When you go to the Prado Museum for the first time, you are inundated with the desire to see everything, not to cross the exit without having stood before masterpieces such as Las Meninas de Velázquez or the naked Maja of Goya. The hours run fast and the legs are numbed by walking around the galleries in search of the most famous paintings, easily recognizable by being surrounded by curious and groups of tourists attentive to the explanation of their guide. It’s an exciting experience, but also tiring. However, this review is based on our private tour in the Prado Museum, a truly enjoyable and didactical experience. You can walk calmly, without hassle, focusing in details that had previously gone unnoticed to your eyes. This is the way you really enjoy and learn about art.
No matter how many times you go to the Prado, because in every visit you will discover something new. Maybe it’s a sculpture that captures your attention or a small canvas that gets you excited.
Among all the works that I have been discovering and rediscovering in this historical building, which for me is one of the most magical places in Madrid, I would like to highlight the following ten. Well, I obviously could stand out many more, but somehow I had to narrow down the list.
One of the best excuses to visit the Prado is Las Meninas de Velázquez. It is a picture full of nuances, details, and questions, which has led to various interpretations.
It seems like a simple scene of “life in the palace” (some infantas with their famous “ballooned” suits that pose for a painting and their parents who come to see them). On one side we find several characters, as the painter Velázquez himself with a brush in his hand, or the parents of the infantas (reflections on the mirror) and part of the royal court that always accompanied the “meninas”.
The most important thing that all critics point out about this work is its perspective, the use of colors and contrasts, the importance given to close-ups (in particular to its protagonists, the girls), the use of natural light that enters from one side and illuminates them, and the background that remains blurred, as a secondary plane.
Another great among the great painted by Diego Velázquez is the after battle surrender scene: The Surrender of Breda, also known as The Spears. Unlike “Las Meninas”, here the colors are more intense, saturated, intense. There is such a variety and profusion of weapons of war-raised, quiet because they will not be used-and two sides are seen, necessary for any surrender.
The spears, or The Surrender of Breda – Diego Velázquez
It is curious the use of color in the sky, as meaning that the “bad times” or “black clouds” have been left behind and it is time to sign the surrender, the Dutch (to the left) against the Spanish.
This is a friendly surrender, the victors show respect towards the vanquished. Another curiosity, the spears are also protagonists and they were the last thing Velázquez painted.
Francisco de Goya and Lucientes
La Maja Desnuda – Goya
Going to the Prado is also synonymous with seeing Goya, enjoying his best-known Maja, La Maja Desnuda (nude). We are really lucky that more than half of this painter’s work is in the Prado, such as paintings, drawings, prints and great masterpieces like this one.
La Maja Desnuda is a kind of Venus to the “Spanish” that looks at the viewer without any prejudice and with a fixed gaze. The fame of these paintings is more than anything not knowing who is really “the portrayed figure” -if it is the Duchess of Alba then or not-or who was the person who ordered these paintings. There are many discussions on both subjects.
The version of the “maja that is fully dressed”, is owned by the House of Alba.
Knowing much of Goya’s work through our walk through the Prado Museum, we see his imagination, the mastery of colors, the dissimilar themes he painted, the variety of stories … he was a true genius: he dominated with virtuosity the brush, portrayed customs of the time (paintings such as “El Pelele” or “La pradera de San Isidro” are a good example), scenes as sinister as “Saturn devouring his son” that belongs to his series of black paintings. The list would be endless …
The Garden of Earthly Delights
Another one of my favorite paintings is not from a Spanish author, but of Dutch origin, Hieronymus Bosch, known as El Bosco. We could spend hours talking about every detail of this painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, or The Painting of the Arbutus Tree.
It is a “triptych type” painting painted on oil on board, and when it is closed ( unfortunately, it is not possible to see it like that ) it represents the third day of creation: the earth, plants, and minerals are seen and there are no signs of animal or human life. Moreover, on this day there is neither the Sun nor the Moon, so the colors are dull, gray, without brightness or light. When the table opens, this image is displayed to us.
On the left side is represented the paradise with its two protagonists, the first humans on earth: Adam and Eve; It is the last day of the divine creation. The central panel is more extensive, there is a profusion of scenes and details, with the central theme being the “lust”; the human being is rampant, without control. It is like a garden of delights, of pleasures.
And what is the final divine punishment for these acts? Well, hell itself that is, the scene on the right.
Pedro Pablo Rubens
The Three Graces
Another “great among the great” is the master Flemish painter Rubens. The Three Graces table represent three goddesses of Greek mythology, and in a closer interpretation of these divinities, they are depicted as voluptuous women, beefy in flesh, with some sensuality and even, as if they were human, earthly.
In fact, one of them is the second wife of Rubens himself, on the left. Also among them, there is a certain complicity, a relationship, they look, they embrace…
We hope you really enjoyed reading this personal cultural review. Some of these appreciations were in fact learned after enjoying a private tour of the Prado Museum with our local guide for the very first time. That was the start of the customization of our art travel experience in Madrid, Prado Spanish Collection I was indeed shocked at the number of details I had missed on my previous visits, and I have had the pleasure to enjoy further tours of the Prado, as well some other remarkable cultural spotlights of Madrid, in the company of our experienced cultural advisor in the spanish capital.