The Museo del Prado closed its doors on Thursday 12 March due to COVID-19 and has reopened them on 6 June. This has been a difficult period but not a wasted one as during these three months millions of the Prado’s devoted followers have kept in contact with the Museum via its website and its very active social media profiles.
The new phase starting now, which will continue until 13 September, is not a return to the situation prior to the appearance of COVID-19 as the virus continues to be active, generating uncertainty and requiring precautions. As a result, the Museo Nacional del Prado has implemented a series of measures which will be obvious to visitors, whom we would like to thank in advance for their understanding and cooperation. These measures will affect both the programme of educational activities and the exhibition schedule (which will restart in the autumn), in addition to the way of seeing the collection. The most obvious consequences are the limit imposed on visitor numbers in line with instructions from the health authorities, and a reduction in the surface area open to the public due to both staff availability and the intention to ensure the safest possible visit.
Visitors to the Museum up to 13 September will not be able to see all the galleries but the ones that are open will offer a unique experience. With this aim in mind a spectacular display has been installed in the Central Gallery and the adjoining rooms: an emblematic space with architectural characteristics that allow the recommendations issued by the health authorities to be complied with while offering the safest possible conditions for visitors and staff.
This new installation, comprising 249 works, follows a principally chronological order from the 15th century to the dawn of the 20th century. Given its exceptional nature, however, the emphasis on national schools has been reduced in favour of establishing dialogues between artists and paintings separated by time and place: associations that suggest influences, admiration and rivalries and which emphasise the profoundly self-referential nature of the Museo del Prado’s collections.
Charles V and the Fury by Leone and Pompeo Leoni, now exceptionally shown without the armour and nude as a classical hero, welcomes visitors and leads them into the Central Gallery. Displayed in the ante-room (Room 24) of that space are two of the Museum’s most important works: The Descent from the Cross by Van der Weyden and The Annunciation by Fra Angelico. Visitors then move into the first section of the Central Gallery (Rooms 25 and 26) which has works by Bosch, Patinir, Titian, Correggio, Raphael, Juan de Flandes, Veronese, Tintoretto and Guido Reni, among other great Italian and Flemish artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Titian’s portraits of the early Habsburgs, presided over by Charles V at the Battle of Mühlberg, remain at the heart of the Central Gallery (Room 27) opposite two of the Furies which flank the entrance to Room XII. Rarely before has this iconic space in the Prado so merited the title of sancta sanctorum and one of the most inspiring moments in the visit is provided by the juxtaposition for the first time since 1929 (if not earlier) of Las Meninas and The Spinners, alongside a moving “polyptych” of Velázquez’s Buffoons.
The final part of the Gallery (Room 28 and 29) displays religious and mythological paintings by Rubens, the latter including a conscious reference to Titian through the Danaë and a vibrant dialogue between Rubens and Goya’s two depictions of Saturn. In addition, Velázquez’s Surrender of Breda acquires a new context with its inclusion among the equestrian portraits of The Duke of Lerma and The Cardinal Infante don Fernando.
In the North Wing rooms that flank the Gallery (Rooms 8B, 9B and 10B) Ribera and Spanish naturalism, including Maíno and Zurbarán, coexist with its European equivalent (Caravaggio and Latour), while Clara Peeters is shown in the company of contemporary Spanish still life painters. El Greco is paired with Artemisia Gentileschi and there is also a grouping of work by portraitists such as Sánchez Coello, Sofonisba Anguissola and Anthonis Mor.
The South area (Room 16B) displays the work of Spanish masters of the second half of the 17th century with Murillo and Cano as the leading figures, alongside work by contemporary artists of the French school, such as Claude Lorrain, and Flemish artists such as Van Dyck.
This new installation at the Museum includes a great deal, but still more has been left out. Some of the masterpieces not featured in it can be seen in adjacent galleries, including Titian’s “Bacchanals” and The Immaculate Conception by Tiepolo which bids visitor farewell. In order to see other great works, such as Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and Rembrandt’s Judith, we will have to wait until mid-September and for what we trust will be the definitive return to normality.
The Central Gallery, an extensive architectural space flooded with natural light, now becomes the principal axis for this new hanging which includes the majority of the collection’s most iconic works, offering a unique and unprecedented experience.
Juxtaposed for the first time, The Annunciation by Fra Angelico and The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden welcome visitors to an installation particularly rich in exceptional dialogues.
The two versions of Saturn by Goya and Rubens can now be seen side by side while Las Meninas and The Spinners share space in Room XII alongside an exceptional “polyptych” of Velázquez’s Buffoons.
“Reunited” remains on view until 13 September and has involved the relocation of more than 190 works. It evokes the type of display that existed when the Museo del Prado first opened to the public.
During this present phase the number of daily visits will be set at a third of the galleries’ normal capacity. Furthermore, this installation is located in the Museum’s largest and most important spaces in order to meet official health requirements to the maximum degree and to ensure a safe environment for visitors and staff.
REUNITED – REENCUENTRO
UNTIL 13 SEPTEMBER 2020
Museo Nacional del Prado