Friday, August 14, 2020

Highlights of Madrid's Prado Museum

By Johnnie Alexander

My sister and I took a memorable train trip through western Europe a couple of years ago. Last month, I wrote about our serendipitous stop in Nimes, France and the historic Roman ruins we discovered there. From Nimes we traveled to Milan and then to one of my favorite cities, Madrid.

On the trip from the airport to our hotel, the taxi driver pointed out architectural statues adorning the buildings. We were also fascinated by the decorative ironwork, stone fountains, and brick pathways.

The biggest highlight of our two-day stay in Spain’s capital city, however, was our visit to the Museo Nacional del Prado. The art collections on display here are both amazing and--you guessed it--overwhelming!

The Prado “has been described as a museum of painters not of paintings” (The Collection). Instead of collecting a broad spectrum of art, the 16th and 17th century Spanish monarchs collected as much art as possible by their favorite artists. Because of their focus on specific painters, a large number of artwork by artists such as Titian, El Greco, Rubens, and Goya are housed at the Prado.

The building itself was designed by Juan de Villanueva (1739-1811). He was named as Architect of the Prince and the Infants by King Charles III, who reigned from 1759-1788. His grandson, King Ferdinand VII and Ferdinand's wife, Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza, transformed the building from a natural history museum to the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures. The name changed first to the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures, then the Museo Nacional del Prado. In November 1819, it opened to the public. The museum celebrated their bicentennial last year.

One of the greatest masterpieces is Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, a complex and vibrant triptych dating to the 15th century. Another is Rubens’ The Three Graces, a classical painting dating to the 17th century.

Though these artworks and so many others were absolutely awe-inspiring, one of my favorites is En Vue. Vicente Palmaroli y Gonzalez painted the oil on panel in 1880. It’s not on display, but I saw a print in the museum’s gift shop. Though the artist isn’t as well-known today as many others whose works are on display at the Prado, he was a renowned portrait painter during his lifetime. He also served as director of the Museo del Prado from 1894 until his death in 1896.

Next month I’ll be back to share a little history about the picturesque city of Lisbon.

My Debut Novel

My research into the Nazi looting of cultural treasures during World War II led to my interest in art. That research inspired a major storyline in my debut novel, Where Treasure Hides.

While British officer Ian Devlin fights for freedom on the battlefield, artist Alison Schuyler works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. Will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?


  1. Congratulations on your first book! And your trip to Spain sounds amazing!

    1. Hi, Connie! Thanks for the congrats!! It's still one of my favorites. :) The research for the story was fascinating. The trip was so much fun. We spent a lot of time in train stations but even that was a great time. LOL!

  2. Your trip sounded fabulous. So fo you then have an idea for a book or 2 thst comes out if your travels? My e msil is

    1. Hi, Rory. My sister and I did brainstorm a story idea. The strangest thing happened. We saw a man in a train station in Barcelona. My sister noticed him because of his tattoos. And then, a few days later when we were sitting at an outside cafe in Milan, we saw him again! So strange--and a great spark for a suspense novel.