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Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Masterpieces / Highlights

The Collection

Leticia Azcue
Leticia Azcue
Museo Nacional del Prado Senior Curator Sculpture and Decorative Arts [+]

The Museo del Prado’s sculpture collection comprises almost 1,000 works.

The earliest and most important part derives from the Spanish Royal Collection and includes works from different periods of the classical era, such as The San Ildefonso Group and The Apotheosis of Claudius.

The collection also features a very small representation of medieval sculpture, while the Renaissance holdings are notable for the royal portraits from the period of Charles V and Philip II by the Leoni, father and son. Particularly outstanding is their group of Charles V and the Fury, which is one of the finest works of that period, while also worthy of separate mention are the sculptures of Epimetheus and Pandora attributed to El Greco.

From the Baroque period, the group of bronzes sent back by Velázquez during his second trip to Italy to decorate the Alcázar should be singled out, as should a series of models for equestrian portraits of Spanish monarchs dating from the 17th and 18th centuries by Foggini, Vaccaro and others. The Prado also has a large number of works of classical sculpture originally belonging to Christina of Sweden. Acquired by Philip V in the 18th century, they include the series of the Muses. Another classical group consists of the busts assembled by José Nicolás de Azara. Spanish Neo-classical sculpture is represented by works by the leading court sculptors to Charles IV and Ferdinand VII, including Álvarez Cubero, who executed The Defence of Zaragoza, as well as Barba and Solá. From 1838 onwards many of their works were displayed in the new sculpture galleries of the Museum, renamed that year the Real Museo de Pinturas y Escultura.

From 1856 onwards the collections grew with the acquisition of sculptures awarded First Prizes at the National Fine Arts Exhibitions, most of them by Spanish grant students studying in Rome. Further enriching the holdings were sculptures acquired from private collections, such as those of the Marquis of Salamanca and the Duchess of Osuna. The turn of the century is particularly well represented by the work of the leading Spanish sculptors of that period.

In 1896 the Museum’s more than two hundred 19th-century sculptures passed to the recently created Museo de Arte Moderno where they remained until they returned to the Casón del Buen Retiro in 1971. In 2009 a selection was added to the permanent display in the Villanueva Building.

The Museo del Prado also has an exceptional and varied representation of the decorative arts, totalling almost 3,500 objects. The most important group is the 120 hardstone and carved rock crystal objects with their original cases, collectively known as The Dauphin’s Treasure and inherited by Philip V on his father’s side.

The Museum also has a notable collection of inlaid hardstone table tops made in Florence and in the Royal Hardstones Laboratory in Madrid, in addition to a group of 1,300 medals of all European schools and 943 coins.

The collection is completed with a small but fine group of Flemish tapestries, including a number by Pannemaker, and a small holding of furniture, various examples of Talavera ceramics, Buen Retiro porcelain and glass from the Royal Glass Manufactory of La Granja, among others.

Particularly worthy of mention is the group of almost 200 miniatures, which is one of the most important collections of its kind in a Spanish museum.

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