El Prado, In Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art

A small area in the heart of Madrid, called the “Golden Triangle of Art,” holds some of the world’s greatest art treasures. Three museums, each with its particular claim to fame, are within easy walking distance of each other: The Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Reina Sofia.   They have all changed and expanded in recent years and are better than ever.

The Prado MadridThe leading museum is the grand Prado, the former Spanish Royal Collection, with thousands of paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture.  A $215 million expansion has made it more visitor-friendly, with easier access and space for displaying more art. The architect Rafael Moneo designed a modern extension that harmonizes with the original 18th century building, the nearby botanical gardens, and the church of San Jeronimo.

Statuary in front of the PradoThe foyer of cedar, granite and bronze has floor-to-ceiling windows and leads to a restored cloister used as a classical sculpture gallery.  There’s a gift shop and café, but the main attraction here is the marvelous collection of masterpieces.  There are so many it’s easy to be overwhelmed, but if you do a little research first, you can pick the must-sees and then wander until you have to stop for a reviving coffee.

Diego Velázquez de Silva occupies pride of place, with 51 paintings including his most famous, The Maids of Honour (Las Meninas) and The Spinners (Las Hilanderas). These works show the 17th-century artist’s astonishing mastery of his craft.  Before a recent visit, I read Michael Gruber’s The Forgery of Venus, a Diego Velazquez statuework of fiction that features Velázquez in a different light and made me view the paintings with an entirely new perspective. (The book is a terrific read, by the way.)

Francisco de Goya’s work continues to amaze: The Majas, The Parasol, The Flower Girls and his strange later works, the gloomy “Black Paintings.” The bizarre, twisted 16th century paintings of Hieronymous Bosch are unique. His best known, The Garden of Delights, is a triptych that illustrates humanity’s actions and the heaven or hell that awaits. Works by El Greco and Carravagio show their creative genius, along with several Flemish artists—Van der Weyden, Brueghel the Elder, Rubens, Van Dyck.

PradoFabulous decorative pieces are also displayed: intricate silver and crystal pieces, jewelry, an onyx salt cellar, enamelwork and more.

Tuesday-Saturday, 9 am – 7 pm.
Sunday and public holidays, 9 am – 2 pm
Closed Monday

Admission can be purchased in advance online or at the door (certain days are free and there are discounts for students and seniors), or buy the Madrid Art Pass, which allows entry to all three museums.  If you purchase a Madrid Card you’ll gain entrance to some 50 museums and dozens of other Madrid attractions, including the Royal Palace, the zoo, cinema, guided walking tours, an open-air tour bus, and discounts at some restaurants. A Madrid Card costs 45 euros for 24 hours, 58 euros for 48 hours, and 72 euros for 72 hours.

Written by Marilyn McFarlane for EuropeUpClose.com

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