Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado

Written on July 23, 2012 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado’ has been specially curated for the Queensland Art Gallery by the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (the Prado). It is the largest and most significant international loan the Prado has ever undertaken, and is also the first exhibition from their collection ever to be shown in the Southern Hemisphere.

This exhibition features over 100 masterpieces from one of the most revered collections of European painting in the world and tells the story of the evolution of painting in Spain over three and a half centuries. This ‘portrait of Spain’ shows the internal and external factors that contributed to the development of modern Spanish identity, through developments in painting on the Iberian Peninsula.

On display are masterpieces by leading painters of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including El Greco, Velázquez, Ribera and Murillo. Foreign artists who worked for the royal court and directly influenced the development of painting in Spain are also well represented, with superb paintings by Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo and Anton Raphael Mengs all featured.

Courtly life under the Habsburg (1516–1700) and Bourbon (1700–1808) monarchs will be glimpsed through outstanding paintings from the Royal Collections, which formed the basis of the Prado when it was established in 1819. These include portraits, mythological scenes, devotional paintings and exquisite still lifes that reveal the splendour of Spain’s ‘Golden Age’.

The life and times of various levels of Spanish civil society are portrayed in works by noted artists from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Pre-eminent among these was Francisco de Goya, whose work is represented by major paintings and an important selection of prints from his three extraordinary and confronting series, ‘Los Caprichos’, ‘Los Disparates’ and ‘Los Desastres de la Guerra’ (‘The Disasters of War’).

The emergence of a fledgling Spanish national identity in the mid nineteenth century is witnessed in a series of landscapes, portraits, religious scenes and nudes by major figures in nineteenth-century Spanish painting such as Federico de Madrazo, Eduardo Rosales, Mariano Fortuny, Aureliano de Beruete and Joaquín Sorolla. These paintings both reflect the emergence of a modern Spain and demonstrate the ways in which the visual arts assisted in its formation.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to see extraordinary works of art, created by some of history’s most renowned and revered painters, from one of the most prestigious and unique museum collections in the world.

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