The Prado museum is one of the most well-known and splendid art galleries of the world. The museum takes its name from the street where it is located: “Prad". The story of this vast museum of Madrid started when the Spanish Queen visited the Louvre Museum in Paris. Since she was quite impressed by Louvre museum, she decided to build one in Madrid.
Museo Nacional del Prado is housed in a building originally built in 1785 to hold the Natural History Cabinet. This was the time of Charles II but it was his grandson, Ferdinand VII and his wife Maria Isabel de Braganza who decided to make it the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures and subsequently gave it the name it holds today. When it opened in 1819, it had just over 300 paintings though there were a further 1,200 in royal ownership. It had been Charles V who had instigated the acquiring of art in the 16th Century. The number of exhibits increased through the 19th Century which paintings were coming from the Museo de la Trinidad, the Colegio de Dona Maria de Aragon and the Museo de Arte Moderno. Over the years there have been donations, purchases and bequests so that there are now well over 2,300 exhibits to see today.
The Prado Museum is certainly one of the top art collections in the world. It has grown from early beginnings and the numbers of people visiting this wonderful place have grown as well. Goya, Rubens and Raphael, the famous names trip off the tongue. Goya was once accused of obscenity because of nudity in many of his paintings; he is very well represented in the Museum and his statue welcomes you as you arrive at the main entrance. Rembrandt’s self-portrait is a popular exhibit but how much you will see depends on the time you have available. If you time is limited, you might like to look out for these few exhibits; 'The Crucifixion' by Juan de Flandes in Room 57b, 'Las Meninas' by Velázquez in Room 12 and arguably the museum’s highlight, 'The Cardinal' by Raphael in Room 49, 'The Emperor Charles V, on Horseback, in Mühlberg' by Titian in Room 11 and 'The Three Graces' by Peter Paul Rubens in Room 9.You will be able to see and appreciate these exhibits in a fairly short time but the Prado is not to be rushed. If you have any doubts about how to get the best possible experience from a visit to the Prado, get an English-speaking guide to help and advise you. When it is possible to admire the quality of a single painting for many minutes, the thought that the number of exhibits well exceeds 2,000 gives you an idea of Prado’s scale. As the size of the collection grew, it was necessary to increase the size of the original building until it could be expanded no further. The answer then was a second building facing the eastern side of the existing building with the two connected. In recent times, the Prado’s legal status has been changed to assist with its administration and finance. The Prado only closes three days in the year with half days on 24th December, 31st December; 2 of the 3 days it closes being the following day. The other half day is 6th January and the Prado closes on May Day. The Madrid Card includes free entry into the Prado while there is the Paseo del Arte Card available for those wishing to visit the Prado and the other major galleries. Even if you are not a great lover of art, the Prado is the cultural highlight of Madrid and you must visit it.