"Las Meninas", 1656, by Diego Velazquez
Two hundred years after it opened to the public, Madrid’s El Museo Nacional del Prado—better known as the Prado—continues to dazzle visitors with permanent displays of art from the 12th through the 19th centuries, including the world’s largest and most important collection of Spanish art.
Its galleries feature painting by such luminaries as El Greco, Velazquez, and Goya, plus extraordinary examples of sculpture, prints, and drawings. A relatively recent addition to the museum’s original building, which allows the Prado to showcase far more of its extensive collection that ever before, has further raised Madrid’s profile as an international center of culture.
Art historian Nancy G. Heller explores some of the Prado’s most important treasures, placing them in their aesthetic and sociopolitical contexts, and considers the enduring significance of the museum.
The day’s Iberian theme is enhanced by a delicious Spanish-themed lunch.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Beginnings to El Greco
Heller traces the history of the Prado’s original building, opened in 1819, and provides an overview of Spanish art from Paleolithic and ancient Roman artifacts through the uniquely spiritual paintings of the 16th-century master, El Greco.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Golden Age of Spanish Art: Velazquez
Investigate Diego Velazquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas and later references made to it in paintings, ceramics, contemporary dance, and even advertising. Heller also looks at the portraiture of Velasquez, and other significant works representing a variety of themes.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Spanish-themed Lunch
1:30–2:45 p.m. From Realism to Impressionism: Goya and Sorolla
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries Spanish art was dominated by the prolific and versatile painter and printmaker, Francisco Goya. Heller surveys his most significant works in the Prado, including the early, idyllic tapestry cartoons; his powerful anti-war canvas, The Third of May,1808; the controversial pair of ladies, The Clothed Maja and The Naked Maja; and the terrifying Black Paintings, executed in his last years. A different mood emanates from the light-filled and sensually impressionistic paintings of late 19th-century Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla.
3–4:15 p.m. Into the Present—and Beyond
An historic expansion of the museum began with the 2007 opening of a new building designed by noted Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, featuring stunning bronze doors created by the internationally recognized Spanish sculptor Cristina Iglesias. In an exciting departure from tradition, temporary exhibitions now include both Old Master European art and contemporary, avant-garde works from Spain and elsewhere, including photographs, videos, and site-specific installations related to the museum’s permanent collections.
Heller is a professor of art history at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit
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