The First-Timer's Guide to Prado Museum Paintings

Considered one of the world's greatest art museums, the Prado Museum in Madrid houses a permanent collection of art featuring over 5000 drawings and more than 2000 works of art, 700 sculptures, and over 1000 medals and coins. Whether you're interested in discovering the Madrid art scene or just want to admire the work of Spanish masters, you won't be disappointed with what you witness at the Prado Museum. One of the key highlights of the museum is its collection of Velazquez paintings. The museum has a well-earned reputation for being the foundation of world art. The museum opened in 1819, making it one of the world's very first public art galleries. Prado Museum paintings offer a fascinating peek into the Spanish art scene with works of masters on display.

Prado Museum Artists and Themes

Prado Museum paintings

The Prado Museum is home to the most exhaustive collection of the works of Velazquez, Francisco de Goya, and El Greco in the world. Art by other Spanish masters such as José de Ribera and Francisco de Zurbarán is also on display in the museum.

During your tour of the museum, you'll also get to witness art by Raphael, Hiëronymus Bosch, Paolo Veronese, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Tintoretto, Anthony Van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, Antoine Watteau, Nicolas Poussin, and Claude Lorrain. Prado Museum also showcases a stellar collection of Greco-Roman statuary.

Prado museum art

In 2021, the Prado Museum's permanent collection is expected to undergo a substantial change with a more pronounced representation of women and a focus on inclusivity, with updates completed by summer 2021. Apart from this, there'll be an expansion of the artists represented in the museum with the inclusion of art from outside Europe.

Some of the themes explored in Prado Museum are Saints, The New Testament & The Apocrypha, Royal Portrait, Nude/Naked, Secular Portrait, Trades & Professions, The Iconography Of The Virgin, Mythological Gods/Deities, Social Realism/Everyday Life, and The Old Testament.

Prado Museum Highlights

Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez

One of Velazquez's largest paintings, Las Meninas was created to convey a sense of life and reality with a complex network of meanings. This dense composition also holds the honor of being the only artwork to which writer Antonio Palomino dedicated a separate section in his book on the history of Spanish painters.

The Black Paintings, Francisco Goya

The Black Paintings is a collection of fourteen paintings by Francisco Goya. The paintings were done by Goa in the later years of his life somewhere between 1819 and 1823. As the name suggests, the Black Paintings showcase intense, haunting themes that reflect Goya's dire outlook of humanity and growing fear of insanity.

The Immaculate Conception, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

This majestic piece of art was part of a collection of seven altarpieces requested for the royal church of San Pascual Bailon in 1767. The altarpieces showcase the complete pictorial decoration of this Alcantarine Franciscan church, which features an austere classical style.

The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest, El Greco

This bust-length portrait was donated to the museum by the widow of the Duke of Arco. Painted in Toledo around 1580, and the painting is the most famous in a series of secular portraits of an unknown gentleman dressed in black and wearing white ruffs, against dark backgrounds.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights is arguably Bosch’s most iconic and enigmatic creation. The overarching theme of The Garden of Earthly Delights is the fate of humanity. While the theme is similar to The Haywain, Bosch represents this concept quite differently in a more explicit manner.

Charles V at Múhlberg, Titian

This portrait celebrates Charles V's victory over the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlberg in 1547. The detailed artwork spotlights his suit of armor, which has an image of the Virgin and Child on the breastplate, as was the norm with Charles' armor from 1531.

Charles V at Múhlberg, Titian

This portrait celebrates Charles V's victory over the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlberg in 1547. The detailed artwork spotlights his suit of armor, which has an image of the Virgin and Child on the breastplate, as was the norm with Charles' armor from 1531.

Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes, Rembrandt

A painting by legendary Dutch master Rembrandt, Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes is another highlight of the Prado Museum. While the subject of the picture wasn't clear for centuries, it's believed to be Sophonisba or Artemisia. Many also identify the painting as featuring a generic queen given her jewels and rich garments, receiving a cup from a maiden. 

Cup with Golden Mermaid, Anonymous

This painting showcases a cup or a salt cellar with a gold-enameled sculpture adorned with rubies and diamonds held by a figure. The figure is a double-tailed mermaid with a gold torso and a translucent green enameled tail. She wears a headdress of enameled feathers and her open arms hold an agate vessel adorned with rubies with a heap of enameled leaves.

Prado Museum Exhibitions

Prado Museum regularly hosts special exhibits for its visitors. The current exhibitions in place are:

  • The Carmen Sánchez Bequest: The Ultimate Lesson (23 March 2021 - 24 October 2021): The generous bequest made by Carmen Sánchez García,a teacher, to the Museo del Prado is on display. 
  • History of the Museo del Prado and its Buildings (17 March 2021 onwards): In collaboration with South Korean tech giant Samsung, this exhibition takes guests back in time and discover how the Museo del Prado came to be.
  • Reunited (6 June 2020 - 25 July 2021): To create this installation, over 190 works of art were relocated to the Central Gallery. Here, art lovers can engage in dialogue as they see contrasting works placed together.
  • Marinus: Painter from Reymerswale (9 March 2021 to 13 June 2021): This monographic exhibition features the works of an artist hailing from the Netherlands who primarily worked in the early 16th century — Marinus van Reymerswaele.

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Prado Museum Paintings: Frequently Asked Questions

What art period does Prado Museum cover?

The art on display at Prado Museum dates from the 12th century to the early 20th century, based on the former Spanish Royal Collection.

What Prado Museum paintings should I not miss?

Prado Museum paintings you shouldn’t miss include The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Descent from the Cross, The Birth of the Milky Way and The Three Graces, and Artemisia.

What Prado Museum sculptures should I not miss?

Renaissance and Baroque sculptures and works from the 18th and 19th centuries, along with some Oriental and Medieval pieces are not to be missed at Prado Museum.

What is the Prado Museum famous for?

Prado Museum houses the world's richest and most comprehensive collection of Spanish painting, as well as masterpieces of Italian and Flemish art.

How many paintings does the Museo Nacional del Prado have?

More than 2,300 paintings have been incorporated into the Museum del Prado since its opening along with a large number of sculptures, prints, and drawings.

What is the most famous work of art in the Prado Museum?

Las Meninas, painted by Diego Velazquez in 1656, is one of the most famous paintings in the Prado Museum.

How long does it take to see the Prado Museum Madrid?

You can explore the entire Prado Museum Madrid in approximately 3 to 4 hours.

Can you take photos in the Prado?

The Prado Museum does not permit photographs to be taken or videos to be recorded in the galleries of the Museum.