Third Stop – Madrid

#DestinationScotland

Another long held dream is realised with my visit to the Prado. Parking Montalb├ín is a convenient location to leave one’s car, just a short walk from the huge complex which was originally constructed to house the Natural History Cabinet, by orders of King Charles III. However, the building’s final purpose – as the new Royal Museum of Paintings and Sculptures – was the decision of the monarch’s grandson, King Ferdinand VII, encouraged by his wife Queen Maria Isabel de Braganza.The Royal Museum, soon quickly renamed the National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures and subsequently the Museo Nacional del Prado, opened to the public for the first time in November 1819. The Museum’s first catalogue, published in 1819, included 311 paintings, although at that time its collection comprised just over 1,510 pictures from the various Reales Sitios (Royal Residences). The exceptionally important royal collection, which represents the foundation of the Museum’s collection as we know it today, started to increase significantly in the 16th century during the time of Charles V and continued to thrive under the succeeding Habsburg and Bourbon Monarchs.

I had purchased an online timed entry ticket, but I was directed to a long queue at a modern side with hundreds of others, after a very long wait, as I came close to the entry I assimilated the information from others in front of me, that our tickets had to be validated at a different entry port, the main doors at the front of the building. The others in the same predicament and I went there to queue again, but mercifully we did not have to return to the end of the first line after that, but was permitted to enter directly. With that chaotic start to my visit, my first thought was not art but breakfast!

Forewarned is forearmed, my granddaughter had recently been on a school visit to the Prado, and spoke of how she had got lost in all the galleries. So was particularly grateful to find an english ‘Floor Plan’ available for free after I had deposited my weather gear in the cloakroom. I studied this over breakfast in the upmarket restaurant in the basement of the building. Very modern and well organised, my breakfast was delicious.

There are over 7600 paintings on view, but the Floor Plan very helpfully presents thumbnails of a very few of the most important pieces. I found 12 that I recognised from my History of Art course. The little leaflet enabled me to prepare a navigation plan, and soon, revived after a rest and good food in pleasant surroundings I sailed off to discover these treasures. To see them for myself 37 years after missing out on going with my fellow art students on their ‘Grand Tour’ due to family circumstances. Perhaps all good things do, eventually, come to those who wait?

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