!
Prado Museum private tours we can offer you
Speaking of the Prado Museum Tours, we can customize private tours to the Prado Museum depending on the client, their time availability and interests.
Below are some of the private tours of the Prado Museum that we can offer at Madrid Experience with our great art historian guides specialized in the Prado Museum:
– The Treasure of the Dauphin
– The great Spanish painters
– The Jewels of the Prado Museum
– Goya and his periods
* We based this post on an interview with Pilar Baselga, art historian and one of our most beloved guides in Madrid Experience.