The Prado Museum is Spain’s premier art museum, founded by King Ferdinand VII in 1819 which has a collection of paintings from the 12th to the early 20th century. It houses the largest and most important collection of Velázquez, Goya and Rubens in the world. It includes several of the great masterpieces of European painting, including Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, El Greco’s Portrait of a Man with his Hand on his Chest, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, and Goya’s The Second of May 1808 and The Third of May 1808.
It also includes collections of ancient sculpture, decorative arts, and drawings, prints and photographs, including the world’s largest and most important group of works on paper by Goya.
In 2007 the Prado opened its new extension, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rafael Moneo, which provides the Museum with new spaces for exhibitions, conservation and storage.
Since the year 2007, when the Prado opened its extension, visitor numbers have steadily increased from the 2.7 million achieved during that year to the new record of 2.9 million in 2011. According to the most recent annual survey published in The Art Newspaper, the Museo del Prado is number 11 in the world ranking of most visited museums.
As of January 2012 the Museum has been open seven days a week following its decision to abandon its traditional Monday closing. The Prado is now the European museum with the longest opening hours.
The Prado has an ambitious program of temporary exhibitions which has included in recent years Titian (2003), Manet in the Prado (2004), Tintoretto (2005), Picasso: Tradition and Avant-garde (2006), Velázquez’s Fables (2007), Francis Bacon (2009), Sorolla (2009), Turner and the Masters (2010), The Young Ribera (2011), The Hermitage in the Prado (2012) and “Late Raphael” (currently on view until 16th September 2012).
Information on the Prado’s collections and its exhibition programme is offered in considerable detail on the Museum’s website (www.museodelprado.es), which includes valuable features such as the Online Gallery and a wide range of videos, in addition to various interactive functions on its PradoMedia channel. The Museum is also highly active on the internet through the social networks Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare and Youtube, with a significant number of followers and interactions.
In 2009 the Prado became the first museum in the world to offer mega-high resolution images of 14 masterpieces of its collection online when it co-launched the project “Masterpieces in the Prado on Google Earth” with Google. Through Google Earth, users can access and navigate these 14 works from the Museum’s collection, obtaining details that are invisible to the naked eye. These images will soon be available on the Prado’s website.