We saved the Prado Museum for last among the Big Three of Madrid. It was worth the wait, and it was overwhelming in scale.
Monday continued to be chilly and gray with very light rain as we walked in a not-so-direct route to the museum. By now we are starting to understand our routes around Madrid, but for some reason the walk all the way up our street did not have the desired effect of taking us to Paseo Del Prado. Instead, we pretty much did the Great Circle Route up to now-familiar Reina Victoria Hotel, then back down to Paseo del Prado. In retrospect, I chose the wrong street to walk up the hill.
I had pre-ordered my ticket online and Lynn still had her Art Pass, so we we able go to a different window with virtually no line while everyone else stood for blocks in the rain on the other side of the massive building buying tickets.
Hint–go online to buy your ticket. It’s worth the .35 extra fee. We walked right into the museum out of the rain, paid for our audioguides (4 each), and started our marathon of art.
For a building that was opened in 1819, the Prado is exceptionally well laid out and thoughtfully designed for the visitor to move chronologically through if that is your intent. Or you can just concentrate on one country, one era or even one artist.
The Prado is huge–more than 100 interconnected rooms on two floors displaying at least 1,300 works of art from their permanent collection of 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings. In addition to the largest collection of Spanish art in the world, the Prado also owns the largest collection of Italian art outside Italy.
There are several rooms for Goya because the Prado owns the largest collection of his works in the world. But there is also a room for Velasquez, a room for El Greco and a room for Murillo.
The mammoth Italian Renaissance gallery showcases a few Titians, a few Raphaels, a few Fra Angelicos, a few Tintorettos and literally hundreds of other masterpieces from the era.
And, believe it or not, the Prado has a Mona Lisa, believed to be the very first copy of the original and painted at the same time in the same studio by one of Leonard’s apprentices. In just the last few years, experts discovered that the black background of the Prado Mona Lisa was added to the painting many years later, and when they removed it, the discovered the same landscape that is depicted in the Louvre’s Mona Lisa. The Prado’s Mona Lisa has now been restored and today displays the full coloration Leonardo likely used, as the Louvre’s original is covered by layers of ancient varnish that obscure the work and will likely never be removed.
Just walking through the Spanish section took us more than two hours, and the Italian Renaissance galleries took more than an hour themselves. It’s a wonder the batteries in the audio guides don’t run dead during a full visit. With a quick stop for lunch, we spent more than four and a half hours in the Prado, and covered perhaps two thirds of the museum. The legs and feet can only stand for so much. We may need to go back for seconds.