Queen Donna Mariana of Austria About 1652–1653 Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez Oil on canvas - Prado Museum

Until 29th of May 2011- State Hermitage Museum

The exhibition of the Prado Museum in the Hermitage is one of the major events of the Year of Spain in Russia and the Year of Russia in Spain. From 25 February to 29 May 2011 visitors will be able to see 66 art works from the famous Madrid museum in the Nikolaevsky Hall of the Winter Palace. This is the biggest and most representative exhibition from the Prado Museum ever organized outside Spain.*

A prominent French traveller and writer Théophile Gautier said that the Prado Museum was “rather a museum of artists that a museum of art”. Indeed, the Prado Museum has an extensive collection of such greatest artists as Titian (about 40 paintings), Rubens (90 works), Velázquez (50 works), Goya (140 paintings and about 1000 drawings, etchings and engravings). Next to them are constellations of the names which are by no means less famous: the museum has fine collections of Bosch, Raphael, El Greco, Ribera, Murillo, Mengs, Tiepolo.

Careful selection of paintings for the exhibition in the Hermitage including the works of eminent artists of Western Europe and Spain – Rogier van der Weyden, Jheronimus Bosch, Raphael, Pieter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Titian, Paolo Veronese, Jacopo Tintoretto, Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, Luca Giordano, El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, José de Ribera, Diego Velázquez, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco Goya – made it possible to demonstrate the diversity and highest level of the Prado Museum collection.

Spanish kings, as well as Russian tsars, have always been known for their love for art. It is their passion for collecting and gift of discovering greatest talents among contemporary artists the museum owes the collection to. For instance, Charles V, the king of Spain and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, and his son Phillip II were the main patrons of Titian. Philip’s interest in the Dutch art explains why the majority of the Jheronimus Bosch’s works are in Madrid. Philip IV, the finest connoisseurs of art among the Spanish kings, made Diego Velázquez the court artist and was the patron of Pieter Paul Rubens and José de Ribera. Charles II, the last Habsburg King of Spain, brought Luca Giordano to Spain.

Philip V and Queen Isabel de Farnesio bought wonderful works by Nicolas Poussin and some of the Dutch and Flemish artists. Charles III invited Anton Raphael Mengs and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to be  the court artists and his son and successor Charles IV made Francisco Goya the First Painter of the King. Ferdinand VII, painted by Goya first as prince and then as king, was the collector and patron of art; it was he who made a decision to establish the Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculpture which later became known as the Museo del Prado. The museum was opened on 19 November 1819.

Exhibited in the Hermitage are a range of paintings bought by Spanish kings or made upon their request: Portrait of an Unknown Man by Durer, The Holy Family with a Lamb by Raphael, David Victorious Over Goliath by Caravaggio, Charles V Standing with His Dog by Titian, three portraits by Velázquez, two still life paintings by Luis Melendez and The Grape Harvest by Goya as well as portraits of almost all Spanish kings the Prado Museum owes its glory to.

The Prado Museum has fine samples of sculpture from ancient times to the Renaissance and a comparatively small, yet including the best samples, collection of decorative art exhibits. However, the Prado Museum is primarily perceived as a  picture gallery. Among approximately eight thousand paintings of the XII-early XX century there are a few dozens of works without which the history of West European art would be impossible to imagine.

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