The exhibition is organized into three sections. The first, Bibliotheca Artis (Library of Art), is the most important, featuring major works from the European literature on art, starting with the great treatises of the Italian Renaissance. On display are first editions of the key texts on painting by Leon Battista Alberti (1547) and Leonardo da Vinci (1651), as well as the first systematic treatise on perspective by Daniele Barbaro, who is the subject of a portrait by Titian in the Museum’s collection. The dissemination of Renaissance ideas in northern Europe is best represented by Dürer’s theoretical writings, of which an example here is the first Latin edition of his treatise On Measurement (1532). Also included in this section is a copy of the founding text of art history, Vasari’s Lives, a work that exercised a notable influence in Italy and the rest of Europe.
Art theory during the Spanish Golden Age represents is another important section within the exhibition, with copies of several groundbreaking texts on display. Among 16th-century treatises, for example, is Felipe de Guevara’s Comentario de la pintura, recently rediscovered among the holdings of the Madrazo library and exhibited to the public for the first time. Velázquez’s teacher and father-in-law Francisco Pacheco is represented here by a short section from the first edition of his Arte de la pintura (1649), accompanied by an extremely rare leaflet (the only example in a Spanish library) with manuscript annotations by the author and a reproduction of Velázquez’s portrait of him. Other outstanding items, also on show for the first time, are the manuscript copy of the Discursos by Jusepe Martínez (ca.1673-1675) and one of the copperplates used for the illustrations of Palomino’s El museo pictórico (1715).