A Royal Patrimony: The Prado Museum and Spanish History

Jan Read traces how Spain's people, their royals, and their most famous museum have developed together.

Museo del Prado, c.1921. Wiki Commons.

All the great picture galleries of the world reflect national history; not only l in the more obvious sense of possessing portraits and narrative canvases, but in the overall composition of their collections. The most eclectic are those of the large American galleries, acquired by foreign purchases and the donations of wealthy private collectors in modern times.

Others, like that of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, are intimately related to particular schools and periods; but perhaps no museum is more closely linked with the politics and overseas adventures of its country’s rulers than the Prado in Madrid. This is because the heart and core of its riches are the Royal Collections formed by the Spanish Crown from the time of the Catholic Monarchs onwards.

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