The Museo del Prado is presenting the exhibition Historias Naturales. A Project by Miguel Ángel Blanco

The Fury of the Eagles (Room 1), Leone and Pompeo Leoni, Charles V and the Fury, MNP, Golden eagle MNCN – CSIC, Photo: Pedro Albornoz/Museo Nacional del Prado

    The Museo del Prado is presenting the exhibition Historias Naturales. A Project by Miguel Ángel Blanco, organised with the collaboration of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the support of the Region of Madrid. 150 objects from the natural world make up the twenty-two interventions installed in the Museum’s galleries by this Madrid-born artist. Most of the objects – animals, plants and minerals - have been loaned by the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales of the CSIC, displayed alongside 25 works from the Museum’s own collection. The result is a close dialogue with these 25 works of art and also with the building itself and the urban setting of the Paseo del Prado. Through this exhibition the Prado is paying tribute to its own history and to the origins of its building, originally designed as a Natural History museum. On 19 November 1819 the Prado opened its doors to the public for the first time as the Museo Nacional de Pinturas y Esculturas (National Museum of Paintings and Sculptures). However, the Neo-classical building designed by Juan de Villanueva that now houses the Prado was originally designed as the Royal Natural History Cabinet on the orders of Charles III in 1785.

    Tuesday 19 November 2013

    To celebrate the anniversary of the Museum’s first opening to the public on 19 November 1819, the Prado will be introducing visitors to a lesser known aspect of its history, namely that of its origins as a natural history museum prior to its inauguration as the Museo de Pintura y Escultura.

    The building that now houses the Museum was designed by the architect Juan de Villanueva in 1785 as the Natural History Cabinet on the orders of Charles III. Now, for a period of almost six months the galleries of the Permanent Collection will display objects including some of those that the monarch acquired from the collector and naturalist Pedro Franco Dávila for his new natural history museum, which was previously located in the Palacio de Goyaneche (now the headquarters of the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando).

    The exhibition

    Natural Histories. A project by Miguel Ángel Blanco consists of twenty-two interventions in the Prado’s galleries, made up of 150 objects from the natural world (minerals, stuffed or preserved animals, skeletons and insects), the majority from the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, shown alongside twenty-five works from the Museum’s collection. The result is to establish a close relationship between them and also with the building itself and the surrounding urban context of the Paseo del Prado.

    Visitors will thus be able to see the realisation of Charles III’s desire to house a Natural History museum in the Villanueva Building. Due to the circumstances of history, the arts and sciences coexisted under the same roof on two occasions: in 1827 and during the Civil War when objects from the collections of the Real Jardín Botánico and the Museo de Ciencias were moved to the Prado for greater safety. In order to bring about this reencounter with the Museum’s history and origins, the artist Miguel Ángel Blanco has not set out to reconstruct the Natural History Cabinet three hundred years later. Rather, as he explains: “What I have done in the Museo del Prado is to evoke that collection, the ghost of which inhabits the Villanueva Building. The twenty-two artistic interventions create a collection for the future, incorporating a creative viewpoint, interacting with the Permanent Collection and encouraging a new way of looking at the works which helps to increase the significance of the images.”

    22 artistic interventions - Miguel Ángel Blanco

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