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The west or Velázquez façade of the Museo del Prado
Clifford, Charles -Photographer-
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Clifford, Charles

Gales, Reino Unido, 1820 - Madrid, 1863

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The west or Velázquez façade of the Museo del Prado

1860 - 1862. Albumen on photographic paper Not on display

Designed by Juan de Villanueva, the building that houses the Museo del Prado has always been an indispensable landmark in Madrid’s urban landscape. Since the mid 1820s, numerous artists have taken an interest in depicting it in the wooded setting of the Paseo del Prado. Draftsmen such as Carlos de Vargas (act. 1824-32) and painters such as Fernando Barbila (1763-1834) created models that became widely known thanks to the then-new technique of lithography. In 1824, Vargas conceived an image that later headed the first volume of the colección litográfica del Rey de España (Lithographic Collection of the King of Spain, 1832), which included images of the museum’s most significant works. These large-format prints were published on high-quality papers with wide margins, and the deluxe edition was printed on tissue paper. The view chosen by Vargas was taken from the north, with a very sharp perspective dominated by the cubic volume of the northern body and the former entry ramp in the foreground. This view shaped the most repeated image of that building during the first half of the 19th century—largely because it made it possible to capture the museum’s longitudinal axis in a normal horizontal format. Later images, including those by Bernardo López Piquer and Fernando Brambila, repeated this viewpoint, which passed directly into photography when the earliest manuals of this art recommended it as a proper approach to capturing architecture, since “buildings viewed head on do not have the same effect as those seen from an angle. The latter is less monotonous, as the lines are projected, running from the foreground inwards to produce an admirable architectural effect.” A fine example is this photograph taken by Charles Clifford in 1857, with the northern part of the museum in the foreground. But photography shaped a new type of images in which the approaches and details became essential parts of the image. Thus, the colonnade visible here becomes a central element in this photograph. This is equally true of the daguerrotype that shows the building’s grand Doric portico. That image by José Albiñana dates from 1851, making it the first known photograph of the Museo del Prado. Charles Clifford took another photo of this colonnade around 1860, this time from the south. The greater format of the negative and the resultant positive also offered an esthetic, rather than merely documentary, view with a clear concern for framing and contrasting light. Clifford conveys his conception of this photograph as art by signing it at the lower right in blue ink. This is the only known print of this photograph and it is not included in the catalog of Clifford’s works. It is also very interesting for studies of the museum’s material history, as it is the earliest clear image of the sculptures that adorned the spaces between the columns on the museum’s main façade from at least 1851—that is the date of Albiñana’s daguerrotype—until some time between 1880 and 1886. At the right, a King of the Goths, and at the left, a King of the Goths earlier than Leovigildo. These sculptures were part of the decorations intended for Madrid’s new Royal Palace. After they were removed from the Prado, they were taken to the main façade of the former Army Museum, which occupied the only remaining building from the former Buen Retiro Palace, and they remain there today.

Technical data

Inventory number
HF00686
Author
Clifford, Charles -Photographer-
Title
The west or Velázquez façade of the Museo del Prado
Date
1860 - 1862
Technique
Albumen
Support
Photographic paper
Dimension
Height: 305 mm.; Width: 425 mm.; Alto segundo soporte: 490 mm.; Ancho segundo soporte: 640 mm.
Provenance
Barcelona Soler y LLach Subastas Internacionales S.A., 28.5.2009; Fotógrafos del Café Greco, Roma; Collection of Bernardino Montañés (1825-1893); Acquisition 2009

Bibliography +

Fontanella, Lee, Clifford en España: un fotógrafo en la corte de Isabel II, El Viso, 1999.

El grafoscopio: un siglo de miradas al Museo del Prado (1819..., Museo Nacional del Prado, 2004.

Museo Nacional del Prado, No solo Goya: adquisiciones para el Gabinete de Dibujos y Estampas del Museo del Prado, 1997-2010, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2011, pp. 301, 303, nº 68.

Azcue Brea, Leticia, El ornato exterior del Museo del Prado. Un programa escultórico inacabado., Boletín del Museo del Prado, XXX, Madrid, 2012, pp. 98-126 [f.1].

Exhibitions +

Goya and more
05.05.2011 - 28.08.2011

Update date: 07-05-2019 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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