Prado Museum Highlights: The Must-See Paintings

If there’s one must-see attraction in Madrid, it has to be the Prado Museum.

It’s undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest collections of art, but with over 7000 paintings, it can be hard to know where to start. For that reason, planning what you want to see in advance is key. So with that in mind, we’ve put together our favorite Prado Museum highlights to help you organize your visit.

With over 7,000 works, the Prado Museum can be an overwhelming place to visit. That's why we put together this list of the Prado Museum highlights: pay them a visit and you will have seen the best of the best of the Prado!

Diego Velazquez

No museum in the world comes close to matching the Prado’s collection of Velazquez paintings. The master from Seville—widely considered the greatest Spanish painter of all time—changed painting forever with his revolutionary approach to realism. Velazquez was unusual for his time in rarely sketching or making preparatory studies. Consequently, his paintings have an impressionistic looseness and intimacy that have inspired generations of artists. Drawing influence from Italian and Flemish art, as well as the bodegones of his native Seville, Velazquez created something truly Spanish, making him one of the undisputed Prado Museum highlights.

Don’t Miss: Las Meninas, The Surrender at Breda, The Triumph of Bacchus, Apollo at the Forge of Vulcan, Christ Crucified, Las Hilanderas.

Key Work: Las Meninas is Velazquez at his most imperious. At first appearing to be a portrait of the Princess Margarita and her handmaidens, on closer inspection it reveals a complex scene involving Velazquez himself, the King and Queen, and a mirror. We won’t give away too much: working out for yourself what’s going on is part of what has fascinated visitors to the Prado for centuries!

Las Meninas by Velazquez is undoubtedly one of the Prado Museum highlights. Pay it a visit and get lost in the details and mystery.
Las Meninas is one of Velazquez’s best-known works.

Francisco Goya

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes came from a modest family in a tiny Aragonese village, but rose to become the most important Spanish artist of his generation before losing it all and living out his final years in exile. No other painter has so many works represented here. Following his trajectory from his early portraits, light and full of life, through to the dark intensity of his final works, is one of our personal Prado Museum highlights.

Don’t Miss: The Family of Charles IV, La Maja Desnuda and La Maja Vestida, The Second and Third of May 1808, The Black Paintings,

Key Work: There’s nothing quite like the Black Paintings. Painted directly on the walls of his house in the outskirts of Madrid towards the end of Goya’s life, they reveal the inner life of an artist disillusioned by politics and society, losing his health (and possibly his mind), and confronting his own death. These are dark, twisted scenes which stay with you long after you leave the museum.

Goya's haunting Black Paintings are one of the true Prado Museum highlights. This one shows a group of men reading.
Goya’s Black Paintings were painted directly onto his walls at the end of his life.

Flemish Art

For centuries, the territories that now make up Belgium and the Netherlands were part of the Spanish Hapsburg Empire. For that reason, the Prado has one of the world’s finest collections of Flemish art. From perhaps the world’s greatest collections of Rubens and Hieronymus Bosch to outstanding works by van der Weyden and Rembrandt, discovering these northern masters is one of the real joys of visiting the Prado.

Don’t Miss: Hieronymus Bosch – The Garden of Earthly Delights; Rogier van der Weyden – The Descent from the Cross; Peter Paul Rubens – The Birth of the Milky Way and The Three Graces; Rembrandt – Artemisia.

Key Work: The Garden of Earthly Delights isn’t just one of the Prado Museum highlights, it’s one of the most mind-blowing works of art anywhere in the world. Its depiction of giant birds, people inside bubbles, strange constructions straight out of a science fiction film and copious nudity have given rise to a huge number of different theories about its true meaning. It also provided a major inspiration for the surrealism of Salvador Dalí.

Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights is one of the Prado Museum highlights that should not be missed. This triptych is full of symbolism.
Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights is a complicated scene full of symbolism.

Italian Art

Italian artists have always made up a central part of the Spanish royal collection, from Carlos V bringing Titian over from Venice to serve as his official court painter to Philip IV sending Velazquez to Italy to buy works for the collection. These Italian works served as the model for generations of Spanish painters, a source of influence which lasted for centuries.

Don’t Miss: Fra Angelico – The Annunciation; Rafael – The Holy Family and The Cardinal; Titian – Equestrian Portrait of Charles V, Venus and Adonis, Danaë Receiving the Golden Rain.

Key Work: To see the influence of Titian’s Equestrian Portrait of Charles V you don’t even need to leave the Prado—just look at Velazquez and Goya’s own equestrian portraits to see the impact Titian made on Spanish art. A masterpiece of power and control, it’s one of the true Prado Museum highlights.

The Equestrian Portrait of Charles V is one of the Prado Museum highlights because of the influence it had on Spanish painters at the time. It shows Charles V atop a horse with its two front legs raised.
This portrait of Charles V had a great influence on Spanish painters.
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