Prado, Museo Nacional del (präˈdō, Span. präˈħō) [key], Spanish national museum of painting and sculpture, in Madrid, one of the finest in Europe. Situated on the Paseo del Prado, it was begun by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 for Charles III, as a museum of natural history, and finished under his grandson, Ferdinand VII; the inaugural ceremony took place and the museum was opened to the public in 1819, when the collection consisted entirely of just over 1,500 Spanish paintings. The collection was expanded significantly in the 16th cent. under Charles V and was enlarged under the succeeding Hapsburg and Bourbon kings. It continued to be maintained by the royal family and was called the Royal Museum until 1868, when it became national property. The Prado's collection includes more than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. The Spanish, Flemish, and Venetian schools are particularly well represented. The collection includes masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Durer, Mantegna, van der Weyden, Rubens, Van Dyck, Dürer, Brueghel, Bosch, and many others. In addition, the works of Velázquez, El Greco, Ribera, and Goya can be seen nowhere else to such advantage. A large new extension to the museum, designed by Rafael Moneo, opened in 2007.
See H. B. Wehle, Great Paintings from the Prado Museum (1963); F. V. Garin Llombart, Treasures of the Prado (1998); S Alcolea, ed., The Prado Museum (2002); A. E. Sanchez, The Prado (2d ed., 2006).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.